Gov Careers

By Phil Piemonte

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‘Inherently governmental’ remains a sticky wicket

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy is getting closer to adopting a final rule that contains a clearer definition of what constitutes an “inherently governmental” function—i.e., one that should be done only by federal employees. But judging from the comments filed on the proposed rule, no one is completely thrilled.

Lawyers have been known to say that if both parties walk away from a settlement feeling like they’ve lost, then it’s a good settlement. But in this case, even with a final rule, the argument won’t be over.

There is little doubt that agencies often benefit from tapping into the specialized expertise and efficiencies of scale offered by private-sector firms. No argument on that. It’s a good thing. Likewise, there is little doubt that many federal jobs are so closely bound to government that they are clearly off-limits to contractors.

But the insourcing/outsourcing issue is more complex than that. It’s not something that can be completely resolved by cost/benefit analysis.

That’s because skill-sets and costs can be compared. Other things—such as dedication to service—cannot. And there is a vast difference in the motives and mechanisms that are geared toward generating profit and those aimed at furthering the public good. Corporations work for shareholders. Agencies work for the public.

Wonder if there’s a way to factor that into the rule?


Posted by Phil Piemonte on Jun 04, 2010 at 12:13 PM


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