Is competitive sourcing ready for a comeback?

A new proposal breathes a little life into a long-dead procurement tool

 A  House bill now under debate to fund the federal government quietly harkens back to the President George W. Bush administration.

The Republican-led House has a provision in the fiscal 2011 Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act (CR) allowing competitive sourcing and hosting competitions between companies and federal employees for government work, similar to the Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76.

While in control of Congress, Democrats stamped out competitive sourcing with a governmentwide moratorium on the practice. But this CR, H.R. 1, would lift the spending moratorium for fiscal 2011 through Sept. 30.

“No similar provision that I am aware of has been in any legislation from a Democratically controlled House. In fact, their bills all talked about not doing competitive sourcing,” said Larry Allen, president of the Allen Federal Business Partners and former president of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

The CR would allow Defense Department officials to put up federal work for public-private competitions that include a most efficient organization and a cost-effective organization plan for the work. Inherently governmental functions would not be on the table for such a competition.

DOD’s competitive sourcing officials would review the plans and could award the work to the private sector based on two points.

A company could receive the government work if it offers a plan that is either 10 percent or at least $10,000 less than the federal employees’ plan. But the legislation would prohibit the company from reducing employees’ health benefits to gain a competitive advantage.

“The language looks very, very similar to the revised A-76 standards that [the Office of Federal Procurement Policy] promulgated during the Bush administration,” Allen said. “It’s consistent with that administration’s policy and the policy of previous Republican administrations.”

Robert Burton, former deputy OFPP administrator and now partner at the Venable law firm, said such competition is healthy for the procurement system. It emphasizes value for taxpayers’ money.

However, the provision is very unlikely to remain in the Senate’s version of the bill, Allen and Burton said. Senators, such as Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), have stood in strong opposition to competitive sourcing.

While a nice initiative in the House, “Senator Mikulski, among others, would have cardiac arrest over it,” Allen said.

He predicted that the competitive sourcing initiative won’t likely re-emerge in law for another two years after the next election.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

Reader Comments

Fri, Feb 25, 2011 ED Washington DC

The A-76 study is just another way of lining the contracting company owner's pocket and to bust or weaken public service unions. United States is more and more like third world country where distribution of wealth goes the the top percent while middle class continues to shrink. Also, the voices of ordinary folks and workers righta are being stripped in the pretnese of improving goernemnt efficiency. Before there was such thing as A-76 study, the government was healthy and working well. The A-76 plan is not going to help the government solve it's problems. Wishful thinking.

Wed, Feb 23, 2011 St Louis

It would be great to see a story on the "Working Capital Fund project" mentioned above. While I expect there is information on both sides of the A-76 issue, it would be good to see this information.

Tue, Feb 22, 2011

It would be nice if this worked both ways. I manage a Navy Working Capital Fund project that outperforms our Industry partners by as much as 33% on a regular basis. But many policies in place put pressure on our Sponsors to outsource our work-type to Industry rather than sending it here to another Govt Command.

Tue, Feb 22, 2011

Let's see here! Democrats control the White House and Senate. Republicans control the House of Represetatives. Looks like they should concentrate on something they could both iron out to me!

Mon, Feb 21, 2011

When democrat senators realize that A-76 is preferable to mass Reductions-in-Force, which will likely occur as agencies draw down their numbers, they may decide that A-76 isn't so bad after all.

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