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Defense agencies among worst for disclosing contracting needs

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WASHINGTON — The Defense Health Agency and other Pentagon offices are among the worst in government at supplying companies with information they need to bid on federal contracts, according to the Professional Services Council.

Of the 27 federal agencies graded as “needs improvement,” this year, about a third are housed in the Navy, Department of Defense and Army. The Defense Health Agency slipped to “needs improvement” from “fair” in the latest Federal Business Forecast Scorecard, produced annually by PSC and released this month.

DISA and DHA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency and Defense Information Systems Agency did not improve from last year’s rank. The Navy’s Military Sealift Command also wound up in the bottom category.

The trade group for federal contractors graded 62 agencies and subagencies across government on their procurement forecasts, which include timelines, estimates and other details needed to bid on contracts. The U.S. government spends more that $600 billion on good and services each year, much of it on defense.

“Well-articulated, sufficiently detailed forecasts lead to better proposals, improved competition and shorter award decision timelines,” Stephanie Kostro, PSC’s executive vice President for policy, said in a statement.

The scorecard, created in 2019, evaluates the content federal agencies provide in procurement forecasts to businesses. They offer a glimpse at opportunities by listing information that gives companies an idea of what resources they need to pursue a business opportunity with the government.

Not all defense office forecasts are hard to access. Two won “honorable mentions” in the PSC ranking. The Marine Corps Systems Command failed to give a forecast in 2021 but received a “fair” rating for improving its public information this year.

The Naval Information Warfare Systems Command has maintained a consistent “good” rating, the top category, since 2019.

“While certain restrictions can prevent Department of Defense offices from making publicly available a fully populated forecast, NAVWAR stands out as a top component,” according to the scorecard.

Forecasts were missing from some defense and military agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Missile Defense and Defense Logistics agencies.

Outside of the Pentagon, the General Services Administration received the highest score of any agency in the report for consistently updating opportunities and populating useful information to support companies’ decision-making. The GSA helps manage and support the other federal agencies.

The White House Office of Management and Budget, which oversees GSA, “has emphasized the importance of good procurement forecasts as a key component of strengthening the diversity and resilience of the federal marketplace,” said Lesley Field, acting administrator for federal procurement policy at OMB.

The acquisition ecosystem, from those who award contracts to the businesses seeking them, is vast. One in every 10 dollars of federal spending goes to contractors. Nearly 40,000 officers shepherd dollars through the five million contracts awarded in last year.

Overall, two more agencies received “good” rankings in 2022 compared to 2021, while a dozen offices received a “fair” ranking, up from nine.

Last year’s top marks were awarded to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which received the first-ever perfect score.

Molly Weisner is a reporter for Federal Times where she covers industry issues pertaining to the government workforce. She’s made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a producer and worked on The New York Times’s print desk as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism and French at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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