Editorial: Public/private competition revisited

After staking out a hard line against the government awarding contracts to itself, cooler heads seem to be prevailing on Capitol Hill. The Senate and the House are crafting bills that would make it easier for the private sector to compete with the government on contracts, without stripping the government of its many responsibilities.

The hot debate over public/private competition exploded on the Washington scene last year when the Federal Aviation Administration awarded a $250 million data processing services contract to the Agriculture Department. The Office of Management and Budget allows such awards when they are based on price, a policy that obviously saves the taxpayers money. But vendors argue that the government has an unfair competitive advantage because agencies do not have to account for overhead costs, pay taxes or please shareholders with profits.

The FAA award revived interest in the Freedom From Government Competition Act, which would have required government to outsource all functions that were deemed not to be a core government responsibility. Government workers, understandably, found the bill offensive. The new bills Congress is crafting reportedly step back from the radical FGCA.

Although few details of the bills' language are known, we welcome Congress revisiting this difficult and all too important issue.

Any compromise that would retain the government's right to compete for contracts—- without impeding its ability to perform its core mission—- while keeping the competition as fair as possible is a worthy cause.

After all, the primary goal here is to give taxpayers the best service at the lowest cost. And if that means a government agency providing the service, so be it.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

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