Pentagon signs billions in non-competitive contracts

At a time when the US government should be trying to pinch pennies left and right, the Department of Defense has jumped the gun on wartime contracts, purchasing billions of dollars worth of services without considering competitors’ prices.

In a new report issued this week by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News, it is revealed that no-bid contracts inked by the DoD have increased by nearly three-fold in the decade since the September 11 terrorist attacks. In an effort to jump the gone and supply the military with the quickest services possible in an attempt to combat insurgency, the US government has spent billions on defense but could have stood to save a ton had they sought out other contractors.

In a memo issued in 2009, President Obama urged lawmakers to make sure that public funds were being spent as aptly as possible. The government, said the president, “should perform its function efficiently and effectively while ensuring that its actions result in the best value for the taxpayer.”

But despite this insistence, the DoD failed to seek out more affordable services, often quickly signing off on massive contracts citing “urgent and compelling need,” even if, in many cases, they had indeed already anticipated on needing those items. Other times the Department of Defense inked umbrella contracts to purchase multiple goods and services, often signing off on items not necessary; instead, purchasing items individually, as needed, could have saved the country tons. Also occurring throughout the last decade were “bridge contracts” in which deals were agreed upon with qualified companies but only to extend existing contracts without seeking out more affordable options.

Documented in the iWatch report issued Monday was a $20 million contract with a Virginia-based company for training Afghan police, which the Pentagon signed off on this very summer, citing “urgent requirement,” without seeking competition.

2008 shows the biggest discrepancy in contract spending in recent years. In that year the DoD signed off on $146.1 billion in non-competitive contracts out of a total of $384 billion. In 2010, non-competitive contracts made up $140.4 billion of the $366.2 billion total. That puts the Pentagon’s competition rate at just over 60 percent, paling in comparison to other state agencies. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, had sought competitive contracts in more than three quarters of their deals last year; the Energy Department had a competitive rate of 94 percent.

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