Obama seeks change in federal contracting

March 4, 2009 9:19:44 AM PST
President Barack Obama approved an order Wednesday to overhaul the way the U.S. government awards contracts for work to be done by the private sector, reversing a Bush administration policy. Obama joined Republican Sen. John McCain, his presidential campaign rival, and other congressional figures to announce an executive memorandum that commits his administration to a new set of marching orders for awarding contracts. Obama said "the days of giving government contractors a blank check are over" and said changes could save up to $40 billion a year.

One area in particular that is targeted is no-bid contracts, which the administration is seeking to change so that there will be more competition for government-paid work.

"Even if these were the best of times, budget reform would be overdue in Washington," Obama said.

Obama's presidential memo changes government contracting procedures. It directs Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, to work with Cabinet and agency officials to draft new contracting rules by the end of September. Those new rules, White House aides say, will make it more difficult for contractors to bilk taxpayers and make some half-trillion dollars in federal contracts each year more accessible to independent contractors.

Obama said the package of reforms could save up to $40 billion each year.

"We will stop outsourcing services that should be performed by the government and open up the contracting process to small businesses," he said. "We will end unnecessary no-bid and cost-plus contracts that run up a bill that is paid by the American people. And we will strengthen oversight to maximize transparency and accountability."

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