The General Accounting Office has named 12 members to a new panel that will study federal outsourcing policy, the agency announced Tuesday. The board, known as the Commercial Activities Panel, will look at issues ranging from public-private competition to implementation of the 1998 Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act. GAO was directed to convene the panel and provide recommendations to Congress by May 2002 under a provision in the fiscal 2001 Defense Authorization Act. Chaired by Comptroller General David Walker, the much-anticipated panel includes representatives from labor groups, contractors, the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget, as required by the 2001 law. "I am pleased that each of these groups committed top-level officials as their representatives on the panel," said Walker. The panel also features four at-large members selected by GAO. The panel includes:
- David M. Walker, chairman, comptroller general of the United States
- Frank A. Camm, senior economist, RAND
- Mark Filteau, president, Johnson Controls World Services
- Stephen Goldsmith, former mayor of Indianapolis
- Bobby L. Harnage Sr., national president, American Federation of Government Employees
- Colleen M. Kelley, national president, National Treasury Employees Union
- Sean O'Keefe, deputy director, Office of Management and Budget
- Former Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., director, Institute of Politics, Harvard University
- Stan Z. Soloway, president, Professional Services Council
- Robert M. Tobias, distinguished adjunct professor and director of the Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation, American University
- Director, Office of Personnel Management (Kay Coles James, nominated)
- Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (Pete Aldridge, nominated) Nearly every member of the panel has staked out a public position on outsourcing, observers noted.
"Most of [the members] have a known perspective on outsourcing issues," said Allan Burman, president of Jefferson Solutions and former director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. "It will take some time to see if this group has the ability to work together and come up with something that seems fair," he said. Labor interests will have two direct representatives on the panel: union chiefs Harnage and Kelley. In addition, Robert Tobias preceded Kelley as President of the National Treasury Employees Union, and as a senator, Pryor conducted several investigations into the government's use of contractors during the 1980s. "Sen. Pryor has been very concerned about the government relying too much on contractor support," said Burman. Contractors will be represented by Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, and Mark Filteau, who heads the Florida-based contractor Johnson Controls World Services. "We pushed for [Filteau] to be on the panel," said George Sigalos, spokesman for the Contractor Services Association. Gary Engebretson, president of the association, was interviewed but not selected for the panel, according to Sigalos. The Bush administration counts four members on the panel, including outsourcing expert Stephen Goldsmith, who has been nominated to sit on the board that controls the Corporation for National Service. Pete Aldridge, the administration's pick to be the Pentagon's acquisition chief, previously served as chairman of Aerospace Corp., an aerospace contractor. The Bush administration has moved quickly to increase the government's use of public-private competitions. Last month, O'Keefe directed agencies to put up for competition or outsource at least 5 percent of positions classified as "commercial" on FAIR Act lists, a total of 42,500 jobs, by October 2002. In a memo dated April 3, O'Keefe required agencies to catalog lists of positions considered "inherently governmental" for the next round of FAIR Act submissions, due to OMB June 30. The presence of both contractors and administration officials on the board means foes of outsourcing are outnumbered, according to Harnage. "I'm not so sure that the board is balanced," he said. "The question from the very beginning was whether the board is there to put pressure and make things move faster on A-76, or whether it is really going to take a look at whether privatization is the way to go." But despite the conflicting views of many on the panel, members expressed optimism that the panel would find some consensus. "Our responsibility here is not to check our views at the door, but to find a way to be constructive," said Soloway. Harnage agreed. "At first I was very skeptical about whether this panel would accomplish anything other than trying to increase privatization," he said. "But after meeting with [panel project director] Bill Woods, I'm convinced he has the best interests of the taxpayer at heart. I'm going to go in with an open mind and be optimistic." The panel's first meeting will take place on May 8 in Washington. GAO plans to hold six to seven meetings in Washington, and will also hold a few hearings throughout the country, said Walker. These hearings will allow the panel to hear public feedback and to inspect cases where public-private competitions have been conducted successfully, according to GAO Associate General Counsel Daniel I. Gordon, counsel to the panel.