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Practitioner's Perspective—Improving Sourcing Decisions


Jonathan D. Breul is executive director of the IBM Center for The Business of Government, a partner in IBM Global Business Services, and an adjunct professor in Georgetown University's graduate Public Policy Institute.


Federal departments and agencies increasingly rely on services to accomplish their missions. “Sourcing” refers to how government departments and agencies obtain the services they need to solve their mission delivery requirements and how those decisions are reached. Determining whether to obtain required services using federal employees or contracts with the private sector is an important legal, policy, economic, and strategic decision. The impact of decisions on the total federal workforce, both in house and those under contract, is profound. This article describes the issue of “sourcing,” provides definitions and distinctions regarding some often confusing (and confused) terms, and suggests the possibility of new forms of sourcing. The author concludes that sourcing should not be subject to a rigid pursuit of sterile, ideological orthodoxy. Instead, sourcing requires a reasoned and thoughtful approach, tempered with pragmatism. The proper balance of these characteristics will vary across agencies because each has a different mission, structure, funding mix, and workforce.