The A-76 Study at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center Could Have Been Compromised by the Disclosure of Certain Information

RCED-85-53: Published: Feb 1, 1985. Publicly Released: Mar 4, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76 review being conducted at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center. Information about the expected costs of continued government operation of the data center, produced early in the A-76 review, was released in the NOAA fiscal year 1985 budget request. The cost estimate was later changed but, if it had not been changed, the disclosure could have compromised the competitiveness of the A-76 process and given an unfair advantage to contractors who learned of it. Therefore, the objectives of the GAO examination were to: (1) determine federal policy regarding the safeguarding of information in A-76 reviews; (2) find out why the information on the data center study was disclosed; and (3) assess the consequences of the disclosure.

OMB Circular A-76 requires that information on the expected costs of continued government operation of a facility being studied for contracting out be kept confidential. However, the circular does not require the confidentiality of management efficiency studies, which are one phase of the A-76 review process. Savings recommended by the data center's management efficiency study were made public because the person responsible for the NOAA budget mistakenly assumed that the A-76 process had been completed at the data center. Disclosing a management efficiency study could reduce the chances of the government's obtaining the lowest possible bids from private firms and may permit these firms to estimate future government costs. GAO concluded that management efficiency studies should be held confidential to ensure full competition as well as fair treatment for federal employees whose jobs would be affected by contracting out and to bidders who might not know about a study's recommendations. GAO noted that the information disclosed about the National Climatic Data Center's management efficiency study was made obsolete by the study's subsequent revision and that NOAA procedures were changed in 1984 to require confidentiality of management efficiency studies.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: To ensure maximum competition for the performance of activities under A-76 review and fair treatment for federal employees and all bidders, the Director of OMB should include in the OMB planned revision of Circular A-76 a requirement that management efficiency studies not be made public until the comparison of private bids and expected federal costs is completed.

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


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