Congress preparing for battles over A-76

Congress and industry experts are bracing for another onslaught of legislative measures to stop or severely limit the administration's program to open commercial federal jobs to competition with the private sector. And a senior administration official has vowed to fight each one.

John Brosnan, a staff member for the House Government Reform Committee, said even though it is an election year, lawmakers likely will consider provisions to alter the public-private competition process under OMB Circular A-76. Several congressmen proposed such measures last year, but Brosnan said there likely would be fewer this session.

Last summer, lawmakers placed provisions in the Treasury, Transportation and General Government, Defense and Interior departments' spending bills. Many of these provisions were removed in conference committee'mostly at the administration's behest.

Robert Burton, acting administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said the administration hopes that if Congress writes provisions that would affect A-76, they would be for all agencies to follow.

'Many of the riders Congress did last year were good for only one year, which creates inconsistencies and confuses agencies,' Burton said at Input's Marketview 2004 conference in Falls Church, Va. 'We would hope to see governmentwide, permanent provisions.'

Burton also said the administration would strongly oppose any provision that halts the process.

Cathy Garman, senior vice president for public policy with the Contract Services Association of America, said along with appropriations bills, authorization bills also may be targeted with these provisions.

She said the Senate Armed Services Committee expects a provision to give federal employees the right to protest to the General Accounting Office. Currently, federal workers may not protest a losing bid to GAO.

Such a provision would have the support of at least one influential lawmaker. Brosnan said his boss, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, supports employee protest rights for the agency officials in charge of the government's bid.

Brosnan, though, is not optimistic that lawmakers will be able to pass such provisions. 'We would be happy with the status quo, otherwise,' he said.

Meanwhile, Burton said the administration is preparing a report to Congress on the results of agency competitions for fiscal 2003. The report is due May 24.

'It is imperative that we are able to communicate with Congress about the successes we are having,' Burton said. 'Our emphasis is on cost and savings as we are using competitive sourcing as a management tool.'

Burton added the information from the report will fill a new competitive sourcing database that OFPP expects to launch by midsummer. Agencies will submit information about their competitions annually, which OFPP will analyze for trends.

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