Feds expect more competitive sourcing in 2004

OMB Circular A-76

Federal agencies are going to get serious about implementing competitive sourcing guidelines next year, a panel of agency officials agreed this morning.

The controversial practice, which pits some federal employees against private contractors in competitions for work, is intended to create value for taxpayers by lowering the costs for work. Either contractors show they can do quality work for less money or agency employees find ways to make their efforts more efficient.

Civilian agencies historically have not carried out many such competitions. A revised version of Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76, published in May, is expected to make competitions more practical for civilian agencies, the agency officials agreed.

Federal employees and their unions fought in 2003 to make it harder for agencies to open work to competition, but the emphasis placed on the process in the President's Management Agenda overpowered their efforts.

"The goal of the President's Management Agenda is to institutionalize the process," said Matthew Blum, policy analyst at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. "Two years ago, it was being used almost exclusively by" the Defense Department.

"This is one of the hot topics with Congress," said Raymona Stickell, director of the office of competitive sourcing at the Internal Revenue Service.

Michael Sade, director of acquisition management at the Commerce Department, noted that employees fear the process, which has slowed civilian agencies in trying to implement it.

When an agency determines that a particular job could be done by the private sector, "employees automatically believe they're going to be outsourced," he said. "That's not the case, but they believe it. That has an impact on an organization."

Sade said the government is on the threshold of making A-76 competitions work, and the results will become apparent in coming months.

"Government and industry are starting to work together to identify the right opportunities," he said. "As we get more experience, and the right opportunities, it's going to come together."

The Bethesda, Md., chapter of AFCEA International hosted the breakfast discussion.

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