Feds: A-76 studies take time'and lots of it

Feds: A-76 studies take time'and lots of it

BY RICHARD W. WALKER | GCN STAFF

While the Bush administration is putting the heat on agencies to conduct outsourcing studies under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76, only 21 percent of federal information technology managers in a GCN telephone survey reported that their agencies had done any A-76 studies.

Survey Results
The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on OMB A-76 studies is based on a telephone survey of 100 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as federal IT managers.
About 48 percent of participants in the survey said their agencies had not done an A-76 analysis, and 31 percent said they did not know if their organization had carried one out.

OMB Circular A-76 requires agencies to compare costs between outsourcing and working in-house on projects and functions that are not inherently governmental. Once agencies have written a performance work statement, they can compete the work, process it for outsourcing or seek a waiver.

In the GCN survey, 65 percent of the managers whose agencies had performed A-76 studies said their study had resulted in a competition between private bidders and the employees already performing the function in-house, referred to as most efficient organizations, or MEOs.

The results were split evenly: 50 percent of the contracts went to private companies and 50 percent went to MEOs, the survey found.

Calls for reform

Some critics of A-76, such as Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy, think the process is hopelessly flawed and needs to be reformed.

The Bush administration, while supporting A-76's role in outsourcing, also wants the process streamlined.

Indeed, an A-76 study can be a long, difficult and tedious process, as the GCN survey confirmed.

Among the managers who said their agencies had done an A-76 study, 47 percent said it took six months or less to finish.

But 53 percent reported that their A-76 analysis took at least six months and in nearly a quarter of the cases'21 percent'longer than 18 months.

At the Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts, an arduous A-76 study of basic support services took more than 18 months, said John Barrett, a system administrator in the base's procurement office.



IT is mission-critical because without it 'nothing gets done. We have almost 3,000 offices communicating with Kansas City every night.'


'Horace Gorton, systems analyst at the
Agriculture Department's National Information Technology Center in Kansas City



'I don't see [my agency] being able to do its mission in an effective and efficient way' without IT.


'Wayne Martin, computer specialist, Defense Contract Management Agency, Greenville, S.C.



'In this day and age, everything we do is contingent on IT in one way, shape or form.'


'John Barrett, system administrator,
Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass.


Originally, officials at the base analyzed six functional categories, ranging from property maintenance to communications IT, he said. But IT was removed from the study and is still being reviewed in an appeals process, he added.

As a result of the A-76 study, the other five functions were contracted out to the private sector.

'IT stayed in-house, although it's not official yet,' Barrett said.

A key to the A-76 process is the Federal Activities Reform Act, which requires that agencies each year inventory commercial functions or activities that could be contracted out. The A-76 process does not apply to functions that are considered governmental.

Not without IT

How important is IT to an agency's mission? More than half, 57 percent, of managers we surveyed said information systems are critical to their agency's mission.

'I don't see [my agency] being able to do its mission in an effective and efficient way without the IT infrastructure to support it,' said Wayne Martin, a computer specialist at a Defense Department Contract Management Agency field office in Greenville, S.C.

Martin cited his agency's mission: 'We provide customer-focused contract management services throughout the acquisition lifecycle around the clock around the world.'

About 19 percent deemed IT a core function. Others said IT was either an important support function (14 percent) or one of many support functions (12 percent).

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