Trends and Challenges in Acquiring Services
GAO-01-753T, May 22, 2001
Federal agencies spend billions of tax dollars each year to buy services--from clerical support to information technology assistance to the management of national laboratories. The federal government spent more than $87 billion in services--a 24 percent increase in real terms from fiscal year 1990. Some service procurements are not being done efficiently, putting taxpayer dollars at risk. In particular, agencies are not clearly defining their requirements, fully considering alternative solutions, performing vigorous price analyses, and adequately overseeing contractor performance. This testimony (1) describes service contracting trends and the changing acquisition environment, (2) discusses the challenges confronting the government in acquiring services, and (3) highlights some efforts underway to address these challenges. GAO found that purchases of services now account for about 43 percent of federal contracting expenses--the largest single spending category. The growth of services has been driven largely by the government's increased purchases of information technology services and professional, administrative, and management support services. Poor contract management has undermined the government's ability to obtain good value for the money and continues to be a major problem for the two biggest service purchasers-the Departments of Defense and Energy. Performance-based service contracts and the integration of strategic human capital management into agency planning are two ways to address some of the contract management and human capital challenges.