Tuesday, October 18, 2005

No-Bid Contracts

Democracy Arsenal has put together a foreign policy agenda for a draft progressive Contract with America. I agree with most of their points. It should be necessary to declare war on a nation before actually going to war with them. We should outlaw torture and punish those in the military who have approved these actions. We should set conditions for our stay in Iraq and try to start setting timetables for troop reductions and eventually withdrawal.

But while I do agree that we need to have accountability on no-bid contracts, I'm not sure that I can go as far as to say that all contracts for security related matters be open bid. The reason is that is it just unrealistic. Progressives have raged against no-bid contracts because of the cronyism of the Bush administration. And we should. But the problem is more I think about the cronyism than the no-bid contracts. For instance, if we need to hire private companies to help in the rebuilding of Iraq (or New Orleans or Los Angeles the next time there is a magnitude 8 earthquake there) we need to make those decisions immediately. Are people supposed to sit and wait while an open bidding process takes place that has to work through government bureaucracy? I think we need to sit and really consider just what the necessities of government are before we simply outlaw no-bid contracts entirely.

That said, we certainly need a greater empahsis on accountability with the money from no-bid contracts, we need punishments for those who don't use the money properly, and we need to do the best we can to avoid cronyism in the awarding of these contracts. Yes, no-bid contracts and cronyism were almost born to go together. But I think this is one of those necessary evils that comes with government.