A-76 cost comparison is tricky

As an Air Force manpower analyst who has worked on two OMB Circular A-76 studies so far, I was interested to read your well-balanced article on the Lackland Air Force Base's A-76 controversy [GCN, April 16, Page 1].

I found one statement, however, that needed clarification to give your readers the best possible understanding of this complex issue.
The article said: 'The lawmakers pointed out that Lackland 21st Century's bid was lower than the federal team's by a negligible margin: 0.2 percent. Circular A-76 requires that an industry bid beat a government bid by 10 percent.'

This statement gives the impression that the base arbitrarily chose to contract out the work for marginal savings in violation of Circular A-76.

What needs to be clarified in the article is something that many people, including legislators, do not understand about the way costs are compared in this admittedly complex and emotional process.

A bid total, on which a decision is made, is shown on Cost Comparison Form Line 19. This likely showed the razor-thin margin of 0.2 percent. But Line 19 is calculated after a 10 percent adjustment, called a conversion differential and found on Cost Comparison Form Line 16, is added to the contractor's bid, found on Line 15.

The 10 percent requirement referenced in the article must exist in the figures on Line 15, not Line 19, after the conversion differential is added in. The conversion differential is meant to ensure the government would not convert from in-house operations to a contractor for marginal savings.

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My base holds monthly town meetings while an A-76 process is going on, and before the bid opening day, we brief the affected organizations about which costs go into the different lines of the cost comparison form to get to the bottom-line decision. Education and demystification are key to helping employees understand this process, not hysterical allegations based on faulty understanding of the process and the costs which lead to the decision.


Manpower management analyst

Manpower and Organization Division

Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.


Try an almanac for a forecast

Your article, 'Scientists call for a climate research agency' was very good [GCN, April 16, Page 32]. I think, however, there has been enough money spent on weather research at far too many government agencies. For several years, the total money spent on research all on about the same subject is well into the billions.

I have been in the aviation industry, both civilian and military, for more than 50 years. I am also a licensed weather observer and forecaster. I have studied the government's forecasts, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is accurate 84 percent of the time.

One publication that has had a great score over a long term is Harris' Farmer's Almanac. Its score is so good it far surpasses that of any multibillion-dollar budget program. I have used this source since childhood. Many other industries, not just agriculture, use this publication for advance planning. It may be an old document, but it produces better forecasts than most computers and Ph.D.s.


Airspace Systems

Cobb, Calif.


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