Senate Passes DOD Bill Capping Design-Build Short Lists
The Senate approved a $585-billion Dept. of Defense authorization bill by an 89-11 vote on Dec. 12, one of the last days of the lame-duck session.
With the Senate's passage late on Dec. 13 of the $1.1-trillion “CRominbus”—a neologism that combines "continuing resolution," or "CR," and "omnibus"—spending bill that authorizes spending for most of the government through Sept. 30, 2015, the chamber has only two major pieces of legislation to consider before lawmakers go home for the year: a bill extending expired tax provisions and a business-supported bill extending terrorism insurance for another five years.
The Senate is expected to wrap up work on those measures, and confirm some presidential nominations, during the week of Dec. 15.
The president is expected to sign the DOD bill, which the House passed on Dec. 4.
The measure includes a design-build provision that will benefit contractors and architects who seek DOD projects, including a cap on the number of short-listed firms and a ban on reverse auctions on design-build projects.
Design and construction industry officials call the bill’s construction-related provisions a victory and the culmination of several years of lobbying.
Elizabeth Chu Richter, the American Institute of Architects’ president, said in an emailed statement, “This legislation provides more certainty and opportunities for design firms of all sizes who wish to enter the federal marketplace.”
One provision limits the number of firms that can be short-listed finalists during a DOD design-build, two-step process. Another bars reverse auctions—a form of procurement in which firms bid online in real time—on DOD design-build projects.
Specifically, the legislation requires written justification by an agency’s “head of contracting” when more than five finalists are short-listed in a two-step, design-build DOD contract of more than $4 million.
Under current law, a contracting officer alone can short-list more than five firms in any contract.
The construction industry groups, which included AIA, the Associated General Contractors of America, and the Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA), did not get everything they wanted in the bill.
Lawmakers who drafted the final version did not include a construction-backed provision that would have required individual sureties to comply with standards as corporate sureties.
Also omitted from the final measure was an industry-supported limitation on single-step, or turnkey, design-build projects.
Still, the associations are upbeat. Louis J. Jenny, DBIA vice president of advocacy and outreach, says the coalition of construction and design groups is “already discussing and planning ways to expand on this win, including extending the provisions to civil contracts and limiting single-step, turnkey design-build.”
With only a few days left in the lame-duck session, however, that will have to wait until next year, Jenny says.