OMB to release new A-76 Circular

When the Office of Management and Budget releases the new version of Circular A-76 Thursday, agency officials and industry experts can expect a number of similarities to November's draft revision. But OMB also made some unexpected deviations in the use of best-value process as outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulations that surprised at least one industry expert.

"Clearly there are some improvements, but there also are some unexpected red flags that we thought were handled better in the draft," said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va., trade association. "We need to take a closer look at the document to see what OMB is saying."

The new circular outlines a streamlined and a standard process for competing federal jobs with the private sector. The streamlined process replaces the direct conversion process, and lets agencies compete up to 65 positions.

The standard competition includes the more traditional A-76 approach of writing a statement of work and competing it against the private sector. Under the standard competition, agencies will be able to use some methodologies based on the FAR, such as use of phase evaluation of the selection process, a cost-technical trade-off process where the agency chooses the higher costs for improved performance, and the use of sealed bids.

OMB, which considered more than 650 comments from industry in rewriting the circular, is restricting the use of these types of processes to IT positions, new requirements, positions already outsourced to the private sector, expansion of existing work and any positions approved by the competitive sourcing officer, who is responsible for implementing A-76 in the agency, before public announcement.

The revision continues to require agencies to adhere to the 12-month time frame to complete standard competitions. OMB, however, gives agencies the ability to extend the competition by six months without approval. Streamlined competitions must be finished in 90 days with an option to extend the competition by 45 days if necessary.

"The revision relaxed some of OMB's mother-may-I control and gave some discretion back to the agencies," Soloway said. "But it also took away some of the flexibilities of the FAR best-value methodology."

OMB addresses the issue of employee standing by extending the definition of "interested party." Soloway said this would give the unions the ability to appeal a competition or decision to the head of the agency.

The revision also tries to level the playing field by requiring agencies to separate the teams and officials that write a statement of work and a bid. OMB also wants to make sure agencies complete a series of actions such as determining the scope, conducting market research and determining baseline costs.

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