OMB Watch and 29,000 Others Comment on Inherently Governmental Proposal

Last week, OMB Watch submitted comments to the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP), the contracting regulatory authority within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), regarding their proposed policy letter on reforming "inherently governmental" guidelines. Through our petition drive with CREDO Action, we spurred 29,402 people to write to OFPP to tell the agency what they thought about the proposed guidelines as well.

Individuals that submitted comments through the petition focused on preventing the government from contracting out certain functions to security contractors.

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Commenters urged the government not to allow security contractors to perform functions like "guard services, convoy security services, pass and identification services, plant protection services, the operation of prison or detention facilities, and any security operations that might reasonably require the use of deadly force."

They also asked OFPP to prevent contractors from performing "support of intelligence activities (including covert operations), interrogation, military and police training, and the repair and maintenance of weapon systems."

OMB Watch, CREDO Action, and other good government groups believe that these are all functions that government employees should perform, not for-profit companies.

OMB Watch's comments focused on four general areas of government contracting and answered three specific questions from the list offered by OFPP in the proposed policy letter.

Generally, OMB Watch agreed with OFPP's reforms, but called for the policy letter to better address potential conflicts of interest within government contracting. We also asked for federal agencies to take head counts of contractor employees, a policy that the government has long needed just to get a handle on the level of contractor involvement in government business, but that no administration has ever implemented.

OMB Watch also demanded that the public have greater access to information on government contracting, and suggested that OFPP decouple the incentives to provide greater oversight of contractors with penalties for not meeting performance goals that require contractor involvement to achieve.

As far as specific questions, we championed the creation of a principal-agent test for agencies to determine better what functions they should and should not outsource; asked for federal agencies to presume that federal employees should perform critical and "closely associated" with inherently governmental functions; and listed out the same security functions from above for sole government performance.

OFPP should release a final policy letter sometime in the late summer/early fall. It will be interesting to see what impact our comments have on the final product.

Image by Flickr user premasagar used under a Creative Commons license.

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