A-76: Here to stay

Thomas R. Temin, GCN editorial director

OMB Circular A-76: It sounds arcane, dry. Or else like some absurd expression a Joseph Heller wannabe would put in a novel.

But, of course, in reality the bloodlessness of the 73-page manual for A-76 belies the human cost it represents. The Office of Management and Budget's process for having agencies choose between government employees and vendors for government work is never a purely rational decision based on logical facts. It pits people with hopes and dreams for public service against industry and its worthy but quite different motivations.

That's why the polite debate now swirling around A-76 is more emotionally fueled than most. The debate is a proxy for the larger question of the proper size and scope of the government's administrative and operational apparatus.

And that's why this issue's GCN Management, beginning on Page 29, is devoted to A-76. A team of writers led by assistant managing editor Kevin McCaney examines the recommendations for overhaul from the Commercial Activities Panel, analyzes a failed A-76 effort at Lackland Air Force Base and advises federal managers what to do now.

Recently, the congressionally mandated panel released 10 recommendations for fixing up A-76--although support came from only six of the 10 panel members. Several legislative efforts to alter A-76 have been attempted; none have made it into law.

Various parties disagree over how to carve the turkey, but no one has gone on record opposing public-private competitions or A-76 outright.
That means A-76 will be part of the federal IT scene for the foreseeable future, potentially affecting thousands of federal workers.

Make no mistake: A-76 is coming to a job near you. The easy pickings--maintenance, food service, landscaping--have long been outsourced. More and more IT and other professional services will be up for grabs.

And, as our report shows, the competitions are moving beyond the military and becoming common at civilian agencies.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: editor@postnewsweektech.com.

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