Air Force considers abandoning A-76 for outsourcing

The Air Force has had such poor luck running OMB Circular A-76 competitions to outsource IT that the service no longer considers use of the policy beneficial, the service's CIO said today.

"We're struggling today in that area," John Gilligan said during an executive breakfast in Falls Church, Va., sponsored by Input of Chantilly, Va., and Post Newsweek Tech Media of Washington, parent of Washington Technology. "While we definitely want to outsource, we do not want to outsource using A-76. It takes too darn long."

Gilligan said he is looking for effective models for outsourcing.

"We're going have to find some good examples that allow us to do smart outsourcing," he said. "With A-76, I can't find one that works very well. For IT, it doesn't work."

The Air Force has struggled to use A-76 reviews. The most controversial was the faulty competition held at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The objective at Lackland was to choose an organization to run 18 of the base's functions, including IT, logistics, civil engineering, communications and transportation.

Ultimately, the Air Force halted the project after the Defense Department inspector general issued a report in September 2001 advising that the service throw out the results and start over.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has since issued a revised version of the Office of Management and Budget circular. OFPP has been reviewing comments, making changes to the new policy and planning a pilot that would cover an IT program.

Gilligan also talked about the need for his service to improve cybersecurity and noted that the Air Force needs industry's help to secure its networks and applications.

"Cybersecurity?this is the area that keeps me up at night," he said. "If we engage in a conflict ? we are so dependent on our cyberinfrastructure."

Gilligan said software needs to be less vulnerable to attack.

"The maturity of the software is not where we'd like it to be," he said. "We absolutely have to improve the quality of our software. There has to be a fundamental shift in the software industry. One or more vulnerabilities each day can be exploited."

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