Debating competitive sourcing

Foes of the Bush administration's policy of competitively sourcing jobs in the federal workplace make no bones about their presidential contest choice: Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

"This is a class war about silver spoon George Bush and the regular working man in this country," said Richard Laubach, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 2419. "I only hope and pray that we'll see him gone very shortly."

In a speech last April, Kerry pledged to reduce government contractors by 100,000, a vow that Kerry's campaign representatives say is an implicit criticism of the Bush administration's competitive sourcing efforts. "The policy has become an end in and of itself, that in the long run will cost taxpayers more money, not less," campaign officials said in a prepared statement. "That is why he is proposing to cut the number of contractors."

But election-year oratory could bump up against presidential reality, according to some political observers who predict that competitive sourcing is not likely to go away.

A recent Office of Management and Budget report states that completed competitive sourcing studies will save the government $1.1 billion during the next three to five years. Although some critics dispute the study's conclusion, others say it might be impossible for any administration during a tight budget era to turn its back on a cost-saving policy.

"You can't put the [competitive sourcing] genie back in the bottle," said Robert Atkinson, vice president of the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), an offshoot of the Democratic Leadership Council. Atkinson also sits on a policy team that advises the Kerry campaign on government reform.

Whether competitive sourcing has become an inevitable part of the government landscape is still being debated. One union official called its certainty wishful thinking by proponents. But Kerry advisers said contractors will continue to play a role in government. Under a Kerry administration, "you won't go back to an old model where everything is done by government employees," Atkinson said.

However, campaign advisers said Kerry would put less emphasis on competitive sourcing. "No one is questioning whether contractors...can save us money," said Paul Weinstein, PPI's chief operating officer and co-chairman of Kerry's government reform advisory committee.

As president, Kerry would shift the cost-savings drive away from competitive sourcing, and he would order fewer studies, Atkinson said. The Bush administration's approach to reinventing government "is pretty much a single note," he added.

Before new studies could commence, the administration would first conduct

an exhaustive inventory of existing

contracts, Weinstein said. "We don't have, right now, a good sense or understanding [of] how many contracts there are, what they all do, how much they're saving us," he said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group