New contracting guidelines mean more gov't hires
The size of the federal workforce will grow even more next year, as agencies and departments will need to increase the number of contracting officers by at least 5 percent, according to new guidelines issued Tuesday by the Office of Management and Budget.
President Obama earlier this year vowed to save at least $40 billion annually by cutting non-competitive contracts and ending the use of contractors to conduct certain government functions.
Despite that pledge, the new guidelines do not define the meaning of "inherently governmental," the term used to describe government functions that contractors could no longer conduct. OMB expects to define the term by year's end, according to a spokesman. Officials privately describe the process as complex, acknowledging that any definition will inevitably mean the loss of billions of dollars in revenue for contractors.
Agencies must submit plans to hire more workers responsible for government contracting to OMB by Monday. Some agencies may experience a higher increase in their acquisition workforce.
The guidelines also instruct agencies to slash spending on "high risk" contracts by 10 percent this fiscal year. Such agreements are considered wasteful, redundant, noncompetitive or poorly managed. Those cuts are in addition to a mandated 7 percent cut in total government contracts over the next two years.
The new guidelines will be the subject of a Wednesday afternoon hearing of the Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight. The panel's chair, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), plans to express her concerns about how the new guidelines address the issue of accountability, according to her spokeswoman.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded the administration's plans to focus on hiring more contracting officers.
"Congress needs to recognize that we will continue to see an alarming waste of taxpayer dollars if we don’t ensure that agencies have employees with the right skills to manage these purchases," Lieberman said in a statement.
"Pressure from the very top will help keep the heat on agencies to eliminate contracting practices that waste precious taxpayer dollars.”
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| October 27, 2009; 5:30 PM ET
Categories: Administration, Contracting
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