Those top Pentagon vendors and other large contractors can draw on established relationships with procurement officers to claim a greater share of non-competitive work, said Robert Burton, former acting administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy under George W. Bush.
“It highlights a growing problem in the procurement system,’’ said Burton, who represents contractors as a partner at Venable in Washington. “The pie is shrinking, but at the same time, the number of non-competitive awards has increased. That’s a bad combination.”
Joe Jordan, head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said the administration “believes in taking maximum advantage of competition, including efforts to reduce sole-source contracting, and this is an important component of our overall efforts to achieve the best value for the taxpayer.’’
Still, Obama ended his first term spending more on non-competitive orders. In 2009, contracts awarded without competition made up about 20 percent of total dollars awarded, compared with about 23 percent in fiscal 2012. The figures may be understated because the data excluded contracts for indefinite quantities of goods or services.
“While there is more work to be done, agency efforts have produced good results in our efforts to increase the use of competition,’’ Jordan said in an e-mail.
He didn’t answer questions about why no-bid contracts had increased during Obama’s first term or describe any concrete steps taken to curb the awards.
Federal agencies consider just one company for a job when they need urgent action, when a vendor has specialized expertise or when they want to keep working with a proven supplier. Such contracts save time in procuring equipment and services, though they lack the competitive bidding that can drive down prices.
Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, the No. 1 U.S. contractor, captured the greatest share of no-bid contracts in the budget year that ended on Sept. 30, with about $17.4 billion. Boeing received the second-largest amount, about $17.1 billion. Raytheon in Waltham, Mass., was third with about $7.04 billion.
The Pentagon last year spent about $100 billion on no-bid contracts, the most of any federal agency, compared with $90 billion in fiscal 2009. The Department of Defense didn’t provide a comment for this story.
“We compete for many of our contracts, while in other cases we are awarded single-source contracts in those situations where the government determines that is the best course for meeting their requirements,” said Daniel Beck, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing.