WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Tuesday searched for ways to strengthen accountability and competition in the federal government’s $415 billion-a-year acquisition process in an effort to save American taxpayers billions of dollars lost each year to contracting waste, fraud and abuse.

At a committee hearing entitled “Federal Acquisition: Ways to Strengthen Competition and Accountability,” the senators vowed to move legislation this year to address problems associated with a rapid growth in the value and numbers of contracts awarded, including a frequent lack of competition in awarding contracts, insufficient federal oversight of those contracts, and too little transparency in the procurement process.

“A successful system for buying goods and services is more than just selecting the right vendor and signing a contract,” Lieberman said. “It requires careful planning and negotiation before the contract is signed, followed by rigorous oversight through the life of the contract. With billions and billions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money at stake, both the government and contractors have a responsibility to do a better job than they are now to see that the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. We also need to make sure that inherently governmental work is performed by federal employees, and not by contractors.”

“The challenge of overseeing federal contracting has grown over the years,” noted Senator Collins. “Spending under federal contracts now exceeds $400 billion a year, making the U.S. government by far the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services, from staplers to studies to satellites. We simply must ensure that the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.”

Between 2000 and 2006, spending on federal contracts nearly doubled – from almost $219 billion to $415 billion – an 89 percent increase.

“The numbers are stunning, disturbing, and demand our attention,” Lieberman said. “Government spending on contracts has exploded, while the trained workface that oversees them has shrunk. This has already contributed to widely publicized – and I have to say infuriating – examples of waste, and the problem will only worsen in the years ahead if we don’t act together to better protect the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars for federal contracting.”

Lieberman pointed to dramatic examples of wasteful government spending on goods and services in recent years: the Transportation Security Administration’s contract for recruitment of airline screeners that cost $637 million more than its original estimate; the FBI’s poorly designed and poorly supervised “Trilogy” information technology project; the U.S. Coast Guard’s poorly supervised Deepwater construction program; and wasteful contracting practices for reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Gulf Coast rebuilding and recovery.

Senator Collins has introduced and Senator Lieberman is co-sponsoring the “Accountability in Government Contracting Act of 2007,” S. 680, to address inefficiencies and wasteful spending involved in federal procurement.

Witnesses at the hearing included David M. Walker, Comptroller General, Government Accountability Office; Marcia G. Madsen, Chair of the Acquisition Advisory Panel; and Stan Z. Soloway, President of the Professional Services Council.