New ONR Policy Equalizes Opportunities for Contractors

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) published new guidance Sept. 15, aimed at preventing conflicts of interest among companies competing for business with the science and technology organization.
"This new set of guidelines levels the playing field for the contracting community when it comes to doing business with ONR," said Mark Bennington, ONR's executive director for acquisition management. "We've adopted the very best practices across all the services to properly align with the Department of Defense's rules regarding organizational conflict of interest."
"The new policy is effective immediately and is expected to ensure fair competition for companies selected to perform research and development (R&D) as well as systems engineering and technical assistance or other support services," Bennington said.
The guideline covers three broad categories of organizational conflicts of interest: impaired objectivity, biased ground rules and unequal access to non-public information.
Each category creates considerable work for both ONR and the contracting community to identify and resolve conflicts. The labor burdens generated by conflicts may include ensuring that companies provide impartial advice and do not use their influence to set ground rules for other government contracts. The organizational conflict of interest rules are also intended to protect against contractors taking advantage of non-public information to gain an unfair competitive advantage for a potential contract.
The increase of corporate mergers and acquisitions in recent years has resulted in more frequent and potential risks of exposure to organizational conflict of interest situations. A company performing contracted R&D for ONR may, for example, acquire another firm that already provides in-house support services, potentially creating an organizational conflict of interest.
Organizational conflicts of interest more commonly arise when an R&D company wishes to expand by providing in-house contractor support services. The potential for organizational conflicts can also emerge when an existing support service contractor wishes to compete for scientific research funding.
In an effort to reduce the likelihood for conflicts to occur, ONR has educated its program officers to increase their awareness of potential organizational conflict of interest activity. The new policy also encourages companies to identify their status as either an R&D performer or as a support services contractor prior to submitting proposals.
ONR provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.
To review the policy, visit http://www.onr.navy.mil/About-ONR/compliance-protections/Organizational-Conflicts-Interest.aspx

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