Eleanor Hill’s testimony before Congress last spring sounded like it was lifted from 1980s newspaper accounts of government purchasing scandals. Hill, then-inspector general for the Department of Defense, told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee that the government was getting ripped off. She warned of “significant problems” in government contracts and a dearth of competition. In one instance, the Defense Department had paid $76 for a 57-cent screw, according to an audit done by her office. In another, the government had paid a defense contractor $403 for a part available on the open market for $25. “Much more needs to be done … to safeguard against the continuing threat of procurement fraud and mismanagement,” said Hill, now a partner at King & Spalding’s Washington, D.C., office.

Mind you, this hand-wringing came after a decade of reforms to the system. Back in the 1980s, the government had been caught buying $600 toilet seats and hammers priced their weight in gold. At the time, the Pentagon was skewered for its la-di-da attitude toward price and competition. The calls to reform the system reached a fever pitch in the early 1990s, when Al Gore went on David Letterman’s Late Show to smash a government-issue ashtray — an example of products subject to long lists of silly government requirements. Finally, in 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed a Harvard University professor named Steve Kelman to “reinvent” the procurement machine. During the next four years, Kelman helped turn a slew of controversial, free-market style reforms into law.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]