Will Trump and Mulvaney bring back A-76?

Shutterstock image. Copyright: Albert H. Teich 

Some contracting experts expect the Donald Trump administration to revive A-76 competitions to give private firms the chance to bid on work performed by federal employees.

With the selection of Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to be director of the Office of Management and Budget and President-elect Donald Trump's business-first sensibilities, analysts say contractors soon could find a more amenable atmosphere to bid on work done by federal employees.

"I think [that with] some of the people coming in and President-elect Trump's focus on federal jobs, government employees and contracts, there may be some kind of re-visitation of A-76 contracting," said Michael Hettinger, a former top aide on the House Oversight committee and president and managing principal of government market strategy and advisory firm Hettinger Strategy Group.

Mulvaney is a budget hawk, and in Congress is a leader in the Freedom Caucus group which preferred default on the debt to extending the debt limit by law.

And Trump, in criticizing the costs of both a new Air Force One and the military's next-generation F-35 fighter jet, has signaled that he's watching at least some aspects of federal acquisition closely. (In a Dec. 22 tweet, Trump said because of concerns about F-35 cost overruns, he had "asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!")

Mulvaney served on the Government Operations subcommittee of the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee and is familiar with inside-baseball federal management issues, including the idea of reviving A-76 competitions for federal procurement. During a hearing last July, he and other committee members indicated an interest in reviving those competitions, named for the A-76 OMB circular, which allow private contractors to bid on work currently being done by federal employees.

The competitions were administratively eliminated before the start of President Barack Obama's administration, and legislatively proscribed in a 2011 appropriations bill. It would take both congressional action and an appetite on the administrative side from OMB to bring back A-76 competitions.

The appetite seems to be there. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), the subcommittee's ranking member, said during the July hearing that revising A-76 could lead to better contract management for increasingly technical IT projects. He also said the practice of insourcing by government agencies is no better than the practice of outsourcing to industry.

"One is intrinsically not better than the other," Connolly said, adding that decisions should be based on agencies' needs and capabilities.

Hettinger predicted that if the Senate confirms Mulvaney for the OMB job, "that look at A-76 may come relatively quickly."

"It depends on who is coming on at OMB, their understanding of the processes and President-elect Trump's vision for the federal government," Hettinger said. "It's not a top-drawer issue, but in six months," after some of the incoming administration's marquee issues, such as repealing the Health Care Act and imposing new restrictions on immigration, have been addressed, "it could come up."

And even if Mulvaney's nomination runs into problems, Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners, said the A-76 reconsideration is probably inevitable under a more business-oriented Trump administration.

"The incoming Republican congress," he said, "means a reversal of policies like A-76." The A-76 moratorium, he said, is one of the likely targets of the traditional ideological reckoning that happens when the Congress and the White House change party hands.

While the president-elect is keeping an eye on "big ticket" acquisitions like Air Force One and the F-35, IT acquisition issues are probably lower on the priority list, Allen and Hettinger agreed, but it doesn't necessarily mean they will be invisible.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

Cyber. Covered.

Government Cyber Insider tracks the technologies, policies, threats and emerging solutions that shape the cybersecurity landscape.


Reader comments

Tue, Feb 7, 2017

Having oversite at a contracted base the A-76 is one if the worst things to happen. If you don't specifically call it out in the PWS the contractor rake the government over the coals with a contract mod.

Mon, Jan 2, 2017 Jason

I say bring back production of the A-10. It fits the current and emerging battle landscape for low flying air to ground targeting and serve a double purpose as a low / fast bomber with fast bug-out with a modernized installment of the GE CF34-8 retro-fit for higher fuel efficiency.

Sun, Dec 25, 2016

As a government employee now, and a former contractor, I have no problem with the A-76 coming back as long as it's fair. The reason I'm a government employee now is because my company was taking the government to the cleaners. Having said that, I'm concerned that the group coming into power will fudge the numbers and over-hype things like being able to fire contractors. While there are certainly advantages to that flexibility, it comes along at a very high price.

Fri, Dec 23, 2016 Mel Ostrow

I have to take respectful issue with the claim in the last paragraph. Trump may have started with a couple of grossly managed big defense programs, but the majority of Federal contract spending is for services. While hardware mfg problems are easier to spot, there is money to be saved/made in squeezing the corrosive fat out of service contracts. Not just for outsourcing operations, via A-76 or similar cost comparisons, but in the many "program management," "consulting" and "research" contracts that have been hives of Big Time Waste for years. Trump has a nose for news and will eventually begin "treating" those rather than just asking Congress for more money.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group