Feds laud A-76 revision

IRS' Bert Concklin says the revised process is better than the current review format.

Laurie DeWitt

Easier, faster and fairer'that's what government officials expect from the revised OMB A-76 Circular and that's what the Office of Management and Budget promised when it delivered the final draft a month ago.

So far, agency officials mostly are praising the administration's work. They said OMB seems to have met many of its goals for improving the process of opening jobs to competition between the private and public sectors.

Federal managers, however, also said OMB must clarify a number of issues, including the 12-month time frame OMB has laid out for agencies to conduct studies, the effect the new circular will have on current A-76 studies, employees' protest rights and how agencies will meet training needs.

'This is a very strong, important public policy product,' said Bert Concklin, director of competitive sourcing at the IRS. 'Fundamentally, it moves the process much more in the realm of a true balanced, open and equitable competition between the public and private sectors.'

Angela Styles, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said OMB expects to issue the final circular early next month. Comments on the draft are due Dec. 19.

OMB made significant changes to the A-76 process. It incorporated a best-value process similar to the one outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulation. During a limited pilot, agencies may base their decisions in A-76 competitions that involve IT work on which bidder offers the best technical solution rather than the lowest cost. For work other than IT, the circular calls for a phased approach similar to the current A-76 process.

Quicker turnaround

The new rules require agencies to finish studies in 12 months'eight months to write the statement of work and four to conduct the competition'instead of the three- to four-year average under the current process.

Also under the revised circular, agency workers who win a competition will be required to sign a binding performance agreement and will face repeat competition every three to five years.
The rules also require agency employees who write the work statement to remain strictly separated from workers putting together a government bid.

Many procurement experts interpreted language in the new circular as giving agency tender officials, the leaders of teams making the government bids, the ability to protest on behalf of the agency to the General Accounting Office.

The circular will let public- and private-sector entities bid on interagency service agreements such as contract administration, accounting and financial services, or anything commercial in nature.

'We are trying to create an environment that forces more competition into the commercial activities agencies perform and revitalize this initiative by making sure the process works well for government and private industry,' Styles said.

Corey Rindner, a senior procurement executive for the Treasury Department and chairman of the A-76 Coordinating Committee, said OMB made strides in writing the new circular to be more like the FAR. The committee includes 25 civilian agencies, which will send comments to OMB as a group to identify issues that are unique to their agencies, Rindner said.

But Rindner, like many feds, said OMB must add flexibility to the process. 'Competitive sourcing needs to move forward, but there needs to be a balance,' he said.

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