OMB to release new A-76 Circular

The final revision of OMB Circular A-76 is being released today, moving the arduous process under which federal employees compete with the private sector for government work closer to the best-value methods laid out in the Federal Acquisition Regulations for other procurements.
An industry expert said there are areas of the circular that are better than the draft version the Office of Management and Budget released last November, but the draft was superior in other ways.

'Clearly there are areas OMB made improvements in and areas they relaxed their requirements,' said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va., trade association. 'We will have to look more closely at the details to exactly see what OMB is talking about.'

The OMB circular outlines two new processes to compete commercial federal jobs, the timeline for agencies to complete the competition and the ability of federal workers to appeal decisions to agency heads.

The revision sets up two types of competitions:
  • streamlined, which replaces the direct conversion process, and

  • standard, which includes the more traditional A-76 approach of writing a statement of work and competing against the private sector.

  • OMB wants agencies to use the streamlined competition for 65 or fewer positions.

    'Agencies are free to use streamlined acquisition tools such as multiple-award schedules contracts to obtain proposals from the private sector,' OMB said in the circular.

    The standard competition includes some best-value processes such as:
  • use of phased evaluations that would eliminate some competitors based on technical criteria, leaving a smaller field to be judged on cost and performance

  • a cost-technical trade-off process that would let the agency choose a competitor that costs more if it also offers improved performance, and

  • the use of sealed bids, in which an agency considers only competitors' best-and-final offers.

  • OMB is restricting the use of these types of processes to IT positions, new requirements, positions already outsourced to the private sector, expansion of existing work and positions approved by a designated official before public announcement.

    The revision keeps a requirement that agencies finish standard A-76 competitions in 12 months, but it does allow agency officials to extend the deadline by six months without prior approval. In the draft, agencies needed OMB's consent.

    'OMB seems to have relaxed the 'Mother-may-I' control and given more discretion to the agencies,' Soloway said.
    OMB said the time frame begins when an agency publicly announces a competition, not when it begins studying positions.

    For streamlined competitions, the time frame is 90 days, with an option for a 45-day extension.

    OMB also wants to make sure agencies are prepared to compete against the private sector by requiring agencies to complete a series of actions before announcing a competition.

    OMB broadened the definition of an interested party that could appeal an A-76 decision. The change opens the door for labor unions to appeal A-76 decisions on behalf of affected workers.

    (Updated 10:42 a.m. May 29, 2003)


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