Implementation of Major System Acquisition Process--A-109--Is Inconsistent Among Civil Agencies

PSAD-79-89: Published: Aug 14, 1979. Publicly Released: Aug 14, 1979.

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The Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Circular A-109, the major federal acquisition process, has been implemented slowly by four major agencies and sometimes inconsistently with the concepts set out by the Commission on Government Procurement. Of the agencies reviewed, only National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials have seemed to support the concepts and have given high priority to revising their acquisitions policies. The new policy specifies systematic determination of budgeting, contracting, and managing problems, and mission needs; direction of agency-related research and development; top-level management involvement in setting needs and goals; communication with Congress early in the procurement process; and correlation of agency needs and goals with acquisitions. The policy also requires improvement of opportunities for innovation in new systems design by the private sector; fostering contractual competition as long as possible in the procurement process; and avoiding premature commitments to full-scale development and production. In addition to an unenthusiastic reception, there have also been acquisition directives by the agencies which have conflicted with Circular A-109.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has not implemented A-109, but has listed 11 major systems which are to follow it, although these omit the encouragement of private industry initiatives. The General Services Administration (GSA) has a budget structure incompatible with a mission-budgeting approach and not made for identifying and exploring alternative solutions. The Department of Energy (DOE) has not yet applied its implementing directives to day-to-day operations. While NASA has issued such a directive, approved four mission need statements, and conducted extensive A-109 training, it has fallen short of A-109 objectives in its reassignment of program managers, communication of in-house feasibility studies to contractors, and permitting winning contractors to borrow features from losing designs. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) of OMB is responsible for overseeing A-109 implementation; it was established for prestige in dealing with executive agencies and to enable it to meet its responsibilities, but A-109 realization has been extremely slow. GAO feels that agencies with significant technology-based activities could compromise A-109 activities by anticipating mission approval and developing systems to provide solutions.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of DOT should revise directives to conform more closely with the A-109 acquisition approach, coordinating revisions with OFPP. The Administrator of GSA should continue to stress A-109 implementation, particularly in daily operations, and develop a presentation consistent with the agency's missions to segregate funding requests for identifying and exploring alternative solutions to satisfy needs. The Administrator of NASA should also remember A-109 objectives during procurement activities. The Secretary of DOE should resolve the OFPP objections to the current DOE implementation directive, and evaluate and revise the agency's planned acquisition process in order to preserve competition and opportunities for innovation when identifying and evaluating alternatives before the approval of a mission. The Director of OMB and the Administrator of OFPP should require awareness and consideration by their staffs, of elements in DOE and NASA budget requests and programs which could permit actions contrary to A-109. They should also emphasize continued cooperation with executive agencies for A-109 implementation, direct heavily technology-based agencies to pursue only appropriate activities, and review requests for technology-based activities to prevent inclusion of items which are design efforts for solutions to perceived mission needs.

    Agency Affected:


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