OMB reports progress with competition goals

A Bush administration report designed to promote its competitive sourcing initiative shows that controversy over the initiative is not likely to fade.

The Office of Management and Budget report, titled "Competitive Sourcing: Reasoned and Responsible Public-Private Competition," is intended to supplement a July report that examined five agencies to show how they were implementing rules to govern competitions between federal employees and private contractors.

The new report, dated September 2003, includes a summary of the workforce and competition plans for the 24 agencies the President's Management Agenda tracks.

Federal employee unions and some congressional Democrats have fought the measure since OMB began revising its Circular A-76, which lays out rules for conducting competitions. Although opponents have won some concessions from OMB and some legislative victories, the competitive sourcing initiative remains.

"You're not going to see the end of the battle this year," said Stan Soloway, the Professional Services Council's president. "I expect this to be a continuing battle for quite a while."

In some respects, opponents and supporters are simply on different sides of an ideological divide that is unlikely to be bridged, Soloway said. The Bush administration argues that competition is generally good and leads to better value for taxpayers no matter who wins. Opponents see the initiative as a push to privatize ever-larger pieces of the government, eliminating hundreds of thousands of federal jobs.

"Whatever the administration's rhetoric and whatever mechanism it is pushing at any given time, the objective is to move as many federal jobs as possible to the private sector," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.

However, Soloway believes that most policy-makers understand the importance of competitive sourcing, even though they may call for greater oversight. Even an amendment that Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) successfully added to OMB's appropriations bill forbidding the use of funds to carry out the revised A-76 permitted competitions under the old rules, Soloway pointed out.

Some have misgivings about an aggressive approach to opening jobs to outsourcing, but "there is equal discomfort with the idea that we're going to just shut down competition," he said. "There is a recognition that this needs to be done."

From a practical standpoint, agencies face some significant challenges in implementing the new Circular A-76, Comptroller General David Walker said. In written testimony he submitted Oct. 3 to the Senate Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia Subcommittee, he outlined some of them.

Chief among the challenges is a 12-month limit that the new circular places on most competitions. Walker, responding to written questions from subcommittee members, agreed that the time frame might be unrealistic. Data from the Defense Department shows that competitions often take an average of 25 months. However, the new A-76 mandates that some planning must occur before a public announcement of a competition, which could make it possible to carry out the process in a shorter amount of time.

Walker's General Accounting Office had previously recommended that OMB lengthen the time frame to 18 months. "We believe that additional financial and technical support and incentives will be needed for agencies as they attempt to meet the ambitious 12-month time frame," he wrote.

Specifically, Walker recommended establishing a fund at OMB that agencies could draw from to help conduct and manage the competition process.

OMB's new report emphasizes a customized plan for each agency and dedicated high-level management oversight to ensure that the process gets proper priority and effective management. Each agency should appoint a competitive sourcing official to accomplish that, under the revised A-76 guidelines.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group