Agencies want FAIR feedback
- By Diane Frank
- May 11, 2000
New guidance put out by the Office of Management and Budget will not produce
much of an improvement on the first round of agency-generated lists of activities
that could be performed by the private sector, experts said Wednesday.
The inventories, released between October 1999 and January 2000, drew
fire from vendors, unions, associations and even the agencies themselves
for being inconsistent, inaccessible and unclear.
The 1998 Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act requires agencies
to develop a list of all the functions they perform that are not considered
But the real issue was the lack of the information people really wanted — what the business of government really is, said David Metzger, a partner
with Washington, D.C., law firm Holland & Knight LLP who helped the
Information Technology Association of America develop its challenges to
10 agency inventories.
"OMB comes off in this as simply not having done
its job," Metzger said Wednesday at the General Services Administration's
Trail Boss Roundup conference in Williamsburg, Va.
OMB did little to guide agencies through the FAIR Act process and in
evaluating submissions, according to Joan Kraft, a budget analyst responsible
for the Department of the Navy's FAIR Act submission. Whenever she or anyone
in her office called OMB for guidance, the answers changed from day to day,
OMB released new guidance April 27 in its call for Year 2000 inventories.
The changes include asking agencies for their inventories in a common format,
asking that the inventories be made available on agency World Wide Web sites,
and providing a better explanation of the "reason codes" agencies use to
justify their designation of an activity as "commercial" or "inherently
But these changes will not be enough, Metzger said, especially because
OMB still does not require agencies to list the functions they consider
"It's kind of like looking at a Monet picture and seeing only the green — you're only seeing half the picture," he said.
A bill introduced by Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), a FAIR Act proponent,
would require that agencies list their "inherently governmental" functions,
as well as make several other changes to the law.
But neither the new OMB guidance nor Thomas' bill will make the change
that would really make a difference, Kraft said. The most help would come
from OMB giving more feedback when first reviewing the inventories agencies
submit, she said. "Every agency has its own way of putting together its
list — but that's really when we need the most assistance," she said.