Because of government contracting firms' position at the intersection of business and politics, keeping abreast of the mountains of legislation that emerge from congress is both essential and daunting. So we here at ExecutiveBiz have compiled a brief summary of three of the most important acts of Congress for government contractors in the past twenty-five years.
The Goldwater-Nichols Act
Named after Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater and Alabama Rep. William Flynt “Bill” Nichols, the Goldwater“Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 was signed into law Oct. 1, 1986 by President Reagan. It was enacted primarily to rework the command structure of the U.S. military and increase the powers of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by implementing some of the suggestions from the 1985 Packard Commission. It also sought to improve the Department of Defense budget process by increasing the authority and influence of the unified combatant commands that control U.S. forces, and creating a “joint officer specialization“ within each service to improve the quality of officers assigned to the joint staff.
The Clinger-Cohen Act
The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, also known as the Information Technology Management Reform Act, was designed to reform acquisition laws and IT management of the federal government. In detail, the law requires each federal agency head to establish clear accountability for IT management activities by appointing an agency CIO with the visibility and management responsibilities necessary to carry out the specific provisions of the act. Other responsibilities outlined by act entail the secretary of commerce to promulgate standards and guidance pertaining to the efficiency, security, and privacy of federal computer systems, as well as authorizing the president to disapprove or modify such standards.
The act also states that executive agencies should achieve at least a five-percent decrease in IT operation and maintenance costs each year for five years, as well as a five-percent increase in efficiency of operations.
The Levin-McCain Act
The Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 was introduced Feb. 23 by Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain and signed into law by President Barack Obama May 22 the same year. The primary areas of focus were to address problems with wasteful spending, unreasonable performance requirements, and problematic schedules, as well as remedy issues with the use of unproven or immature technologies and address costly mid-program changes. The law also promotes greater use of competition in weapons acquisitions, including un-bundling of contracts, developing second sources, and periodic competitions for subsystem upgrades.
Also, the act requires the Pentagon to conduct preliminary design reviews before giving approval to new acquisition programs. The act also requires program managers to notify the Pentagon's Milestone Decision Authority if the total costs of a weapons program grows beyond 25 percent, or if the schedule for the program slips by more than 25 percent, prior to the decision point where system development begins. The Authority then has to review the weapons program and consider terminating it.