B-118653, MAY 23, 1963

B-118653: May 23, 1963

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YOU ARE APPARENTLY CONCERNED ABOUT STATEMENTS ATTRIBUTED TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE REGARDING THE EXTENSIVE USE OF CONSULTING ENGINEERS BY THE STATE OF VIRGINIA TO UNDERTAKE PRELIMINARY ENGINEERING WORK OF A TYPE THAT COULD NORMALLY BE PERFORMED BY STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT ENGINEERING PERSONNEL. WE ARE ENCLOSING A COPY OF THE REPORT AND ARE SUPPLEMENTING IT WITH THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WHICH WE BELIEVE IS RELEVANT TO THE SUBJECT OF YOUR LETTER. THE USE OF CONSULTING ENGINEERS IN THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM IS. STATES THAT: "/A) ANY STATE DESIRING TO AVAIL ITSELF OF THE PROVISIONS OF THIS TITLE SHALL HAVE A STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT WHICH SHALL HAVE ADEQUATE POWERS. BE SUITABLY EQUIPPED AND ORGANIZED TO DISCHARGE TO THE SATISFACTION OF THE SECRETARY THE DUTIES REQUIRED BY THIS TITLE. * * *" THE REGULATIONS ISSUED BY THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE PERTINENT TO THE EMPLOYMENT OF CONSULTING ENGINEERS BY STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENTS ARE AS FOLLOWS: "SECTION 1.11 ENGINEERING SERVICES "/D) * * * PRIVATE ENGINEERING ORGANIZATIONS MAY BE UTILIZED ON PROJECTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REQUIREMENTS PRESCRIBED BY THE * * * (FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATOR).'.

B-118653, MAY 23, 1963

TO MR. ALBERT C. SOLNOK:

YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 25, 1963, TO CONGRESSMAN PAGE BELCHER, HAS BEEN REFERRED TO THIS OFFICE FOR REPLY.

IN YOUR LETTER, YOU NOTE THAT THE MARCH 1963 ISSUE OF THE PRIVATE PRACTICE NEWS REPORT OF THE NATIONAL SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS CONTAINS A REVIEW OF A REPORT DATED FEBRUARY 7, 1963, BY OUR OFFICE TO THE CONGRESS ON OUR REVIEW OF SELECTED DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION ACTIVITIES OF THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM IN THE STATE OF VIRGINIA. YOU ARE APPARENTLY CONCERNED ABOUT STATEMENTS ATTRIBUTED TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE REGARDING THE EXTENSIVE USE OF CONSULTING ENGINEERS BY THE STATE OF VIRGINIA TO UNDERTAKE PRELIMINARY ENGINEERING WORK OF A TYPE THAT COULD NORMALLY BE PERFORMED BY STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT ENGINEERING PERSONNEL. IN ACCORDANCE WITH YOUR REQUEST, WE ARE ENCLOSING A COPY OF THE REPORT AND ARE SUPPLEMENTING IT WITH THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WHICH WE BELIEVE IS RELEVANT TO THE SUBJECT OF YOUR LETTER.

THE USE OF CONSULTING ENGINEERS IN THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM IS, APART FROM ANY OTHER CONSIDERATIONS, ESSENTIALLY A MATTER OF COMPLIANCE WITH HIGHWAY LEGISLATION AND PRESCRIBED FEDERAL REGULATIONS. SECTION 302 OF TITLE 23, U.S.C. STATES THAT:

"/A) ANY STATE DESIRING TO AVAIL ITSELF OF THE PROVISIONS OF THIS TITLE SHALL HAVE A STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT WHICH SHALL HAVE ADEQUATE POWERS, AND BE SUITABLY EQUIPPED AND ORGANIZED TO DISCHARGE TO THE SATISFACTION OF THE SECRETARY THE DUTIES REQUIRED BY THIS TITLE. * * *"

THE REGULATIONS ISSUED BY THE SECRETARY OF COMMERCE PERTINENT TO THE EMPLOYMENT OF CONSULTING ENGINEERS BY STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENTS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

"SECTION 1.11 ENGINEERING SERVICES

"/D) * * * PRIVATE ENGINEERING ORGANIZATIONS MAY BE UTILIZED ON PROJECTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REQUIREMENTS PRESCRIBED BY THE * * * (FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATOR).' THE REQUIREMENTS ESTABLISHED BY THE ADMINISTRATOR CONCERNING THE EMPLOYMENT OF CONSULTANTS PROVIDE THAT:

"CONSULTANTS MAY BE EMPLOYED WHEN (1) THE ENGINEERING PERSONNEL AT THE DISPOSAL OF THE STATE IS INSUFFICIENT TO OBTAIN PERFORMANCE OF THE WORK WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME, (2) THE STATE HAS A PROGRAM SUBSTANTIALLY LARGER THAN NORMAL OR EXPECTED IN FUTURE YEARS AND DESIRES TO EMPLOY CONSULTANTS RATHER THAN BUILD UP ITS ORGANIZATION FOR A COMPARATIVELY SHORT PERIOD, OR (3) THE UNUSUAL CHARACTER OF THE WORK REQUIRES HIGHLY SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE FOR WHICH THE STATE IS NOT NORMALLY STAFFED TO HANDLE.'

THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE REVIEW OF THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM IN THE STATE OF VIRGINIA DISCLOSED THAT THE STATE WAS CONTRACTING EXTENSIVELY WITH CONSULTING ENGINEERS FOR BRIDGE DESIGN WORK OF A TYPE THAT NORMALLY COULD BE PERFORMED BY STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT ENGINEERING FORCES. THE STATUTORY AUDIT RESPONSIBILITIES OF THIS OFFICE REQUIRED THAT THIS SITUATION BE BROUGHT TO THE ATTENTION OF THE CONGRESS, WHICH WAS DONE IN THE REPORT DATED FEBRUARY 7, 1963 (SEE PAGE 93). IN ITS RESPONSE ON THIS MATTER, THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC ROADS ADVISED US THAT THE STATE IS BEING ENCOURAGED TO BUILD UP ITS OWN FORCES FOR ACCOMPLISHING AS MUCH OF THE DESIGN WORK AS IS PRACTICABLE WITH STATE FORCES, THEREBY EVIDENCING THE AGREEMENT OF THE BUREAU AS TO THE INTENT OF THE LAW AND REGULATIONS.

THERE WOULD APPEAR TO BE NO QUESTION THAT THE POSITION OF THE BUREAU ON THE USE OF CONSULTANTS HAS BEEN CLEAR AND DEFINITE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS PRIOR TO OUR REPORTING ON SUCH USE. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION REGARDING THE STATED POSITION AND POLICY OF THE BUREAU IS CONTAINED IN MATERIAL CIRCULATED AMONG THE STATES BY THE BUREAU ACTING IN ITS CAPACITY AS THE FEDERAL AGENCY RESPONSIBLE FOR HIGHWAYS CONSTRUCTED WITH THE AID OF FEDERAL FUNDS.

A POLICY STATEMENT WAS ISSUED IN JUNE 1954 TO THE BUREAU'S FIELD OFFICES AND TO THE STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENTS, AS FOLLOWS:

"USE OF CONSULTANTS

. . . IN THOSE INSTANCES WHERE INSUFFICIENT QUALIFIED PERSONNEL NECESSITATES THE EMPLOYMENT OF OUTSIDE AID, EVERY EFFORT SHOULD BE MADE TO ENCOURAGE THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE (STATE) HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT TO A SIZE AND COMPETENCE ADEQUATE FOR ITS PROGRAM.'

IN DECEMBER 1956, THE THEN FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATOR ENCOURAGED THE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENTS TO BUILD UP ADEQUATE ORGANIZATIONS TO COPE WITH THE EXPANDED HIGHWAY PROGRAM AND ADVISED THE HEADS OF ALL STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENTS THAT:

"ONE OF THE CARDINAL PRINCIPLES OF THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY PROGRAM HAS ALWAYS BEEN THAT THE WORK BE CARRIED OUT THROUGH THE STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENTS IN CONJUNCTION WITH THEIR GENERAL CONSTITUTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND AUTHORITY FOR ROADS WITHIN THEIR BOUNDARIES. FROM THE VERY BEGINNINGS OF THE PROGRAM THEREFORE, IT HAS BEEN REQUIRED AS A PREREQUISITE TO RECEIVING FEDERAL AID FUNDS, THAT THE STATE SHOULD HAVE A HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT ADEQUATELY STAFFED AND EQUIPPED TO CARRY OUT THE WORK AUTHORIZED.

". . . AS HIGHWAY OFFICIALS WE TOLD THE CONGRESS, WHEN THE 1956 ACT WAS BEING CONSIDERED, THAT IF THEY PROVIDED THE FUNDS WE COULD PROPERLY ENGINEER THE PROGRAM, AND THAT WITH A LONG-TERM PROGRAM OF THIS TYPE WITH AN ASSURED 13-15 YEAR LIFE, WE THUS WOULD BE ENABLED TO THINK IN CORRESPONDING ORGANIZATIONAL TERMS AND ELIMINATE THE SHORT TERM PLANNING WE FREQUENTLY HAVE HAD TO DO IN THE PAST.'

IN A BUREAU POLICY STATEMENT TRANSMITTED TO THE HEADS OF BUREAU FIELD OFFICES AND THE STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENTS IN DECEMBER 1956, THE ADMINISTRATOR STATED THAT:

"THE BASIC FEDERAL HIGHWAY ACT OF 1921 AND SUBSEQUENT ACTS TOGETHER WITH THE REGULATIONS ISSUED PURSUANT THERETO HAVE ALWAYS CONTEMPLATED THAT A STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT ADEQUATELY ORGANIZED AND EQUIPPED IS AVAILABLE TO COOPERATE WITH THE BUREAU AS A REQUISITE OF THE STATE'S PARTICIPATION.

"IN ORDER TO COPE WITH UNUSUAL SITUATIONS REQUIRING ENGINEERING SERVICES NOT ORDINARILY NEEDED AND THEREFORE NOT AVAILABLE IN A WELL CONSTITUTED STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT, AS WELL AS TO PERMIT A TEMPORARY AUGMENTING OF THE REGULAR STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT STAFF TO MEET OCCASIONAL PEAK WORK LOAD SURGES, THE USE OF SOME OUTSIDE STAFF FROM QUALIFIED CONSULTING FIRMS HAS BEEN REGULARLY APPROVED FOR INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS OVER A NUMBER OF YEARS.

"WITH THE LONG-TERM CHARACTER OF THE FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY ACT OF 1956 AND ITS KNOWN ANNUAL AUTHORIZATIONS OVER A 13-YEAR PERIOD, IT IS FELT THAT WE MUST NOT PLACE MAJOR RELIANCE ON OUTSIDE ASSISTANCE BUT RATHER THAN PROPER STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT ORGANIZATIONS WITHIN THE MEANING OF THE BASIC FEDERAL-AID ACTS REQUIRES STATES TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE STAFFING WITH EMPLOYEES GIVING FULL-TIME SERVICE TO THE PROGRAM, EXCEPT FOR THE UNUSUAL AND SPECIAL SITUATIONS NOT REGULARLY RECURRING.'

REPORTING ON THE USE OF CONSULTING ENGINEERS HAS BEEN IN PURSUANCE OF THE STATUTORY RESPONSIBILITY OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE TO EXAMINE AND REPORT TO THE CONGRESS ON COMPLIANCE WITH FEDERAL HIGHWAY LEGISLATION AND RELATED REGULATIONS AND THE EFFECT THEREOF ON COST TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. WHETHER THE CONDITIONS STIPULATED BY SUCH LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS ARE PROPER AS THEY AFFECT THE PUBLIC INTEREST AND PARTICULARLY CONSULTING ENGINEERS, ARE MATTERS OF CONGRESSIONAL POLICY WHICH ARE NOT WITHIN THE PROVINCE OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE TO EVALUATE.

IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT OUR REPORT DIRECTED ATTENTION NOT TO WORK OF AN UNUSUAL CHARACTER REQUIRING HIGHLY SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE, BUT TO WORK WHICH STATE FORCES COULD NORMALLY BE EXPECTED TO PERFORM. EVEN AS TO THE LATTER, THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE DOES NOT CONSTRUE THE LAW AND REGULATIONS AS NECESSARILY REQUIRING THAT ALL SUCH ENGINEERING BE DONE BY STATE FORCES. HOWEVER, WHEN SUCH A HIGH VOLUME OF THIS ENGINEERING IS DONE BY CONSULTING ENGINEERS, IT IS APPARENT THAT THE PURPOSE OF THE APPLICABLE HIGHWAY LEGISLATION, REGULATIONS, AND POLICY REQUIREMENTS, ARE NOT BEING REASONABLY CARRIED OUT.

WE TRUST THAT THE ABOVE INFORMATION IS FULLY RESPONSIVE TO YOUR INQUIRY. A COPY OF THIS LETTER IS BEING SENT TODAY TO CONGRESSMAN BELCHER.