Congress seeks insourcing through cataloging contracts

The inventories of services contracts would provide a clear picture of agencies’ reliance on the private sector and how an agency could do the work cheaper.

Civilian agencies might have to share information on their services contracts with Congress under a major spending bill that’s headed to the president. Officials said they would use the information to identify the services the government can perform rather than having contractors do the work.

The fiscal 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 3288) would require agencies to create annual inventories of their service contracts. The inventories would provide a clear picture of agencies’ reliance on service contractors because without that information, “federal agencies are not well-equipped to determine whether they have the right balance of contractor and in-house resources needed to accomplish their missions,” a panel of lawmakers wrote in a report accompanying the version of the spending bill that the House and Senate passed. Congressional leaders expect President Barack Obama to sign the bill into law.

In their inventories, agencies would have to include descriptions of services performed under each contract and show how they helped the agency reach its objectives. Lawmakers also want to know how much money was obligated for the services and the total amount invoiced for services under each contract. Agencies must also include information on task and delivery orders, which is largely how agencies buy services.

To help agencies decide whether to bring work in-house, the legislation would require agencies to count the number of contractor and subcontractor employees compensated under each contract and note where the employees are located.

Lawmakers emphasized the risk of having contractors become so involved in agencies’ work that officials lose control of government operations. The legislation seeks to ensure that agencies do not let contractors perform work that only federal employees should do — called inherently governmental functions — and that officials pay close attention to outsourced jobs that are associated with those functions.

Congress also wants agencies to safeguard against contract changes or expansions that could cause contractors to cross the line into inherently governmental duties.

Congress is also interested in knowing when and what types of contracts were awarded, which contractors are performing the work, and whether the contracts were awarded competitively, according to the legislation.

The fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act contained a similar requirement, and the Army has already saved $50 million by insourcing work identified through an inventory process, according to a bill summary by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

On Dec. 10, the House passed the conference report on the $446.8 billion spending bill for fiscal 2010, which consists of six appropriations bills, by a vote of 221-202. On Dec. 13, the Senate passed the bill 57-35.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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