Q: How do agencies decide which jobs to put up for competition?
A: They inventory jobs that are considered "commercial," such as cafeteria and maintenance work.
Q: How many jobs are eligible for competition?
A: In 2003, the White House estimated that 858,000 federal jobs were commercial and about half were ripe for competition.
Q: How does the process work?
A: Agencies decide which jobs contractors may bid on. The federal employees who do the work assemble their own in-house bid. Often a few of them are assigned full time to work on it, sometimes with the help of outside consultants. Taxpayers pick up the tab.
Q: How is a winner determined?
A: To win, a contractor must show savings of $10 million or 10 percent savings over current in-house costs.
Q: How long does the process take?
A: Competitions range from a few months to two years.
Q: What happens when federal employees lose?
A: In most cases, they can apply for jobs with the contractor.
Sources: Office of Management and Budget, Washington Post research