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Inherently Governmental Functions

ACON 038


Alternate Definition

An inherently governmental function is one that is so closely related to the public interest as to mandate performance by Federal Government employees.

General Information

The term “inherently governmental function” (IGF) is defined by OFPP Policy Letter 11-01 and is used when referring to a particular task or function that must be performed by a Government official. IGF is a policy term which encompasses those governance areas that require officials to exercise discretion, e.g., policy decision-making, performance/mission accountability, and execution of monetary transactions and entitlements. If a task or function is not determined to be inherently governmental, it may be eligible for performance by private sector contractors through a contract or other service arrangement. In general, Government policy limits contractors to the performance of common commercial services (custodial, aircraft maintenance, refuse removal, groundskeeping, etc.) and other services related to gathering information on its behalf for the purpose of advising, offering opinions, providing recommendations and/or presenting ideas. These types of services are not inherently governmental because they do not require contractors to establish Government policies, render actionable mission/organizational decisions, or expend taxpayer dollars.


To illustrate— A contracting officer’s authority to obligate Government funds on a contract represents discretionary decision-making and an outlay of taxpayer dollars. This responsibility and authority belongs to individuals who are employed by the U.S. Government and who execute their duties in accordance with the code of ethics for government service. Conversely, a contractor is primarily motivated to serve the interests of his or her private sector employer, and is presumed to have a lesser obligation or motivation to guard the public trust. Performance of custodial services, for example, by a contractor is not considered an IGF because it does not require decisions directly affecting the public welfare or expenditure of public monies.


From a procedural standpoint, the FAR and DFARS stipulate various written determinations required to document compliance with policies regarding IGF. Before submitting a service requirement for possible outsourcing, agency officials must assert in writing that their service requirements do not involve IGF (FAR 7.503(e)). For the DOD, specific policy implementing FAR 7.503(e) is contained at DFARS 207.503(e). The FAR provides a list of 20 examples of IGF (FAR 7.503(c)), as well as 19 which are closely associated with IGF (FAR 7.503(d)). The requiring activity and contracting officer must ensure that an IGF is not performed by anyone other than a Government official. Also, any issues related to potential conflicts of interest must be addressed. Additionally, OFPP policy 11-01 provides policy regarding “functions closely associated with the performance of inherently governmental functions” and, although not prohibiting contractor performance of these types of functions, it establishes guidance that requires agencies to give “special consideration” to hiring Federal employees for these types of positions and to minimize its reliance on positions determined to be “functions closely associated with the performance of inherently governmental functions.” Detailed examples of IGF and functions closely associated with performance of IGF are found in Appendix 11-01 of OFPP policy letter 11-01in addition to those found at FAR 7.503(c) and (d).


Within the Department of Defense, the “head of an agency may enter into a contract for performance of the acquisition functions closely associated with an IGF only if the contracting officer determines that appropriate military or civilian DoD personnel--


  • Cannot reasonably be made available to perform the functions;
  • Will oversee contractor performance of the contract; and
  • Will perform all inherently governmental functions associated with the functions to be performed under the contract;


-- and the contracting officer ensures that the agency addresses any potential organizational conflict of interest of the contractor in the performance of the functions under the contract” (see DFARS 207.503(S-70)).