Procurement execs want A-76 but face barriers, survey says

Federal procurement executives support fair competition for government work, the competitive sourcing process and purchase decisions based on best value over lowest cost, according to a study released today by the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va., trade group representing services companies selling to the government.

But the executives are concerned they don't have adequate political support for competitive sourcing'conducting public-private competitions for federal work'or for making best-value determinations, the study found.

They also said their acquisition staff members, as well as agency program managers, sorely need training and additional resources to carry out their work effectively.

PSC and management consulting firm Grant Thornton LLP of Chicago conducted the survey last summer, holding one-on-one interviews with 22 procurement executives in major agencies, only one of whom is a political appointee.

The procurement executives want to make best-value procurements, in which proposals are evaluated according to how they will best meet agency needs and take vendor past performance, as well as cost, into account, said Grant Thornton's Andrea White. Nevertheless, decisions are often made based on cost, she said.

'At the end of the day, it comes down to cost,' she said. Procurement executives are not sure if their employees have the tools or the authority to determine best value in a public-private competition, White said, and contracting officers are reluctant to sign off on a deal that would give the work to a competitor that costs more.

Few executives participating in the survey opposed opening government work that is commercial in nature to competition from the private sector. They expressed frustration that they could not make sourcing decisions based on best value under the current Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76, which lays out rules for conducting public-private competitions. Many said they believed moving toward a process based on the Federal Acquisition Regulation, which is contained in a proposed A-76 revision, would help correct that weakness.

But many said they felt threatened by the heated politics surrounding competitive sourcing. According to the study, executives believe the concerns of individual members of Congress and the political clout of employee unions are major barriers to progress. Many opponents of competitive sourcing say it is an excuse to outsource federal jobs.

The executives 'said the political pressures make it really difficult to do our jobs,' said Stan Soloway, president of PSC.

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