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Senator DANFORTH. Gentlemen, thank you very much. The next witnesses work under defense and transportation contracts: Robert Van Zant, James Brettell, and Clarence Thomas. Gentlemen, I'm going to have to take a phone call right now. I'll be back in about 5 minutes.
Senator Danforth leaves the room.)
Senator DANFORTH. Mr. Van Zant, would you like to start, please?
TESTIMONY OF ROBERT VAN ZANT, VICE PRESIDENT FOR
PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION, WILCOX ELECTRIC, INC.; JAMES BRETTELL, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, LIBBY WELDING CO., INC.; AND CLARENCE THOMAS, ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT TO THE VICE PRESIDENT FOR MARKETING, DIT-MCO INTERNATIONAL CORP. Mr. Van Zant. I certainly appreciate the opportunity, Senator. It's interesting that my 5 minutes of points here—you covered about 4 minutes of it in your opening address and the other minute has been covered by the other three speakers, so I can hurry right along.
Senator DANFORTH. I was taught once when I was in divinity school, as a matter of fact, when you preach a sermon, tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. So repetition is just fine.
Mr. Van Zant. I've been involved in various departments of Wilcox for about the last 28 years with the Government procurement practices. And so, that's a little bit of a background. The Federal procurement policies and regulations in our view are designed to insure maximum competition and thereby give all interested and qualified parties the opportunity to bid on Government jobs and offer the best price for the Government. This procurement system is basically sound and it works. However, any system can be made better, and a few of the comments that follow really are designed to be hopefully helpful, constructive criticisms. Now, in 5 minutes you can't really review the practices of the Government as far as procurement, so I've picked out two or three points to emphasize this morning and not necessarily the most important points of the system or in the order they're presented. No. 1: we talk about excess regulations. It's our experience that the Government contracting officers and buyers as a group are knowledgeable and dedicated people, who have been regulated and guidelined and protested and sometimes arm-twisted into ineffectual order-placers, and really are not allowed to use their good judgment to contract in the manner to accomplish some of the goals that you just referred to, Senator, for the Federal procurement system. In our experience, most all award decisions are based on the lowest quoted price with very little attention to other important factors, such as total cost to the Government, or the product fulfilling the Government's needs, or quality control of the product, or to support of an industry that supports other facets such as small business and affirmative action programs.
Point No. 2 has been referred to before. In our segment of the industry, it's equally important, and that is the long procurement cycle. It is a very complex and time-consuming series of steps