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The Hows and Whys of Government Agencies Working Together (A Chart)

We’ve seen many broad-scale solutions emerge from inter-governmental cooperation, particularly in the sciences, and government agencies doing business together in general serves a common good of reducing duplication of capabilities and bringing down the cost of government. However, government agencies have several legal and ethical considerations when creating partnerships, the most important of which is probably the idea that intra-government transactions cannot compete with the private sector. Once that standard is met, government agencies have many reasons “why” to collaborate, and a fairly clear path of “how” to partner.

Economy Act of 1932 permits federal agencies to purchase goods and services from other agencies.
>Can't compete with private sector
>Must serve best interest of government
>Fulfilling agency must be able to perform the work and ordering agency must have funds to pay for the work
Reduce duplication of effort and government spending: The Economy Act was established as part of a package of bills designed to help the country lift its way out of the Depression in the early 1930s. Specifically, the Economy Act of 1932 Title 31, was enacted to reduce duplication in government and to provide a legal means of interagency collaboration.
Determination Finding (D&F) is a statement written by contracting officer of requesting agency certifying that the work meets the criteria of the Economy ActAccess unique capabilities: Reimbursable funding allows agencies access to very specific types of facilities and capabilities that may not exist in the private sector. Special military test facilities, for instance, fall under this category.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes an agreement between the ordering agency and the serving agency specifying the types of tasks that will be performed. It is nonbinding and depending on the agency, establishes the overall framework for collaboration. Some agencies use it as a ceremonial agreement. Solve big problems: Government agencies work together to solve big social/societal issues that affect missions of multiple agencies. For instance, climate change is considered a major military threat. It is also of interest to USDA, Dept. of Commerce, and many other agencies. One agency will not solve this problem, but a coalition of agencies will.
An Interagency Agreement is typically used when funds will change hands. It includes a statement of work and discussion of funds. It is more formal and binding than an MOU in most cases. Preserve unique government functions: In some cases, critical core capabilities must be preserved with government agencies to ensure national security. Government agency cooperation maintains these core competencies, ensuring their availability when a crisis arises.

Some Resources (not a comprehensive list):
USDA’s guidance on Economy Act orders

DoD’s guidance on Economy Act orders

NOAA document on MOUs and agreements

Treasury Department’s guidance on IAAs