Advisory and Assistance Services and functional organizations

by reader ilsm

There are many ways to erode government management and the public trust aside from careerist public officials: Two other ways I have seen are hiring out Advisory and Assistance Services and the second is contracting out entire functional organizations. The second is referred to as A-76.

Mark Mansfield Director of Public Affairs, Central Intelligence Agency, McLean, Va., Letter to the editor dated 13 June seen in June 14, 2008. Said:

“The C.I.A., like other United States government agencies, employs contractors to acquire needed skills and expertise for set periods of time.”
Note the authoritative statement, by a professional ghostwriter, with the modifier “for set periods of time”.

This implies the CIA is hiring individuals doing Advisory and Assistance Services, rather than actually contracting out interrogation sections. He creates the false image that CIA needs an interrogator for less than a year at a time. This means each year they write a new task order, on some form of basic ordering contract that goes on for years, to get around 5 USC 3109.

This is fairly common bureaucratic response and it is wrong. It is a misrepresentation of the on-going “requirement”, to contract for it annually is deceptive, the function is needed for the long term. This also gets around competitive sourcing, to avoid the analysis of whether the activity is an inherently governmental function as well as compare price of government workers versus contractors.

These types of analyses are required to outsource any commercial function or unit needed to run the government. It is specified in OMB Circular A-76. No one wants to use A-76 for this kind of thing because A-76 requires structure, competitive sourcing and auditable decisions. None of which DoD, Homeland Security nor CIA could stand to see the light of day.

A-76 requires them to look at competing whole sections doing work, like the interrogator section of directorate of intelligence, or competing grounds maintenance at the pentagon.

The circular and the Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act are a start to contracting out commercial activities. However, looking at the inventory I found no code for interrogator services, I suspect the department of labor using FAIR has not found any reason to think interrogators are commercial services type activities. So, Mr. Mansfield should not need to imply that contracting out interrogators is a time limited thing because it is a governmental function which cannot be contracted out.

However, they avoid FAIR and A-76 by hiring A&AS contractors under FAR 37.105. When they do not look at contracting out sections they contract out government employees’ work and that of military members individually.

How A-76 works. Once an agency identifies a FAIR coded activity for competition it follows the rules established by OMB. It gets proposals from the existing government work force as well as interested contractors. It selects the low cost bidder and goes on to either keeping a streamlined government function or hiring a contractor to do the function. A new improvement to the process requires on going quality assurance……

The problem with A-76 contracts, as with Advisory and Assistance Services, is they are never afforded quality control, no one analyzes the poor performance and the scopes always rise so private contractors buy in because the government can never describe all the work done by a civil service unit.

This poor quality control persists and is aggravated by the on going process of contracting out government support to the point where the government soon has no one who knows what should be done and so no one who can tell if the taxpayer is getting their money’s worth.

It is easy to just take out the old contract and spend more money!
The shadow contracted government is progeny of a long line of compromises.
This one by ilsm