Energy A-76 competition could serve as model — but should it?

Contractors teamed with federal employees rather than compete against them for a DOE engagement. Could their experience guide other companies?

When an A-76 competition last summer ended with government employees and contractors teamed on a project, it was unclear whether the result signaled a new strategic idea for businesses taking part in competitive sourcing activities.

Now, more than six months later, the effects remain unclear.

Competitive sourcing typically pits a vendor against a team of federal employees in a competition to determine who can offer the best deal at the lowest price.

The Energy Department identified some job functions for managing information technology services as suitable for such a competition.

But instead of pitting employees against private companies, the competitive sourcing process allowed agency employees to form an alliance with RS Information Systems, 1 Source Consulting and some smaller firms, collectively called Energy Enterprise Solutions.

The resulting organization said the strategy was possible because the vendors and department had forged a strong relationship during previous contract work. They believe other agencies can replicate this noncompetitive sourcing model when similar circumstances exist.

Critics, however, contend that such partnerships defeat the purpose of competitions.

Agencies and contractors have joined hands rather than compete in other cases.

Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, said other examples may emerge, but the government should establish parameters for the practice.

“Much of the discussion is [about] what is the process [to] ensure transparency and accountability,” he said. “We still don’t have a clear, consistent policy as to how these partnerships are to be created and monitored.”

At DOE, federal employees run the show. The combined talents of the employee organization — called the Most Efficient Organization according to the Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76’s terms — and the contractors are expected to save the department more than $300 million in IT spending in seven years, or about 35 percent.

The government held interviews with several companies before issuing the request for proposals, said Ron Trowbridge, RSIS executive vice president and the lead RSIS executive on the contract.

It took two years of discussion with DOE to reach the agreement leading to the agency/industry team, which includes about 100 federal employees and 550 contract employees.

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