Defense seeks alternatives to A-76

'We propose to step back and not confine our approach to only A-76, [but] look for the best instrument available.' 'Edward C. 'Pete' Aldridge

Pentagon brass want to look at alternatives to OMB Circular A-76 competitions when weighing whether to outsource programs.

Edward C. 'Pete' Aldridge, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a Dec. 26 letter to the Office of Management and Budget that the Defense Department wants to develop its own methods for improving mission effectiveness while cutting costs.

A-76 competitions, in which public-sector workers bid against contractors for government work, were given priority in President Bush's government reform initiative. Aldridge's letter doesn't suggest ending the process within DOD, but he has asked for the chance to consider use of other approaches.

OMB has increased its target numbers for A-76 competitions, Aldridge said, which pushes DOD to pursue public-private competitions for 15 percent of all jobs listed in its Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act by September.

Talent scouting

The FAIR Act requires that agencies each year submit to OMB a list of jobs performed by employees that could be contracted out.

'Rather than pursuing narrowly defined A-76 targets, we propose to step back and not confine our approach to only A-76,' Aldridge said in the letter. 'We look for the best instrument available ... to determine the most efficient and effective way to do government business better.'

Ray Bjorklund, vice president of Federal Sources Inc. of McLean, Va., said he was surprised by the proposal. But Bjorklund said he could understand the department's desire to halt the rush of A-76 outsourcing agreements and look at other management improvements.

'What I am seeing here is DOD wants to step back from the process and say, 'Yes, Mr. President, we acknowledge your management agenda, we understand what the ultimate objective is and we'll work with you on these, but let's not just do A-76,' ' Bjorklund said.

Aldridge pointed to the Business Initiative Council, established by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, as the first step. Rumsfeld has asked the council, of which Aldridge is chairman, to recommend ways to improve mission effectiveness and reduce costs.

'Because gaining overall efficiencies is even more crucial since Sept. 11, we will expand our focus to generating savings, not just taking manpower reductions,' Aldridge said.

Jacque Simon, public policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees, applauded Aldridge's goals. For many years, AFGE, the largest federal employee union, has taken a stance against A-76 competitions and urged Congress to do away with them.

'The most important part of that letter is the admission by Aldridge that contracting out had gone too far,' Simon said.

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