WASHINGTON, D.C. – Three bipartisan bills authored by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) to bolster government efficiency, save taxpayer dollars, and support small businesses seeking government contracts advanced in the Senate. The bills would enable the federal government to acquire new technologies created by small businesses, ensure that written guidance published by federal agencies is easy to understand, and require federal agencies to identify and address potential foreign conflicts of interest involving government contractors. All three pieces of legislation were advanced by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where Peters serves as Chair. They now move to the full Senate for consideration.
“There is no question that lawmakers must work to rebuild trust in the government by ensuring that federal agencies are modernizing operations, as well as making sure that taxpayer dollars are being spent in the best interests of Michiganders and folks across the country,” said Senator Peters. “These bipartisan bills will give small businesses a fair shot at helping to solve problems faced by the American people, ensure that federal agencies are clearly communicating with citizens, and prevent federal contractors from taking tax dollars while risking national security because of outside business interests with the governments of foreign adversaries like Russia and China.”
Rapid technological developments and increased government demand have steadily increased the number of federal dollars spent on contracts to acquire new technology. Peters’ AGILE Procurement Act would require the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy and the General Services Administration to streamline the ability of the federal government to purchase commercial technology and provide specific training for information and communications technology acquisition. The legislation provides a pilot program to bring more junior and mid-career professionals into federal procurement from other fields, including veterans, military spouses, and private sector procurement professionals. The bill would also create a working group to reduce barriers to government contracting for businesses, including small businesses. Finally, the bill would allow the Department of Defense pilot contracting program to incentivize employee stock ownership plans, which are expected to help businesses grow while sharing company equity with their employees, to be expanded for government-wide use.
Peters’ Clear and Concise Content Act updates the Plain Writing Act of 2010 to expand the types of information agencies must publish publicly in plain writing. The bill creates a broad definition of “covered content” to ensure nearly all information, guidance, instructions, and other public information are drafted in plain writing. The bill requires new data reporting requirements to ensure information published by federal agencies improves taxpayers’ experience when they are interacting with the government. The bill also requires that all new and existing agency websites meet covered content requirements within one year. Finally, the legislation makes clear that Congress and the Office of Management and Budget will increase public accountability to ensure agencies create documents, forms, webpages, and other materials that are plainly written.
Recent reports show that private companies who had been awarded national security contracts by the U.S. government were not transparent about their outside business relationships with entities with ties to foreign adversaries. Peters’ Combating Obstructive National Security Underreporting of Legitimate Threats (CONSULT) Act will require government-wide regulations to mitigate and eliminate organizational conflict of interests relating to national security. The legislation will require consulting firms to disclose potential organizational conflicts of interest with certain entities, such as foreign adversarial entities or governments. Conflicts of interest disclosed by private companies could serve as grounds for denial of a contract where necessary to protect national security, and failure to disclose conflicts could result in the suspension and debarment of a contractor.