ITAA: Feds' outsource lists light on IT jobs

An information technology industry association last month accused several agencies of failing to fully comply with a federal law that requires agencies to identify government jobs that could be contracted out to the private sector.

The Information Technology Association of America, after analyzing lists of noninherently governmental jobs that agencies submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, claims that 10 agencies did not disclose the full number of IT-related job functions that could be better managed by the private sector.The Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act requires agencies to list all federal jobs that are commercial in nature, and of those, the agencies must designate which ones could be contracted out to the private sector. More than 50 agencies released their annual lists Sept. 30 and another 42 released their lists Oct. 29.

From the first group, ITAA challenged the inventories submitted by the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services. Also included were the General Services Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

According to the letters ITAA sent the agencies, many of the 10 agencies failed to list ADP activities, data center operations, office equipment maintenance and repair, software services and telecommunications functions. ITAA believes agencies carry out those services and called on the agencies to include the job categories on their lists. The FAIR Act does not require agencies to list jobs they have determined to be inherently governmental.

"ITAA members are highly concerned with human resource, financial management and logistics systems functions performed by the agencies," the letters state. "These are clearly commercial activities with a history of being performed effectively and efficiently by the private sector and should not be considered inherently governmental."

The agencies are developing responses to the letters. But several agencies said the ITAA claims are unfounded and the positions were not included for a simple reason: "I strongly suspect that a lot of the areas they are asking about have already been contracted out," said Michael Colvin, a procurement analyst at HHS.

Agencies were not required to include jobs under contract in their inventories, and ITAA discussed that fact when developing the challenges, said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president with ITAA's Enterprise Solutions Division. "We don't want agencies to have to list all of their commercial activities...but because we had no way of knowing originally what was already outsourced, we felt that we had to question everything and then include that in our calculations for next year," she said.

According to ITAA, the inventories for several HUD offices—including those for the chief information officer, the Office of Policy Development and Research and the Government National Mortgage Association—did not include any IT-related jobs, "although office missions would appear to require a high degree of advanced technology services," the letter to HUD states.

That is just a more extreme example of the misunderstanding that runs through all of the ITAA challenges, said David Weaver, a management analyst at HUD's office of the chief financial officer.

"Their primary complaint was that we omitted a number of positions from our inventory," he said. "What they are apparently unaware of is that the majority of the information technology positions are already under contract."

In the past month, several members of Congress complained that the inventories were "not in a format that would ever be described as user-friendly." But the Clinton administration has maintained that agencies will continue to work to improve inventories such as those ITAA has challenged.

-- L. Scott Tillett contributed to this article.

***At a GlanceFAIR Act Inventory Functions Relevant to IT* Electronics and equipment maintenance* Electronics and equipment maintenance* Office equipment and repair* Telecommunications centers* Other communication and electronics systems* Systems engineering and installation of communications systems* Data center operations* Data processing activities* Maintenance of ADP equipment* Systems design, development and programming services* Software services* Other ADP functions* Information and technology program management

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