In a recently published report, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessed the status of a test program for the acquisition of commercial items and services--i.e. are those that generally available in the commercial marketplace in contrast with items developed to meet specific governmental requirements.
The report is interesting, and it highlights that US federal agencies are conducting around 2% of their procurement through this program and that, overall, the "test program reduced contracting lead time and administrative burdens and generally did not incur additional risks above those on other federal acquisition efforts for those contracts GAO reviewed." Therefore, there seems to be scope for further use of the commercial items acquisition program.
Importantly too, GAO warns that, however, a significant number of these contracts were "awarded noncompetitively [and that, w]hile these awards were justified and approved in accordance with federal regulations when required, GAO and others have found that noncompetitive contracting poses risks of not getting the best value because these awards lack a direct market mechanism to help establish pricing." Consequently, GAO has recommended the interested federal agencies to look in more detail into the use of the program and to take measures to ensure that thorough market research is conducted before a commercial items contract is awarded noncompetitively.
In my view, the emphasis that GAO places on the collection and analysis of data in order to determine the benefits and success of the commercial items program offers valuable insights to procurement regulators in other jurisdictions--and, particularly, in the EU, where Member States should start considering procurement reform in view of the imminent publication of the new Directives in the Official Journal.