GAO on Outsourced Science

April 16, 2007
Blog
From the Science Committee:

GAO Finds Science Agencies Have Few Activities Left To Outsource To Private Sector

(Washington, DC) Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, today received from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) a report on the use of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76 by the agencies under the Committee's jurisdiction.

"Between 2003 and 2005, GAO says that there were only 22 competitions under Circular A-76 at these science agencies. There were only three cases where the private sector was determined to be the most efficient at achieving agency goals," said Chairman Gordon.

Circular A-76 requires evaluation of agency activities to identify any that might be performed by private-sector firms and sets out the process for determining if a particular task should be done within the agency or contracted out.

In this report, entitled Implementation of OMB Circular A-76 at Science Agencies, GAO examined public-private competitions at five agencies: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The officials responsible for conducting Circular A-76 competitions at these agencies told GAO that they now expect in-house teams to win most of the competitions. DOE and NASA explained that there are few remaining commercial activities at those agencies that do not require expert knowledge and thus give federal employees an advantage.

GAO also noted that activities subject to competition at these five agencies were usually performed by 10 or fewer federal employees. According to GAO, "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. As a result, agencies did not conduct competitions on those activities, except EPA, which conducts public-private competitions for activities performed by 10 or fewer employees."

A PDF of the GAO report is attached. It can also be accessed at http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-434R.