GAO gives thumbs down to West Point outsourcing

A government watchdog has recommended that the Defense Department put the brakes on the outsourcing of nearly 400 public works positions at West Point Military Academy in upstate New York.

The Government Accountability Office ruled on Monday that there were serious flaws in the process the Army used to compare a bid from the 394 federal employees performing the work to one from the company that in March won a public-private competition for the jobs. The decision came in response to a protest filed by the American Federation of Government Employees, the union that represents the West Point workers.

GAO found errors in the Army's conclusion that Peachtree City, Ga., The Ginn Group's bid of $58.2 million over five years was reasonable and surpassed the government's offer of $68.3 million. The watchdog found that The Ginn Group based its bid on unrealistically low retirement benefit and supply costs and was unlikely to meet a 10 percent efficiency assumption.

"In our view, the errors identified above call into question the savings that the Army calculated would be achieved by awarding a contract for public works services to Ginn," GAO stated in the ruling.

GAO typically would recommend that the Army take the appropriate steps to re-evaluate Ginn's costs and to correct the competition. But, a provision in the 2009 Defense authorization act prevents agencies from spending federal funds to start public-private competitions under the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76. The 2010 Defense authorization bill would continue that ban for another year.

Consequently, GAO recommended that the Army cancel its request for proposals and not proceed with the contract award to Ginn.

The decision was cheered by lawmakers who opposed the outsourcing efforts at West Point.

"The GAO ruling shows that the A-76 study that led to the privatization of West Point jobs was inherently flawed, skewed and discriminatory since its inception," said Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y. "Privatization reviews were commissioned by the Bush administration as part of an ideological effort to outsource government jobs to private companies. Congress has since rightfully outlawed these privatization reviews."

"The U.S. Army is studying the GAO's decision regarding the West Point A-76 competition to determine the course of action that will most benefit taxpayers and the Army," spokesman Dave Foster said. The service is not legally obligated to heed GAO's recommendation, but agencies typically accept the watchdog's decisions.

The Ginn Group has the option to appeal GAO's decision. Company officials said they are waiting to see if Congress makes the issue a moot point.

Hall and Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., have co-authored a provision in the House's version of the 2010 Defense appropriations bill that would prevent the Pentagon from moving forward with at least 15 ongoing A-76 efforts, encompassing 6,000 civilian and military jobs. The language did not make it into the Senate's version of the bill, but the provision could be added to the final legislation during House-Senate conference negotiations. The provision has the support of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"The effort to privatize jobs at West Point and other military installations across the country was ideological in nature and ignored basic facts that indicated doing so would be a big mistake," Hinchey said. "The GAO's ruling bolsters our argument that Congress should give final approval to a measure I helped author that would effectively block the Pentagon from carrying out its privatization plans at West Point or anywhere else."

During the past several years, Congress has taken several steps to try to level the playing field for federal employees in public-private job contests, passing legislation that excludes health care and retirement benefits from the cost comparison process and establishing protest rights for federal teams on the losing end of competitions. Lawmakers also have halted new competitions at nine agencies.

AFGE said the turning tide against public-private competitions has prompted most other federal agencies to cancel their A-76 studies or to convert them to internal reengineering efforts. Thus far, the Defense Department has resisted that trend.

The Army began preliminary planning for its A-76 competition at West Point in 2002, and announced the review of the public works and custodial jobs four years later. The federal team won the competition for the custodial work.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.