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Policy Statement 138 - Engineering Services for Government Agencies

 

Approved by the Engineering Practice Policy Committee on March 15, 2018
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 6, 2018
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 13, 2018

Policy

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) believes that licensed professional engineers employed both in the public and private sectors should perform engineering functions and tasks for government agencies. It is in the best public interest for agencies performing engineering at all levels of government to maintain expertise within their organizations by employing civil engineers and providing for their professional development. It is also in the best public interest for public sector engineering projects that can be accomplished more efficiently by private engineering firms to be contracted to them with a public agency providing oversight. The amount of project work performed by each agency should be based on the technical capability and the number of projects that it can successfully manage. There should not be legislation or regulation that requires a ratio or percentage of services to be executed by public organization staff and private sector staff.

Issue

During the process of authorizing, funding, and administering government engineering tasks and projects, concerns may 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 licensed professional engineers in the jurisdiction where the services are provided;
  • 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.

These concerns often focus on public employment levels as well as the ideas of competitive balance between the public and private engineering sectors, rather than the need to have well-trained, publicly-employed engineers whose primary responsibility is to see that public projects protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, and assure that public funds are expended properly and wisely. 

Rationale

Government agencies should maintain staffs of experienced and qualified licensed professional 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 to private engineering firms and to maintain the mission and services legislatively mandated for the government agency. Publicly-employed engineers provide oversight to assure that there is an effective and efficient interface between engineering and the public interest.  

Consideration of the public interest, cost-efficiency and effectiveness are important in deciding whether government agency personnel or private engineering firms provide engineering services on public projects. 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 best achieved through an effective blending of engineering services performed by in-house government engineers and private engineering firms.

ASCE Policy Statement 138
First Approved pre-1974



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