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Accessing A-76 results not easy, critics say

On Jan. 24, officials at Fort Knox, Ky., the Army fortress that once safeguarded the U.S. gold reserve and the English crown jewels, began searching for a new treasure: doughnuts. To be precise, they sought 291,000 of them -- enough chocolate, glazed, jelly and blueberry doughnuts to indulge sugar cravings on the post for a year.

Fort Knox broadcast its need for sweets on FedBizOpps, the online catalog of federal contracting opportunities. Required reading for government contractors, FedBizOpps is perhaps the world's largest want ads, where federal agencies seek everything from doughnuts to detention space. As a general rule, if a company sells it, some agency is looking to buy it on FedBizOpps. In September 2003, the National Institute on Aging announced it was seeking a "standing colony of mutant mice."

Lately, agencies have used FedBizOpps to advertise a new contracting opportunity: the chance to win federal contracts by outbidding civil servants in public-private job competitions. The Bush administration decreed that all such contests be announced on FedBizOpps as part of its May 2003 rewrite of Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76, the rule book for job competitions.

OMB officials tried to make A-76 competitions more transparent, but some say the new rules aren't enough, according to staff writer Jason Peckenpaugh, who explored the competitive sourcing conundrum in the March 2003 issue of Government Executive magazine. Click here to read the full story.