`Good' Government Contracts and the Role of Contracting Officers

The editorial "Private/Public Waste," Dec. 8, correctly points out that "the implication that a larger corps of inspectors general would solve everything is flimsy."

During the Reagan/Bush administrations, the offices of inspectors general were always hiring more personnel. At the same time, the offices that were responsible for awarding the contracts were generally constrained from hiring and often faced reductions in staffing. I know because for more than 30 years I directed a contracting office in the Pentagon.

The abuses the editorial laments might have been substantially reduced had the contracting officers, responsible for awarding the contracts, had authority commensurate with their responsibilities.

Most contracting officers find themselves required to meet unrealistic deadlines and to award contracts without sufficient opportunity to review an offerer's past performance or record of integrity. Further, undue emphasis on awarding to the lowest-price offerer without considering the ultimate cost does the government a great disservice.

The government's ability to award good contracts would be enormously enhanced if the role of its contracting officers were properly recognized. Phillip Miller, Annandale, Va.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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