Public Contract Law Journal

To Deal or Not to Deal: Can Circular A-76 Be Made Great Again?

by Connor G. Luff

Connor G. Luff (cluff@law.gwu.edu) is a 2018 graduate of The George Washington University Law School and a Notes Editor of the Public Contract Law Journal. The author would like to thank his Note editors, his professors, and his family for their continuous support and insights. The author would also like to thank his loving fiance´e for her undying support and patience throughout this entire experience.


I. Introduction

In its prime, Walter Reed Army Medical Center1 was one of the top military medical facilities in the country.2 From presidents to soldiers, it treated a number of historic and famous military personnel and civil servants.3 But in early 2007, The Washington Post published a series of articles exposing the hospital’s declining reputation.4 The articles’ revelations were stunning.5 Hospital staff mistreated and mismanaged suffering soldiers by losing paperwork and quartering them in deplorable conditions,6 often leaving them to care for themselves.7

In response to The Washington Post articles, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates created a special Independent Review Group to investigate the validity of the articles’ claims and recommend necessary changes.8 The Group found that at the time of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, Walter Reed suffered from the “simultaneous occurrence” of three issues: (1) “the decision of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission;”9 (2) “[the] pressure to outsource traditional military service functions through [Circular] A-76;”10 and (3) “military to civilian personnel conversions.”11 The Group described the convergence of these issues as “the Perfect Storm.”12

The latter two elements of this “Perfect Storm” fell under the scope of government procurement.13 The Group found many issues at Walter Reed derived from Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Circular A-76 directive, a government procurement policy that directed federal agencies to subject federal jobs to competition with the private sector.14 The Group determined that Circular A-76 forcedWalter Reed management to place heavy emphasis on “outsourc[ing] traditional military service functions” to the private sector.15 The Group also highlighted the conversion of military personnel to civilian personnel as problematic, a derivative effect of the outsourcing emphasis.16 The Washington Post’s investigation, coupled with the Group’s report, sparked a nationwide debate about Circular A-76 and competitive sourcing of government jobs.17

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