Civil Servants and Contract Employees:

Who Should Do What for the Federal Government?

FPCD-81-43: Published: Jun 19, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 19, 1981.

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GAO reviewed the contractors' excessive involvement in executive branch agencies' basic management functions. The review was made because of concern about agencies using contractors to do work that should be done by federal employees.

There are undoubtedly many causes for excessive contractor involvement in the performance of basic agency management functions. In the opinion of GAO, significant ones include: (1) the increasing demands for governmental work being placed on a declining federal work force as government programs increase in a number, cost, and complexity; (2) the lack of sufficient guidance from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to distinguish between advice and performance of a government function; and (3) agencies' inconsistent and relatively ineffective compliance with the executive branch policy to rely on contractors for commercial services. If the number and complexity of government programs continue to increase as personnel ceilings limit the size of the federal work force, agency officials will probably experience more pressure to perform governmental work by hiring additional people indirectly through service contracts. GAO believes that this pressure can be lessened if agencies reallocate in-house commercial positions to governmental work. Since 1955, the emphasis of the executive branch's OMB A-76 policy has shifted from almost outright reliance on the private sector to reliance with several exceptions. Without legislation, the executive branch can continue to unilaterally shift policy emphasis. Although agencies are permitted to obtain contractors' advice on government functions, it is sometimes difficult to tell where advice stops and performance begins.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should enact legislation requiring Federal agencies to fully disclose when consulting service contractors assist in preparing congressionally mandated reports.

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should act on an earlier GAO recommendation to legislate a national policy of reliance on the private sector for goods and services.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OMB should prepare written guidelines that will better distinguish between contractors' advice on Government functions and their performance of such functions. These guidelines should clearly indicate where advice stops and performance begins.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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