Revision of A-76 progressing

House Armed Services Committee testimony

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy has nearly completed reviewing the policy for an improved process for agencies to compete with the private sector to perform commercial functions, OFPP's leader told a congressional panel June 26.

The revisions to Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76 will incorporate many of the recommendations from the congressionally mandated Commercial Activities Panel, OFPP Administrator Angela Styles said.

Speaking with reporters following a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee's Military Readiness Subcommittee, Styles said the draft of the revised A-76 policy would be issued once it had gone through OMB's review process. That could happen later this summer.

The revised policy incorporated a "good many" of the Commercial Activities Panel's recommendations, but Styles would not quantify how many of the recommendations were included.

Testimony before the subcommittee, however, indicated that there is still no broad consensus on how commercial activities should be competed. And a number of lawmakers made it clear that they have significant concerns.

The Commercial Activities Panel has recommended, for example, that decisions not focus exclusively on price, but instead assess best value.

The panel's recommendations focus on moving from the cost comparison-based A-76 process to competition that is based primarily on best-value qualifications modeled after the Federal Acquisition Regulation. The FAR details the rules for competition held among companies submitting proposals in response to an agency's solicitation.

However, Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) said that such discretion leaves these decisions open to potential fraud. In New Jersey, he said, best value is also known as patronage, he argued.

Bobby Harnage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, argued that the recommendations of the Commercial Activities Panel were stacked against public employees and the resulting recommendations were unfair.

"The big contractor faction was unable to make a case for junking OMB Circular A-76, let alone for replacing it with a controversial and unproven FAR-based subjective public/private competition process," he said.

David Walker, the comptroller general and chairman of the Commercial Activities Panel, said that the panel was fair and that its members agreed that A-76 process did not work.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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