DOD: New A-76 rules no sweat

The revised Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76 will not present any significant difficulties for the Defense Department, officials responsible for competitive sourcing policy at DOD said June 11.

OMB released the latest version of the circular, which outlines the public/private competitive process, May 29. One of the biggest concerns addressed during the revision process was imposing a 12-month time limit on competitions as a general rule. Under the old circular, competitions often took years.

Annie Andrews, DOD's assistant director of competitive sourcing and privatization, said the department has such a long history of public/private competitions that most changes in A-76 are being taken in stride.

"I'll admit, when I first saw the new 12-month restriction I thought, we're never going to be able to do that based on our statistics," Andrews said. "But we have a good process in place and we develop a good idea of the direction we're going before we start planning" the competition.

DOD began performing public/private competitions during the Reagan administration, said Joe Sikes, director of competitive sourcing and privatization. The process was pushed aside during the presidency of George Bush, and revived during the Clinton years. But it wasn't until the current President Bush assumed office that the idea of competing contracts to save money and cut waste received such strong support from the top.

Andrews said she is happy that OMB released the latest version when it did, because it provides for certain consistency across all of government that had been lacking.

"It's consistent in its definitions, it's consistent in its terms," Andrews said. "Now we know that bid opening is just that: bid opening."

Andrews also applauded the accountability included in the new circular, saying that having one point person or point-of-contact on the DOD side will make competitions easier and more efficient. Instead of ruling by committee, she said, one person will be responsible for ensuring the bid is right and meets all of the requirements.

"This makes us more like the private companies against whom the DOD is bidding," she said. "They have one point person in charge of their bid, so why don't we?"

Sikes said that although many government employees cry foul over the administration's push for more competition, it has proven to be effective in cutting costs.

The DOD inspector general and the General Accounting Office "have both done their own investigations of the A-76 process and found competition shows significant savings do occur and last over the performance of the contract," Sikes said. "I have done my own studies and found the same thing. Public/private competition does work."

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