Outsourcing Opponents Voice Concerns for A-76 Process

Opponents of federal outsourcing June 28 urged the Bush administration to slow plans to shift more government jobs and responsibilities to the private sector, arguing there is no conclusive evidence that outsourcing actually saves the government money.

Speaking before a House panel, representatives of federal employee unions advocated passage of the Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting Act (H.R. 721), which would temporarily freeze outsourcing, except contracts dealing with national security, until agencies can better track the costs and savings from such work.

The A-76 process, which allows the private sector to compete for jobs deemed inherently non-governmental, needs additional safeguards to ensure the government is receiving the desired savings from outsourcing, said TRAC Act supporters.

"The pressing need is for the A-76 policy to be streamlined, made easier for agencies to implement in their procurement and contracting regiments and monitored for compliance," said Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Md., who sponsored the TRAC Act, in prepared testimony.

Wynn and others testified at a June 28 hearing before the House Government Reform subcommittee on technology and procurement policy, examining the effectiveness of federal government outsourcing. The subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.

Earlier this year, the Bush administration pushed for opening for public private-competition 50 percent of the commercial workload as defined under the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act.

In memoranda issued in February and March, Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Sean O'Keefe instructed the agencies to subject at least 5 percent of their FAIR Act inventory to competition by October 2002, or about 42,500 jobs.

Testifying at the hearing, Angela Styles, administrator for OMB's Office of Procurement Policy, disputed claims that there are no hard data on cost savings from public-private competition. She said that multiple studies have found that the A-76 process consistently reduces the costs by more than 30 percent.

"Competition results in better value and improves performance," she said.

But Styles also acknowledged that A-76 is a burden for agencies to implement because of its long processing time, and that the General Accounting Office has "found weaknesses in the current structure and its application."

To this end, she said, OMB is simplifying the "cumbersome" A-76 process and allowing provisions under which federal agencies can keep the money they save through managed competition.

In its studies of the A-76 process at the Defense Department, the GAO has found A-76 reduced the number of in-house positions, said Barry Holman, director of defense capabilities and management for the GAO. But he said that data was sketchy as to the amount of savings that were obtained by competitive process.

While the GAO has initiatives to track public vs. private wage comparisons, no tracking mechanisms are in place, he said.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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