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Policy Statement 138 - Engineering Services for Government Agencies

Approved by the Engineering Practice Policy Committee on March 21, 2013
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 4, 2013
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 12, 2013

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) believes it is appropriate that civil engineers employed both in the public and private sectors are allowed to perform engineering functions and tasks for government agencies.  It is in the best public interest for federal, state and local government agencies performing engineering to maintain expertise within their organizations by employing civil engineers and providing for their professional development.  It is also in the public interest for federal, state, and local government agencies not to compete with engineers in private practice.  Public sector engineering projects that can be accomplished more efficiently by private engineering firms should be contracted out with proper oversight by the public agency.  The resulting ratio of in house to contracted engineering services should be based upon the agency's on going project and policy requirements rather than rigid rules or percentages fixed by legislation or regulation.

Issue

During the process of authorizing, funding, and administering government engineering tasks and projects, concerns often arise regarding:

  • The appropriate levels of in house engineering staff for government agencies;
  • The need for government engineers to develop and maintain technical engineering skills;
  • The need for government engineers to be registered professional engineers;
  • The level of involvement by private engineering firms in government engineering projects; and,
  • Whether executive, administrative, or legislative controls or guidelines should be established setting a fixed percentage of an agency’s work to be contracted out to private engineering firms.

Rationale

Government agencies should maintain staffs of experienced and highly qualified licensed engineers to plan, develop, and maintain public works and environmental programs; to perform in house engineering functions, tasks, and projects; to manage and oversee work contracted out to private engineering firms and to maintain the mission and services legislatively mandated for the government agency.  Long range programs are unique to each agency and require continuity of agency engineers.  
 
Consideration of the public interest, cost-efficiency and effectiveness are important in decisions regarding the use of in-house government or private engineering firms.  The history of the civil engineering profession has clearly shown that the public is best served, the public trust maintained, and the mission of the government agency achieved by an effective blending of engineering services performed by in-house government engineers and private engineering firms.

ASCE Policy Statement 138
First Approved pre-1974