Senate panel berates OMB over outsourcing

Members of a Senate oversight committee today criticized the Office of Management and Budget for failing to push civilian agencies to identify commercial activities within their organizations that could potentially be outsourced to the private sector.

Members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia berated Edward DeSeve, acting deputy director of OMB, for not actively encouraging civilian agencies to follow the guidelines of OMB Circular A-76, a policy that calls on agencies to provide an inventory of the work they conduct that is not inherently governmental.

"We just aren't seeing the OMB leadership pushing on this," said subcommittee chairman Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). "We think [A-76] should be an aggressively used tool, and that's just not happening."

Christopher Mihm, acting associate director for federal management and work-force issues at the General Accounting Office, presented evidence at the hearing that civilian agencies lag far behind the Defense Department in conducting A-76 reviews. He said the Commerce Department, which has not taken inventory of its commercial activities since 1983, was the most egregious offender.

Scott Gould, chief financial officer at Commerce, said the department has focused on other cost-cutting measures aside from A-76, such as the development of the new Commerce Administrative Management System and the adoption of an integrated program management strategy. But he did say that Commerce would "participate fully" in the A-76 process this year.

OMB's DeSeve said A-76 is just one of many "tools" that agencies can use to streamline their operations, adding that it is a "cumbersome" process that can take two years to complete.

Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) said he and Brownback "intend to move forward" with the Fair Competition Act, which is a bill that would direct the government to allow the private sector to bid on commercial activities now performed within agencies.

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