Personnel a question in A-76 policy

Circular A-76

As agencies and industry await the Office of Management and Budget's proposed revisions to Circular A-76 — which covers the process for competing government services with the private sector — an overriding concern is whether agencies have the personnel to compete or to oversee outsourced functions.

OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy plans to release in October the revisions to Circular A-76 that were developed by an interagency working group, Angela Styles, administrator of OFPP testified before the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee on Sept. 27.

However, regardless of the revisions, agencies are concerned that they may not have the resources or expertise to be able to compete for functions — especially in information technology — much less oversee those functions if they are contracted out, said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the subcommittee.

The A-76 revisions will follow closely the recommendations released this year by the Commercial Activities Panel to move to a process based more on the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Styles said. The FAR covers the process used to buy commercial products and services from the private sector.

The changes will also include folding in Circular A-97, which details how federal agencies can provide service to state and local agencies, and OFPP Policy Letter 92-1, which spells out what are inherently governmental vs. commercial-type functions, she said.

These moves were applauded by the other public- and private-sector officials at the hearing, although all said they plan to watch carefully before deciding whether the changes truly meet the need for a more fair and understandable competition process than what is now available using A-76.

The new process will be used primarily as the way to meet the competitive sourcing goals set under the President's Management Agenda. This includes competing at least 15 percent of the government functions deemed to be commercial-like activities by the end of fiscal 2003.

Federal employee unions' concerns primarily are focused on the issue of agencies' in-house resources and expertise. They worry that the government will send work to the private sector rather than spending money on training and infrastructure because outsourcing is cheaper in the short-term, said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, and Jacqueline Simon, director of public policy for the American Federation of Government Employees.

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