Military frets over A-76 studies

The Defense Department may have to put the brakes on dozens of ongoing competitive sourcing competitions, based on a provision in the fiscal 2004 appropriations bill that requires most of them to be completed in 30 months.

Defense officials plan to meet with Senate officials next week to discuss the issue, said Joe Sikes, director of competitive sourcing and privatization at the department.

The Bush administration is emphasizing competitive sourcing, governed by the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76, as a way to make the government more efficient. Agencies must open for competition some jobs their employees do that could be performed by commercial companies.

DOD officials have generally considered 48 months to be the time limit for multifunction competitions, he said. Because the appropriations bill forbids the use of 2004 money for competitions longer than 30 months, about 60 competitions that have already run past that time frame may have to be shut down.

"It looks like they are covered by the legislation," said Sikes, who has been studying the issue. "At this point, we're looking at what options we have."

The affected workers number in the thousands, he said. Defense Department officials believe common sense argues against shutting down the competitions because "we may be about to achieve the efficiencies" that competition brings, and the department has invested considerable time and money into the projects already, Sikes said.

Meanwhile, the competitions are in a holding pattern. The department can continue working from fiscal year 2003 funds where they are available, but can't spend 2004 dollars until the issue is resolved, he said.

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