Implementation of Major System Acquisition Process--A-109--Is Inconsistent Among Civil Agencies

Gao ID: PSAD-79-89 August 14, 1979

The Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Circular A-109, the major federal acquisition process, has been implemented slowly by four major agencies and sometimes inconsistently with the concepts set out by the Commission on Government Procurement. Of the agencies reviewed, only National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials have seemed to support the concepts and have given high priority to revising their acquisitions policies. The new policy specifies systematic determination of budgeting, contracting, and managing problems, and mission needs; direction of agency-related research and development; top-level management involvement in setting needs and goals; communication with Congress early in the procurement process; and correlation of agency needs and goals with acquisitions. The policy also requires improvement of opportunities for innovation in new systems design by the private sector; fostering contractual competition as long as possible in the procurement process; and avoiding premature commitments to full-scale development and production. In addition to an unenthusiastic reception, there have also been acquisition directives by the agencies which have conflicted with Circular A-109.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has not implemented A-109, but has listed 11 major systems which are to follow it, although these omit the encouragement of private industry initiatives. The General Services Administration (GSA) has a budget structure incompatible with a mission-budgeting approach and not made for identifying and exploring alternative solutions. The Department of Energy (DOE) has not yet applied its implementing directives to day-to-day operations. While NASA has issued such a directive, approved four mission need statements, and conducted extensive A-109 training, it has fallen short of A-109 objectives in its reassignment of program managers, communication of in-house feasibility studies to contractors, and permitting winning contractors to borrow features from losing designs. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) of OMB is responsible for overseeing A-109 implementation; it was established for prestige in dealing with executive agencies and to enable it to meet its responsibilities, but A-109 realization has been extremely slow. GAO feels that agencies with significant technology-based activities could compromise A-109 activities by anticipating mission approval and developing systems to provide solutions.


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