Officials: Reconsider inherently governmental functions

The government should consider revising the definition of inherently governmental functions in acquisition regulations, officials told a House subcommittee March 11.

“There’s a lot of flexibility in how one might define that term,” David Walker, the outgoing comptroller general, told the House Armed Services Committee’s Readiness Subcommittee.

Flexibility in the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which has the statutes for guiding governmental purchases, allows agencies to interpret the term’s definition in many ways, said Shay Assad, director of procurement and acquisition policy at the Defense Department. “It concerns me,” Assad said.
“I do think the time has come when we step back and take another look — a hard look — at how we’re defining 'inherently governmental,' ” Assad said.

Inherently governmental functions are generally define as tasks that private contractors cannot perform. It’s “a function that is so intimately related to the public interest as to mandate performance by government employees,” according to a 1992 policy letter from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

Some of those tasks may be sensitive, such as selecting employees for governmental jobs, or decisions may require discretion that only a government official has, such as being a voting member on a source selection board.

At the hearing, Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), the subcommittee's chairman, asked the panelists about the proper roles of government and the private sector in conducting government operations. He said agencies are turning more to contractors to fulfill their core missions, and, as a result, has led to an increasing number of lead systems integrators.

The difficulty lies in determining which of the services that fall between these extremes may be contracted out, according to the OFPP letter.

“One of the things we’re grappling with today is the word ‘balance,' "  said Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), the subcommittee’s ranking member.

Walker said agencies more often are going to contractors as a first resort to meet their needs, instead of considering contracts as one option to accomplish tasks.

Because of the increasing use of contractors, Walker said officials should reconsider a revision, adding, "The time has come to do so.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • Social network, census

    5 predictions for federal IT in 2017

    As the Trump team takes control, here's what the tech community can expect.

  • Rep. Gerald Connolly

    Connolly warns on workforce changes

    The ranking member of the House Oversight Committee's Government Operations panel warns that Congress will look to legislate changes to the federal workforce.

  • President Donald J. Trump delivers his inaugural address

    How will Trump lead on tech?

    The businessman turned reality star turned U.S. president clearly has mastered Twitter, but what will his administration mean for broader technology issues?

  • Login.gov moving ahead

    The bid to establish a single login for accessing government services is moving again on the last full day of the Obama presidency.

  • Shutterstock image (by Jirsak): customer care, relationship management, and leadership concept.

    Obama wraps up security clearance reforms

    In a last-minute executive order, President Obama institutes structural reforms to the security clearance process designed to create a more unified system across government agencies.

  • Shutterstock image: breached lock.

    What cyber can learn from counterterrorism

    The U.S. has to look at its experience in developing post-9/11 counterterrorism policies to inform efforts to formalize cybersecurity policies, says a senior official.

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