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Senators grill procurement chief nominee

May. 9, 2012 - 06:00AM   |  
By SARAH CHACKO   |   Comments
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and other senators added a provision to a bill to prohibit a disclosure requirement for campaign contributions by contractors. The issue may decide whether Joseph Jordan is confirmed as the next Office of Federal Procurment Policy chief.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and other senators added a provision to a bill to prohibit a disclosure requirement for campaign contributions by contractors. The issue may decide whether Joseph Jordan is confirmed as the next Office of Federal Procurment Policy chief. (Blair Tomlinson / Staff)

Joseph Jordan's confirmation as the next Office of Federal Procurement Policy chief could depend on whether he will oppose administration efforts to require contractors to disclose campaign contributions.

Senators on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday pushed President Obama's nominee to promise he would oppose any executive order similar to a draft leaked last year that would require contractors to disclose their campaign contributions before being awarded a federal contract.

Jordan, who is senior adviser on procurement issues at the Office of Management and Budget, said he is committed to ensuring that federal acquisitions are merit-based and that political considerations are not part of contracting decisions. But senators wanted a stronger stance.

"I think you have to be more definitive on this issue," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. "It's a very important issue to us."

Ranking member Susan Collins, R-Maine, and other senators added a provision to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act and an omnibus appropriations bill to prohibit a disclosure requirement, though the Obama administration has signaled it would like to see that provision repealed.

Collins said the draft executive order would have sent a message to contracting officials that campaign contributions should be a factor in their contracting decisions. Contractors might then assume they would be disqualified from bidding if they give money to the administration's opposition, and some may decide not to do business with the government because of it, she said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said after the draft was leaked last year that it was an effort by President Obama to make the contracting process more transparent and accountable.

Collins said some senators take issue with Jordan's background most of which is in private-sector procurement management as well as two years at the Small Business Administration overseeing federal small-business contracting when compared to previous administrators who brought decades of federal contracting and legal expertise. Collins said she personally believes Jordan's experience in the public and private sectors qualifies him to lead OFPP, which is part of OMB.

Collins also brought up the recent news of the General Service Administration's "over the top" conference in Las Vegas as an example of the need for OFPP. GSA's inspector general found that officials failed to publish solicitations and compete contracts for team-building exercises and audio-visual services.

"OFPP must take action to ensure such blatant violations of contract law and regulation will not be tolerated particularly as we face an increasing national debt burden," she said.

Committee chairman Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Collins asked Jordan how he would improve agencies' use of suspension and debarment against poorly performing contractors and how he would get a handle on the unknown number of contracts used throughout government. McCain also asked Jordan to more thoroughly review of Alaska Native Corporations, which can be awarded multimillion-dollar contracts without competition.

Jordan said better training of the acquisition workforce would lead to better reporting on contractors' past performance and improve the use of suspension and debarment. He said he would also like to create a contract inventory, which previous administrators have attempted unsuccessfully.

The committee is expected to vote on Jordan's confirmation next week.

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