Panel to Examine Government Outsourcing Practices, Policies

The head of the General Accounting Office has established a Commercial Activities Panel to study the federal government's outsourcing efforts.

The panel led by Comptroller General David Walker will examine the implementation of the Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act of 1998 and the conduct of public/private competitions under the Office of Management and Budget's A-76 circular.

Bill Woods, the GAO project director for the panel, said the group will examine outsourcing issues, including practices under existing legislation and regulations.

"We're required under the [Defense Authorization Act for 2001] to convene the panel to study the whole panoply of issues and produce a report by May 1, 2002, to Congress recommending any changes that might be made," Woods said.

At stake are as many as half of the 900,000 jobs identified in the FAIR Act inventories conducted by federal agencies each year. According to published reports, Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and a panel member, sent memos to federal agencies directing them to open for competition at least 5 percent of the jobs in their FAIR inventories.

In other directives, he told agencies compile lists of jobs that are "inherently governmental," the flip side of the lists compiled under the FAIR Act.

Walker will head the panel, joined by representatives of industry, unions, academia and government management. The members of the panel include:

Frank Camm, senior economist at RAND;

Mark Filteau, president of Johnson Controls World Services;

Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis;

Bobby Harnage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees;

Colleen Kelley, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union;

Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of OMB;

Retired Sen. David Pryor, director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University;

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council;

Robert Tobias, distinguished adjunct professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation at American University.

The as-yet unnamed director of the Office of Personnel Management will take a seat on the panel, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Walker that he plans to designate the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology as the department's representative.

"The comptroller general has tried very hard to put together a very balanced panel. His goal is one that we should all share, to have a constructive dialogue and one in which we try to find some common ground on some difficult and pivotal questions," Soloway said.

Among the tough questions that need consideration, he said, are "the whole role of outsourcing, the role of government, the interplay between government and the private sector, and then [the question of] how you go about doing it once you decide what you want to do."

The panel will hold its first meeting in Washington May 8. Future meetings will be open to the public.

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