Letter to the editor

Carl Peckinpaugh's column in the Jan. 22 issue of Federal Computer Week, "Keep outsourcing apolitical," discussed a requirement in the fiscal 2001 Defense Appropriations Act for the comptroller general to convene a panel of experts to study the transfer of commercial activities from government employees to federal contractors.

In my opinion, the piece contained certain inaccurate information and unwarranted criticism of the initial efforts of the General Accounting Office to implement the statutory mandate.

Mr. Peckinpaugh complained that GAO "inexplicably...limited to December the period for recommending individuals to serve on the panel" and cut off input two weeks before the new administration took office. He said that this "does not represent the cooperative approach Congress intended."

Let me set the record straight.

GAO is fully committed to carrying out the activities of the panel in a manner that is as open and transparent as possible. In that spirit, I decided to seek early public input on the composition of the panel through an announcement in the Federal Register.

This was not required by law and represented an additional step that historically has not been taken by GAO. Although the notice specified a 30-day comment period ending on Jan. 2, 2001, we remained open to receiving, and in fact received and considered, responses after that date. We are currently reviewing the responses and other information with a view toward establishing the panel in the near future.

Even though the panel's report to Congress is not due until May 2002, it is important that the work of the panel begin soon so that it has sufficient time to consider the many complex issues involved. We anticipate there will be ample opportunity for the submission of comments, through public hearings and other means, on the specific issues the panel will address.

Neither the timing of the Federal Register announcement nor the duration of the comment period were intended to limit input from anyone, including the new administration. In this regard, the statute specifically provides for the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Defense to be represented on the panel. Selection of specific individuals from these or other agencies will be made by officials of the Bush administration.

Our approach to implementing the mandate to convene the Commercial Activities Panel will be consistent with our approach to all our work on behalf of Congress and the American people. Specifically, our efforts will be professional, objective, fact-based, nonpartisan, nonideological, fair and balanced.

I look forward to convening this panel and to arriving at recommendations that will address very legitimate concerns associated with the outsourcing issue in general and the A-76 process in particular.

David Walker
Comptroller General of the United States

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