In March, the American Consulting Engineers Council (ACEC) and the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS) teamed up in their fight against unfair government competition for engineering, mapping and construction business. The two groups met with members of Congress to request the termination of inappropriate government competition with the private sector, which they say is unnecessary since the private sector is capable of fulfilling most requests.

At the 10th annual Federal Programs Conference, MAPPS President Kass Green said it is estimated that less than 30 percent of the $1 billion spent annually by the federal government on mapping related activities is performed by private contractors. “Government ought to do those things that individual citizens and companies in our free enterprise system cannot do for themselves,” Green said. “We not only have to compete with the government for the work, but we compete for the employees.” Green urged Congress to take decisive action “to get government out of business and into governing.”

The ACEC focused its argument on the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps). They and other industry organizations submitted a statement claiming that the Corps drifts from its definable “core mission.”

“We believe that civilian programs, not related to our vital security infrastructure and which can be best handled by local communities through the use of private contractors, are not in the province of the Corps Ômission.’ There is no clearer example of the Corps’ inappropriate involvement in the civilian arena than the fact that the services it is seeking to provide are redundant and easily available from the private sector. However, by providing them, the Corps is placing itself in competition with the private sector.” According to ACEC President Leo F. Peters, the private sector can do work faster, better and cheaper.

ACEC and others asked Congress to review the Corps’ compliance with the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act (31 U.S.C. 6505) and OMB Circular A-97. The Act authorizes federal agencies to provide services to state and local government but “the services prescribed must be consistent with and further the policy of the United States Government of relying on the private enterprise system to provide services reasonably and quickly available through ordinary business channels.” ACEC suggests the Corps is in violation of the Act and Circular A-97.

MAPPS decided against joining with the ACEC, according to John Palatiello, MAPPS executive director. Instead, it asked members how their efforts should be focused. The vote was split between nurturing a satisfactory relationship with government agencies and continuing to work to outsource jobs to the private sector. The government agencies that need to increase outsourcing include NOAA, NASA, the Forest Service, BLM and state DOTs that receive Federal Highway Administration funds.

MAPPS requests more funding for programs utilizing the private sector, specifically for outsourcing services through NIMA, USGS and NOAA. MAPPS urges Congress to include $7.5 million for data processing of the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), which will be outsourced; to increase the USGS Mapping Data Collection and Integration line item by $10 million; and to include an additional $5.2 million private sector work each year in FY 01-03 in the Defense Appropriations Bill. MAPPS also requests Congress to provide $37 million for contracting with the private sector for hydrographic surveying and instructs NOAA to utilize not less than 70 percent of its funds for performance by contracting with the private sector.

MAPPS’ recommendations have been collected as the FAIR Act Amendment of 2000, which has been introduced into the Senate and the House of Representatives. As yet, there has been no formal response from the government agencies.