Congress reins in Defense job cuts

Congress pared down a proposal by the House to slash the Defense Department acquisition work force by 100 000 during the next three years to just 25 000 this fiscal year in the final version of the Defense authorization bill approved by the House and Senate last month. This summer the House version of the DOD authorization act called for slashing the DOD acquisition work force by 40 000 workers a year in fiscal 1998 and fiscal 1999 with another 22 000 cut from the work force in fiscal 2000.

While the conference committee stepped back from those broad cuts language in the conference report indicated that Congress expects more cuts in the future. It mandates the Pentagon to develop a plan to streamline and improve acquisition organization throughout DOD suggesting that opportunities exists for "cross-service cross-functional arrangements within the military services and Defense agencies" as well as "alternative organizational arrangements that capitalize on core competencies among military services and Defense agencies."

In other personnel actions the authorization act cut the number of headquarters personnel in DOD and services by about 12 500 in fiscal 1998. The bill also imposed a 5 percent cut on headquarters staffing in the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base Ill. as well as its subordinate commands including the Air Force Air Mobility Command the Military Sealift Command the Army Military Traffic Management Command and the Defense Courier Service.

The final version of the authorization act also repealed a requirement that all federal agencies use the Federal Acquisition Computer Network (FACNET) for electronic procurement and it mandated use of streamlined procedures for purchases less than $2 500. An amendment to repeal the requirement was added to the Senate version of the authorization bill in July in response to a General Accounting Office report that concluded agencies were unhappy with the system and were developing alternative ones [FCW July 14].

Bob Dornan senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc. McLean Va. said industry would probably welcome the repeal of the FACNET mandate because many of his clients in the vendor community found it "too complex to use. It never met expectations."

Repeal "Expected"

Olga Grkavac senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America said "the repeal of FACNET was expected."

Dornan said the language on streamlined micro-purchases supports the use of government credit cards and federal agencies have already warmly embraced the use of credit cards for purchases under $2 500."Card use is just exploding " Dornan said adding that he believed that agencies will easily meet the congressional mandate of using credit cards for 90 percent of micro-purchases by 2000.

The fate of these provisions was still undecided at deadline last week. President Clinton threatened to veto the bill due to restrictions on supercomputer exports according to Grkavac who added that the Texas and California delegations fought to defer any action on the bill due to language covering military depot maintenance operations in those two states.

Civilian users of the Global Positioning System gained ground in the authorization act. While DOD has tacitly acknowledged the widespread industry that has developed around GPS the Pentagon has always wanted to reserve the right to degrade the civilian signal and strictly limit the use of augmentation systems such as the Federal Aviation Administration's plans to aid air traffic control.

The conference report solidly endorsed "continuation of the multiple-use character of GPS " and called for "a coordinated effort within the executive branch to seek to establish [GPS] and augmentations to the system as a worldwide resource " marking the first time Congress has backed projects such as the FAA Wide-Area Augmentation System.

The bill also backed efforts by civilian users and proposals by independent bodies such as the National Research Council to ensure that the Pentagon does not degrade the civilian GPS signal. The bill report called on DOD to "develop appropriate measures for preventing hostile use of GPS so as to make it unnecessary" to degrade the signal.

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