Spirit of A-76 proves uninspiring

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Federal IT managers have overcome some of their wariness toward Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76, the Bush administration's guidance for competing government jobs with the private sector. But they're still not happy with it. At least that's the message from participants in a GCN telephone survey about the A-76 initiative.

GCN conducted a similar survey in 2003, not long after the administration revised the circular to increase the focus on competition, best value and results. The 2003 survey found IT managers to be deeply pessimistic about A-76. More than three-quarters'78 percent'of federal IT managers surveyed in 2003 said they thought A-76 would not fulfill the administration's goal of making government more effective and efficient.

Two years later, surveyed IT managers are still taking a 'glass half-empty' view of A-76. Now, only a little more than a quarter of respondents, 28 percent, said the initiative is boosting government's efficiency and effectiveness. Thirty-nine percent said A-76 is not helping government become more effective.

And evidently, federal managers are backing up their lack of enthusiasm toward A-76 with a corresponding lack of action. This year, almost half of surveyed IT managers said their agency didn't initiate or complete any A-76 competitions in the last year, while less than a quarter said they did.

But it turns out that fears expressed by federal IT managers in 2003 that A-76 would decimate the ranks of federal employees and replace them with private-sector employees were unfounded. Back then, 79 percent of federal IT managers surveyed said A-76 was purely a vehicle to outsource government jobs to industry. This year, by contrast, 60 percent of respondents whose agencies had completed A-76 competitions said the winner of the competition was the in-house organization. Less than a third said their A-76 competitions went to the private sector.

Governmentwide, in-house teams competing against private-sector bidders have won about 90 percent of recent A-76 competitions. Yet in this year's survey, 22 percent of respondents still said the A-76 process is unfair to government employees. Thirty percent described the process as fair but still in need of work. Only 13 percent of respondents said the A-76 process works just fine.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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