Lawmakers from both parties pushed for legislation overhauling the solicitation of design-build contracts for federal construction projects at a Tuesday hearing.
Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on the federal workforce, said agencies spend $40 billion on construction, but many companies are unable to bid on projects because of the arduous solicitation process.
He said, for many projects businesses, must submit detailed site plans, construction cost estimates and renderings of the finished product upfront — which could cost tens of thousands of dollars — in the initial stages of the contract.
“The process is incredibly difficult for small businesses,” he said.
He said the bipartisan Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2013 would require agencies to use a two-step process to winnow down prospective companies before asking for arduous and time-consuming bids on any project more than $750,000. While some projects use this process, most agencies do not, he said.
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said he supports the legislation because smaller firms are regularly faced with solicitations requiring extensive planning and agencies are not getting a full range of bids on design-build projects.
“Agency implementation of design-build contracts is affecting competitiveness,” Lynch said.
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee and bill sponsor, said in a statement that the average cost of bidding on a design-build contract is $250,000, while the average architecture firm makes $1 million a year.
“The Design Build Efficiency and Jobs Act of 2013 is common-sense legislation that streamlines the bid and proposal process to make it more efficient and cheaper for all involved, without sacrificing quality,” he said.
James Dalton, the chief of engineering and construction at the Army Corps of Engineers, said the agency encourages the use of two-step design-build contract awards when possible but still uses one-step solicitations.
“The Corps policy discourages the use of one-step design-build procedures for most construction requirements,” Dalton said.