by Andrew Ausel | June 10, 2015
As challenges continue to face America’s infrastructure today, efforts are under way on Capitol Hill to improve upon the efficiency and effectiveness of government contracting. In pursuit of this, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) have filed a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016 to add the Design-Build Efficiency and Jobs Act – currently H.R. 1666 – to the annual defense authorization bill. DBIA, as a member of the Construction Procurement Coalition, has worked closely with Senator Portman and Senator Hirono on this language and supports the amendment.
The value of this bi-partisan amendment is inherent for both the government and taxpayer alike, as it requires federal agencies to better justify and report when they short-list more than five finalists on a specific project in the two-step design-build process. According to a letter sent to legislators by the Construction Procurement Coalition, “This amendment will help to increase opportunities for small businesses, make government contracting more efficient, and prevent fraudulent transactions.” The amendment also limits the use of single-step design-build to projects that are less than $750,000. Both provisions would apply to both civil and defense projects.
The two-step or best value selection process has long been a DBIA Best Practice, as it increases the number of firms that can feasibly compete to design and build a project, while simultaneously helping an owner – which in this case is a government agency – choose the most qualified firm. Without a two-step approach, the pool of bidders can become overcrowded, discouraging qualified applicants from attempting to win the contract. In addition, any selection lacking an adequate consideration of qualifications is more likely to base its determination primarily on price which carries with it inherent risks and constraints which DBIA opposes.
The amendment addresses various issues, which Senator Portman’s office outlined in a press release: “by addressing the anti-competitive and efficiency issues with reverse auction procurement for design and construction services, encouraging better utilization of design-build project delivery, and providing financial certainty to assets that support individual surety bonds, this amendment provides a framework for growth in the construction industry and encourages more efficient federal government procurement through simple, no cost to the government solutions.”
Senator Portman himself stated, “[this] amendment will streamline [the design-build] process and expand opportunities for companies participating in these contracts.”
In order to navigate every avenue to have these improvements adopted into law, Senator Portman and Senator Hirono have also introduced a stand-alone bill to serve as a companion to the amendment filed to the NDAA. This legislation, S. 1526, titled the Construction Consensus Procurement Improvement Act of 2015, is likewise supported by DBIA and is a product of the numerous meetings conducted over the past few months by DBIA and its coalition partners who have worked hard to have this important piece of legislation introduced. Just this week, a letter urging support of the bill and amendment was sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee by the coalition.
“I am proud to work on this bipartisan proposal to grow the construction industry in Hawaii and across the country while ensuring that taxpayer money is used wisely and efficiently,” said Senator Hirono. “Hawaii’s construction industry employs about 30,000 people, and many Hawaii residents will use federally-funded projects. By reducing fraud and making the procurement process more competitive, this bill emphasizes quality work and responsible actors while helping prevent a race to the bottom in the federal construction procurement process.”
With so many proposals floating around Capitol Hill, check back to DesignBuildDoneRight.com to stay updated as these bills develop.