`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. Public school funding

Regarding the article "Texas School Dilemma Faces Early 1993 Deadline," Dec. 8: I agree with the remarks of Glenn Linden, a history professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, that until we recognize that our nation's children are not yours or mine but collectively each citizen's, we won't find a solution to the public school funding crisis.

Obviously, when it comes to our children, greater concern should be given by our legislators to reach a consensus through input, accommodation, and compromise, and not by single-party politics, as was the case in the recent failed legislative session in Austin, Texas. I applaud the Monitor's staff for reporting on the opportunities amid chaos. Peter R. McCook, Tyler, Texas A two-way street

The Learning page article "Science For Sale?," Nov. 23, motivates me to write. The opening sentence states, "Linking research funding to national competitiveness is proving a mixed blessing for some United States universities."

According to the article, the 1989 House Committee on Government Operations "grilled" former Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Paul Gray for defending funding on the grounds of industrial competitiveness but then selling technology to Japan through the university's industrial liaison program.

I am pleased to read that David Lampe, associate director of MIT's industrial liaison program, defends the university's action by stating that "basic knowledge relies on free interaction with the best practice in the world.... We learn at least as much from the Japanese as they learn from us." In other words, the program is a two-way street.

The materials I have read indicate that the Japanese government works closely with the country's educational system and industry to plan and achieve long-range success. Perhaps a House committee should learn a lesson and follow MIT's lead to cooperate with Japan instead of criticizing the university's industrial liaison program. Howard Carson, Florence, Ala.

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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