New competition method could be ready within a year, says OMB

A new public-private job competition method endorsed by a panel of experts could be ready for use by federal agencies in less than a year, the government's top procurement official said Tuesday.

The Office of Management and Budget is assembling a working group that will hash out the details of the new process, according to Angela Styles, head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. OMB plans to add the new process, which uses the federal procurement system as a guidebook for job competitions, to OMB Circular A-76 because it can be updated quickly, even though the method is envisioned as a replacement for the current methods associated with the circular.

"We really want to give the agencies tools to compete," said Styles. "I want to move this out as soon as we possibly can," she said, adding the process could be finalized in a year or less. This would allow agencies to use the new method to meet the White House's competitive sourcing target for fiscal 2003, she said. In the future, OMB could require agencies to use the new process, she added.

The new method would use the framework of Part 15 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation to govern job competitions, essentially forcing private firms and in-house employees to face off in a one-step, winner-takes-all competition to perform the work in question. But the method would retain some elements of the current A-76 process. For example, in-house employees would still form a team to compete for the work and use the methodology found in A-76 to compute their costs.

OMB will have to decide when agencies can use the different procedures of FAR Part 15, which broadly sets out how the government should conduct procurements under the "best value" acquisition standard. But FAR Part 15 also allows agencies to award some contracts largely on the basis of cost. "It's somewhat a question of where we draw the line, saying this needs to be a low cost decision, or if other factors need to be considered as well," said Styles.

OMB plans to publish a notice in the Federal Register asking for comments as it develops the new method, and may hold a public meeting as well, Styles said.

Styles also emphasized that some agencies could fall short of the Bush administration's competition targets in her comments to the Commercial Activities Panel report.

"To clarify in words what has been a reality in practice at OMB, we will revise our criteria for success in the administration's competitive sourcing initiative to recognize that some agencies will build a significant infrastructure for public-private competition over the next two years without competing 15 percent of commercial [jobs]," Styles wrote.

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