OMB to ask agencies for long-term job competition plans

The Office of Management and Budget will ask agencies to create multi-year plans for opening federal jobs to private sector competition as a prerequisite for receiving a "green" rating in competitive sourcing, according to a senior Bush administration official.

The plans, which will require agencies to subject a certain number of jobs to private competition over the next several years, will give OMB a tool to determine whether agencies deserve the top rating in competitive sourcing, OMB Deputy Director for Management Clay Johnson said in an interview with Government Executive.

"We want to have a dialogue for why this schedule of competitions is right for them, and get their commitment to [compete] a volume of work over a period of several years and then hold them accountable for following through on that commitment," said Johnson.

Agencies will be asked to prepare competitive sourcing plans through 2008, according to an official at a civilian agency. OMB will ask for detailed competition information for 2004, and more general information for following years. Officials intend the plans to be updated over time. "They are designed to be living documents," said another government source.

In the plans, OMB expects agencies to lay out schedules for competing all jobs deemed "suitable for competition," a subset of the 850,000 commercial positions that by law could be performed by contractors. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services has 31,400 commercial jobs, but considers just 11,200 positions to be suitable for competition, according to an October report from OMB.

"A green plan outlines the process and timetable for looking at all the commercial work that is suitable for competition," said Johnson.

Once OMB and an agency agree to a timetable for holding competitions, the agency could receive a "green" light for competitive sourcing before its plan is fully implemented, provided its stays on schedule and fulfills all OMB criteria. But "if they fall behind, they would not be green anymore," said Johnson.

The planning exercise will allow OMB to work out a schedule that is appropriate for each agency, and possibly nudge some agencies to speed up the pace of their competitions. "If an agency said in the next three or five years we anticipate competing 20 percent of our commercial positions that are suitable for competition, we might say what is it about your agency that says you have to go that slowly," Johnson said.

OMB developed the planning process in response to agency queries about what constitutes a "green" competition plan, according to Johnson. Most agencies currently are implementing OMB-approved plans to earn a "yellow" rating, which signals mixed results.

Some agencies already have crafted long-range competition plans. But for agencies that have not committed to holding significant numbers of competitions, the requirement could prompt action. "It's going to force them to ante up and put some numbers on the table," said the civilian agency official.

OMB soon will provide explicit guidance for the plans to the President's Management Council, Mathew Blum, a policy analyst at OMB, said at a meeting of the Bethesda, Md., chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association last Thursday.

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