Lawmakers take aim at E-Gov Fund and the rules for A-76 competitions

In an appropriations bill approved this month, lawmakers took on the White House by cutting funds for Quicksilver e-government projects and altering competitive-sourcing rules.

In the Transportation, Treasury and other agencies fiscal 2004 appropriations bill, House and Senate conferees allocated $3 million for the E-Government Fund, down from $5 million each of the last two years.

Lawmakers also OK’d language to modify the revised OMB Circular A-76. The new clause would require that a company’s offer be 10 percent or $10 million less than a government offer when a competition involves more than 10 positions. Earlier this year, OMB revised the circular to delete the cost differential for competitions involving fewer than 65 positions.

As of late last week, the House and Senate still had not passed the bill.

As to the E-Government Fund, this is the third straight year Congress undercut the administration’s request. The $3 million lawmakers appropriated is $52 million less than Congress authorized in the E-Government Act of 2002 and $42 million less than requested for the fund by President Bush.

The White House had said it wanted to pump $100 million into the fund over a three-year period from fiscal 2002 through this year, but if this year’s bill goes through, the fund will have received $13 million in that time.

Lawmakers’ decisions not to provide more funding to e-government also diminishes the chances of Congress coming up with anything near the $350 million the E-Government Act authorized through 2007.

But not every administration request for IT funds went unmet. Lawmakers allotted $2.5 million for the Federal Enterprise Architecture initiative. GSA administers the account and the E-Government Fund for the Office of Management and Budget.

Congress also approved full funding of $35 million for the National Archives and Records Administration’s Electronic Records Archives.

But lawmakers didn’t agree to the president’s proposal for GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy. Congress approved $56.3 million for the office, $17.6 million less than requested.

Although federal employee unions and industry associations argued about new job-competition language, agency officials are taking little notice of the A-76 changes.

The appropriations bill would require agencies to report to Congress annually the details of their competitions, costs and decisions. It also would codify the revised circular to give each agency official in charge of a government bid or an individual appointed by the employees the right to appeal an A-76 decision to the General Accounting Office.

“Most of this is right out of the new circular,” said an agency official who requested anonymity. “We will do what Congress tells us to, but it will not have a major impact on what we are doing now.”

The official said his agency is already doing or considering much of what the new provisions require. He said the 10 percent price preference for government employees would have little overall effect on A-76 competitions.

The Defense Department last year studied several hundred competitions for fewer than 65 employees and found that the 10 percent price preference would have made a difference in fewer than 10 percent of the cases, a DOD official said.

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