Category: Kevin William

How Government Appropriators Are Costing Us Billions


Let’s imagine you are standing in the open doorway of a plane — standard government issued parachute strapped on tight, flying 12,500 feet above ground level and preparing to jump.

Now considering the typical “belly-to-earth” fall rate of around 115 mph, you will have approximately 60 seconds to enjoy the fall before having to pull the cord. At this point, would you feel safer knowing the parachute maker won the contract because they made the best parachutes available – or instead, that they won because they slashed their operation standards to come in at the lowest price? It’s a no-brainer, you would pick the first one, of course, a quality-made parachute that will deliver you safely back to earth.

Unfortunately, the Department of Defense (DoD), along with other government agencies, are currently required to award government contracts based on a bidding process known as the Lowest Price Technology Acceptable (LPTA). The intended goal of LPTA is to protect taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse. It is an easy process to understand — the award normally goes to the lowest priced offeror who submitted a “technically acceptable” proposal. There is no consideration given for the long-term durability, quality, or reliability of the product; just whether it “technically” fits the needs at the cheapest cost.

Don’t get me wrong: the LPTA is a good and necessary solution for purchasing products like office supplies or, say, toilet seats. Remember when we learned that in the 1980s the government was paying $640 each for plastic toilet seats for our military planes?  Under the LPTA, this type of price gouging is much less likely to occur.

However, the limited scope of the LPTA has become problematic. The term “technically acceptable” is not well defined. This lack of specificity leads some companies to purposely lowball their bids just to win the contract – even though they won’t truly be able to deliver on the terms of their contract.

Once this inevitably occurs, the bidding process must be started all over again, wasting all of the taxpayer funds in the process. Even when a contracting officer tries to do the right thing by seeking out quality and durability along with the price, they face mountains of bureaucratic red tape trying to justify the extra expense.

In some cases, the DoD’s requirement to buy cheap isn’t just a matter of wasted time and money, but rather a matter of life and death. By example, the Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan suffered from a series of failures, not the least was the inferior automatic weapons our soldiers were given that “turned white hot and jammed from non-stop firing.” Our soldiers were not properly prepared or equipped for the four-hour battle that resulted in nine dead Americans and 27 wounded.

The space program is another area where it is only common sense that quality and reliability is just as important as price. Take, for instance, the current focus on reusable rockets. Aerospace engineers have been working to develop rockets that can be used multiple times, like an airplane, which will ultimately cause space flight to get a lot less expensive. The idea is great, but the execution has been less than ideal. Thanks to the LPTA policy — not to mention a fair share of cronyism — the SpaceX aerospace company has consistently been awarded contracts to build new, advanced rockets because they undercut their competition. There’s just one problem: some SpaceX’s rockets seem to have a big problem with exploding upon takeoff.

Last year, as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded for the second time in 15 months, so too did $62 million taxpayer dollars – forcing NASA to delay commercial flights to 2018. SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, admits that while the loss of a rocket and its cargo can be costly and inconvenient, they aren’t viewed as crippling blows to the company. And why should he, considering the American taxpayer is left picking up the tab for his failed attempts?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying SpaceX should never receive another government contract; I’m just saying that it’s wrong for appropriators to be blindly doling out our taxpayer dollars to Musk without taking other factors into account for each and every mission.

Musk keeps bringing in the money not by building the best rocket but by being a slick salesman and overpromising. He has done a great job of having cronies in all the right places. One congressman recently attached an amendment to the House version of the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that requires the Air Force to only use SpaceX rockets, which are, coincidentally, produced in his congressional district. Eliminating competition is a terrible idea that often leads to higher costs and less efficiency. The Air Force is protesting the measure and has stated that this move will cost taxpayers $1.8 billion more than the department’s current plan through the fiscal year 2027.

Awarding government contracts to low bidders without taking reliability into consideration is costing taxpayers millions of dollars that are not factored into the final sticker price. Fortunately, new legislation has been introduced to correct the obvious shortcomings of the LPTA process. The bipartisan Promoting Value-Based Defense Procurement Act, introduced by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., would direct the government appropriators to avoid LPTA criteria whenever possible when procuring complex information technology, systems engineering, technical assistance services and other knowledge-based professional services.

By making the appropriations process less robotic, this legislation will make the government run like a more efficient, streamlined business. It should be passed immediately so Americans can keep more of their hard-earned money tomorrow. 

Let’s imagine you are standing in the open doorway of a plane — standard government issued parachute strapped on tight, flying 12,500 feet above ground level and preparing to jump.

Now considering the typical “belly-to-earth” fall rate of around 115 mph, you will have approximately 60 seconds to enjoy the fall before having to pull the cord. At this point, would you feel safer knowing the parachute maker won the contract because they made the best parachutes available – or instead, that they won because they slashed their operation standards to come in at the lowest price? It’s a no-brainer, you would pick the first one, of course, a quality-made parachute that will deliver you safely back to earth.

Unfortunately, the Department of Defense (DoD), along with other government agencies, are currently required to award government contracts based on a bidding process known as the Lowest Price Technology Acceptable (LPTA). The intended goal of LPTA is to protect taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse. It is an easy process to understand — the award normally goes to the lowest priced offeror who submitted a “technically acceptable” proposal. There is no consideration given for the long-term durability, quality, or reliability of the product; just whether it “technically” fits the needs at the cheapest cost.

Don’t get me wrong: the LPTA is a good and necessary solution for purchasing products like office supplies or, say, toilet seats. Remember when we learned that in the 1980s the government was paying $640 each for plastic toilet seats for our military planes?  Under the LPTA, this type of price gouging is much less likely to occur.

However, the limited scope of the LPTA has become problematic. The term “technically acceptable” is not well defined. This lack of specificity leads some companies to purposely lowball their bids just to win the contract – even though they won’t truly be able to deliver on the terms of their contract.

Once this inevitably occurs, the bidding process must be started all over again, wasting all of the taxpayer funds in the process. Even when a contracting officer tries to do the right thing by seeking out quality and durability along with the price, they face mountains of bureaucratic red tape trying to justify the extra expense.

In some cases, the DoD’s requirement to buy cheap isn’t just a matter of wasted time and money, but rather a matter of life and death. By example, the Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan suffered from a series of failures, not the least was the inferior automatic weapons our soldiers were given that “turned white hot and jammed from non-stop firing.” Our soldiers were not properly prepared or equipped for the four-hour battle that resulted in nine dead Americans and 27 wounded.

The space program is another area where it is only common sense that quality and reliability is just as important as price. Take, for instance, the current focus on reusable rockets. Aerospace engineers have been working to develop rockets that can be used multiple times, like an airplane, which will ultimately cause space flight to get a lot less expensive. The idea is great, but the execution has been less than ideal. Thanks to the LPTA policy — not to mention a fair share of cronyism — the SpaceX aerospace company has consistently been awarded contracts to build new, advanced rockets because they undercut their competition. There’s just one problem: some SpaceX’s rockets seem to have a big problem with exploding upon takeoff.

Last year, as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded for the second time in 15 months, so too did $62 million taxpayer dollars – forcing NASA to delay commercial flights to 2018. SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, admits that while the loss of a rocket and its cargo can be costly and inconvenient, they aren’t viewed as crippling blows to the company. And why should he, considering the American taxpayer is left picking up the tab for his failed attempts?

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying SpaceX should never receive another government contract; I’m just saying that it’s wrong for appropriators to be blindly doling out our taxpayer dollars to Musk without taking other factors into account for each and every mission.

Musk keeps bringing in the money not by building the best rocket but by being a slick salesman and overpromising. He has done a great job of having cronies in all the right places. One congressman recently attached an amendment to the House version of the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that requires the Air Force to only use SpaceX rockets, which are, coincidentally, produced in his congressional district. Eliminating competition is a terrible idea that often leads to higher costs and less efficiency. The Air Force is protesting the measure and has stated that this move will cost taxpayers $1.8 billion more than the department’s current plan through the fiscal year 2027.

Awarding government contracts to low bidders without taking reliability into consideration is costing taxpayers millions of dollars that are not factored into the final sticker price. Fortunately, new legislation has been introduced to correct the obvious shortcomings of the LPTA process. The bipartisan Promoting Value-Based Defense Procurement Act, introduced by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D., would direct the government appropriators to avoid LPTA criteria whenever possible when procuring complex information technology, systems engineering, technical assistance services and other knowledge-based professional services.

By making the appropriations process less robotic, this legislation will make the government run like a more efficient, streamlined business. It should be passed immediately so Americans can keep more of their hard-earned money tomorrow. 



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Optometrists Peddle Fake News in Washington Lobbying Campaign


One thing you must admit about Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and the American Optometric Association (AOA): They are tenacious.

For years, they have labored diligently to manipulate the vision health care market with biased research to pass legislation that gives them an unfair advantage over their competitors.  Although they continue to lose, that doesn’t stop them from plugging away.

Just last week, 5,000 AOA representatives flew into Capitol Hill to knock on lawmakers’ doors. These door-to-door lobbyists are working to take choice away from consumers with the help of a government-created monopoly.

The AOA already spends almost $2 million a year at the federal level trying to crush any free market competition. But last week’s fly-in campaign was a new act of desperation by lobbyists trying to pressure lawmakers into backing their crony legislation.

It’s no wonder honest optometrists like Stephen Dincher from Connecticut call the AOA “nothing but a lobbying force for regulatory capture.”

J&J and the AOA claim that their number-one priority is eye care and patient safety. As industry giants, they claim that it is their duty to fight for legislation that protects consumers from themselves.  They have stressed the importance of “in-person vision care,” something they claim can be safely performed only by optometrists. The only problem with these claims is that they are based on false, inaccurate data that were thoroughly debunked last year by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

In 2016, the FTC did a complete review of the purported health risk data the AOA was using to prop up the Contact Lens Consumer Health Act (S. 2777), which sought to crack down on the sale of contact lenses by third-party vendors.  The FTC saw no “reliable empirical evidence to support a finding that such [third-party] sales are contributing to an increased incidence, or increased risk, of contact lens-related eye problems.”

That’s right: even though the AOA’s data has been disproven at the highest levels of the federal government, the AOA’s lobbyists still had the audacity to peddle their false reports all over Capitol Hill last week.  Apparently, J&J and the AOA are using their own version of fake news in the hope that “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The only problem with that theory is that even the AOA doesn’t actually believe it.  Its website clearly states that a healthy adult needs an in-person eye exam only once every two years.  For years, J&J worked with the AOA to push for legislation that would deny patients easy access to their prescriptions and indefinitely extend the current eight-hour time limit optometrists have to respond to third-party vendor filling requests.  They continue to cite inaccurate research in the hope of passing laws that would guarantee optometrists a captive clientele, obediently returning year after year to buy their contact lenses – and, of course, the prescription would in many cases be for a J&J product.

J&J claims that these restrictions are necessary because nothing is more important to the company than its consumers’ eye health.  The argument falls apart when you consider all the vending machines scattered throughout Europe and Asia selling J&J contact lenses directly to the consumer with no prescription needed, let alone an in-person eye exam.

Since efforts to tighten the consumer restrictions on contact lens purchases have stalled in Washington, the AOA fly-in has decided to go in another direction to once again cripple the free market.  Thanks to new technology that can give you a full eye exam over your smartphone, a yearly visit to an in-person optometrist is becoming even more unnecessary.  There are now phone apps like Opternative, Simple Contacts, and GlassesOn that can perform an eye exam at any time of your choosing in your home for a greatly reduced fee.  The prescription is then verified by a board-certified ophthalmologist, and the consumer is free to shop anywhere he chooses to find the best deal when ordering contact lenses.

This new technology has sent the AOA into a panic because its members know that cost-cutting vision care phone apps are going to cut deeply into their profits.  Costs for utilizing phone apps are as low as $40, compared to the average cost of $128 at the optometrist’s office.  The thought of having to compete in that market is terrifying to a group accustomed to having their clients locked into paying for an exam year after year.  It’s no wonder these eye care professionals are willing to fly into Washington looking for members of Congress willing to once again push their crony legislation.

The AOA’s last line of defense is that in-person eye exams pick up on keratitis and other eye-related diseases that would not be found if relying on the results from one of these smartphone apps.  They are conveniently forgetting that even users of this technology still need to receive a comprehensive eye exam every two years. 

The CLCHPA legislation is the AOA’s best hope to completely ban third-party lens sellers, such as Walmart, Costco, and a multitude of online sellers.  If passed, CLCHPA will give the members of the AOA unbridled authority to veto prospective third-party transactions.  CLCHPA will give the AOA the ability not just to respond to the requested order and essentially pocket-veto the patient’s order; it will also work to remove consumers’ option to order directly from the web or discount store.  They will once again be at the mercy of their optometrists regarding price and product selection.

Without a doubt, the members of the AOA are looking out only for themselves, not for their patients’ interests.  Their safety argument is unfounded, and their drive to push more regulation on the industry is nothing more than cronyism, plain and simple.  Congress needs to stop protecting an industry that chooses to put a stranglehold on patients.  It is time to move forward and accept innovations that will better serve all consumers. 

One thing you must admit about Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and the American Optometric Association (AOA): They are tenacious.

For years, they have labored diligently to manipulate the vision health care market with biased research to pass legislation that gives them an unfair advantage over their competitors.  Although they continue to lose, that doesn’t stop them from plugging away.

Just last week, 5,000 AOA representatives flew into Capitol Hill to knock on lawmakers’ doors. These door-to-door lobbyists are working to take choice away from consumers with the help of a government-created monopoly.

The AOA already spends almost $2 million a year at the federal level trying to crush any free market competition. But last week’s fly-in campaign was a new act of desperation by lobbyists trying to pressure lawmakers into backing their crony legislation.

It’s no wonder honest optometrists like Stephen Dincher from Connecticut call the AOA “nothing but a lobbying force for regulatory capture.”

J&J and the AOA claim that their number-one priority is eye care and patient safety. As industry giants, they claim that it is their duty to fight for legislation that protects consumers from themselves.  They have stressed the importance of “in-person vision care,” something they claim can be safely performed only by optometrists. The only problem with these claims is that they are based on false, inaccurate data that were thoroughly debunked last year by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

In 2016, the FTC did a complete review of the purported health risk data the AOA was using to prop up the Contact Lens Consumer Health Act (S. 2777), which sought to crack down on the sale of contact lenses by third-party vendors.  The FTC saw no “reliable empirical evidence to support a finding that such [third-party] sales are contributing to an increased incidence, or increased risk, of contact lens-related eye problems.”

That’s right: even though the AOA’s data has been disproven at the highest levels of the federal government, the AOA’s lobbyists still had the audacity to peddle their false reports all over Capitol Hill last week.  Apparently, J&J and the AOA are using their own version of fake news in the hope that “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The only problem with that theory is that even the AOA doesn’t actually believe it.  Its website clearly states that a healthy adult needs an in-person eye exam only once every two years.  For years, J&J worked with the AOA to push for legislation that would deny patients easy access to their prescriptions and indefinitely extend the current eight-hour time limit optometrists have to respond to third-party vendor filling requests.  They continue to cite inaccurate research in the hope of passing laws that would guarantee optometrists a captive clientele, obediently returning year after year to buy their contact lenses – and, of course, the prescription would in many cases be for a J&J product.

J&J claims that these restrictions are necessary because nothing is more important to the company than its consumers’ eye health.  The argument falls apart when you consider all the vending machines scattered throughout Europe and Asia selling J&J contact lenses directly to the consumer with no prescription needed, let alone an in-person eye exam.

Since efforts to tighten the consumer restrictions on contact lens purchases have stalled in Washington, the AOA fly-in has decided to go in another direction to once again cripple the free market.  Thanks to new technology that can give you a full eye exam over your smartphone, a yearly visit to an in-person optometrist is becoming even more unnecessary.  There are now phone apps like Opternative, Simple Contacts, and GlassesOn that can perform an eye exam at any time of your choosing in your home for a greatly reduced fee.  The prescription is then verified by a board-certified ophthalmologist, and the consumer is free to shop anywhere he chooses to find the best deal when ordering contact lenses.

This new technology has sent the AOA into a panic because its members know that cost-cutting vision care phone apps are going to cut deeply into their profits.  Costs for utilizing phone apps are as low as $40, compared to the average cost of $128 at the optometrist’s office.  The thought of having to compete in that market is terrifying to a group accustomed to having their clients locked into paying for an exam year after year.  It’s no wonder these eye care professionals are willing to fly into Washington looking for members of Congress willing to once again push their crony legislation.

The AOA’s last line of defense is that in-person eye exams pick up on keratitis and other eye-related diseases that would not be found if relying on the results from one of these smartphone apps.  They are conveniently forgetting that even users of this technology still need to receive a comprehensive eye exam every two years. 

The CLCHPA legislation is the AOA’s best hope to completely ban third-party lens sellers, such as Walmart, Costco, and a multitude of online sellers.  If passed, CLCHPA will give the members of the AOA unbridled authority to veto prospective third-party transactions.  CLCHPA will give the AOA the ability not just to respond to the requested order and essentially pocket-veto the patient’s order; it will also work to remove consumers’ option to order directly from the web or discount store.  They will once again be at the mercy of their optometrists regarding price and product selection.

Without a doubt, the members of the AOA are looking out only for themselves, not for their patients’ interests.  Their safety argument is unfounded, and their drive to push more regulation on the industry is nothing more than cronyism, plain and simple.  Congress needs to stop protecting an industry that chooses to put a stranglehold on patients.  It is time to move forward and accept innovations that will better serve all consumers. 



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