Implementation of OMB Circular No. A-76 at Science Agencies

GAO-07-434R: Published: Mar 16, 2007. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 2007.

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Congress requested that GAO determine how the Department of Commerce (National Institute for Standards and Technology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have implemented the May 2003 revised Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76 process, which seeks to put commercial activities now performed by government out for public-private competition. Congress was particularly interested in outcomes where public-private competitions resulted in commercial activities being contracted out to the private sector. On December 14, 2006, we briefed Congress on the preliminary results of our review. This report is an updated version of the briefing document we used.

In summary, we found that the five science agencies under the Committee's jurisdiction generally implemented the A-76 process as revised in May 2003. However, we did find one exception and two deviations. The exception involved the Department of Commerce, which had not put out for competition any commercial activity performed by National Institute for Standards and Technology personnel. Additionally, OMB granted deviations to the new A-76 process requirements for two other agencies. OMB allowed NASA to put out for competition new commercial scientific and technological research activities--called NASA Research Announcements--outside the normal A-76 process. Nearly all of NASA's public-private competitions have been competed under this deviation. OMB also approved the Department of Energy's pilot program for determining whether use of the General Services Administration's Multiple Award Schedules would increase competition. We also found that, while the five agencies generally implemented the A-76 process, few of the hundreds of commercial activities they determined suitable for public-private competition were competed. According to agencies officials, agencies recognized that activities performed by 10 or fewer employees were so small that the costs of conducting public-private competitions would outweigh any expected savings. Finally, we found that the private sector won few of the science agency activities put out for competition. Specifically, from fiscal year 2003 through fiscal year 2005, the agencies held 22 public-private competitions. In-house organizations won 19 of these competitions and the private sector won 3. The agencies estimated that the contracts for the three activities won by the private sector were performed by 337 federal employees and would save over $45 million.

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