GAO Offers Snapshot into Federal Contracting

Where are the most contract dollars being spent in the federal government?

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), often called the “congressional watchdog,” is offering a look at which agencies are responsible for the most contract spending.

GAO estimates that 40 percent of the government’s discretionary spending goes to contracts for goods and services for everything from health care to aircraft accessories. Last fiscal year, the federal government spent more than $550 billion on these contracts—$100 billion more than in 2015—largely driven by defense spending.

Of the $195 billion spent at civilian federal agencies, the Department of Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Health and Human Services accounted for the most contract dollars, in that order. Money was mostly spent on services, rather than products, with most dollars going toward research and development facilities. 

GAO states that “management oversight is needed to ensure that contractors aren’t performing professional services considered inherently governmental.”

NTEU agrees. The union has long held that all inherently governmental work, and work closely associated with it, should remain or return to trained, accountable federal workers.

For the past several years, NTEU helped secure moratoriums on A-76 competitions, which determine whether private contractors may bid on work currently performed by federal employees. Since the moratoriums are in funding bills, they must be renewed annually.  The House of Representatives has taken the first step to ensure this moratorium continues next year by including it in their fiscal 2020 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that was released this week. 

In the courts, NTEU fought against efforts to narrow the Office of Management and Budget’s definition of inherently government to significantly tilt it to the private sector.

NTEU is also persisting in our fight against the Internal Revenue Service program using commission-driven private debt collectors to go after tax debts. Tax collection had historically been defined as an inherently governmental function, preventing private contractors from being able to bid on the work. However, Congress passed legislation mandating that the IRS use private collection agencies, and the program was restarted in April 2017 after two previous failures. Recent reports have found that the program is not fiscally sound, doesn’t adequately secure taxpayer data and unfairly preys on low-income taxpayers.