Bills 'brake' outsourcing

H.R.4722

Those of you who are not enamored with the outsourcing of government jobs

will be pleased to learn that legislation passed recently by the Senate

will curb federal outsourcing.

The legislation calls for the creation of a panel to determine whether

federal privatization rules should be changed. In the House, two bills pending

would halt virtually all outsourcing activity.

The Senate's 2001 Defense authorization bill contains an amendment added

by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) that requires the head of the General Accounting

Office — the comptroller general — to appoint and lead a panel to submit

a final report to Congress. The panel would be made up of government, industry

and labor representatives and would review government privatization rules

and make recommendations for changes.

The Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76 contains the current

rules for federal outsourcing. A-76 calls for federal employees and a contractor

to compete for a project. If it would be less expensive to have work done

by a contractor, the function is outsourced.

The problem with this procedure is that it doesn't require agencies

to bring a function back in-house if the cost of contracting it out rises.

So contractors enter a low bid to get the function outsourced and then raise

their prices. It's incredible how dumb government agencies can be.

Although the proposal made by Warner is not in the House version of

the Defense authorization bill, there is a good chance that it will be included

in the final Defense authorization bill before Congress recesses this year.

In the House, Rep. James Saxton (R-N.J.) introduced a bill (H.R. 4722) that

bans additional DOD outsourcing. The ban is for a five-year period that

ends when Congress finishes base closures that were called for in 1995.

According to Saxton's bill, "There is conflicting evidence that the

current privatization and outsourcing efforts of the Defense Department

are reducing the cost of support functions within the department." That's

the understatement of the year. Saxton's proposal also requires DOD to prepare

a report to Congress that details the saving that the department has achieved

by outsourcing jobs. The report would cover jobs contracted out since 1996.

I can't wait to see that report!

Another bill (H.R. 3766) requires agencies to stop outsourcing federal

jobs unless they can prove that doing so will save money. This bill is titled

the Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting Act and

has more than 180 co-sponsors in the House. Sen. Charles Robb (D-Va.) plans

to introduce a similar bill in the Senate.

Bobby Harnage, the president of the American Federation of Government

Employees, praised those actions, which is no surprise. DOD wants to open

more than 230,000 jobs to competition by 2005, with hopes of saving more

than $10 billion. Maybe this flurry of legislation will stop DOD dead in

its tracks. Let's hope so.

—Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus

column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at miltzall@starpower.net.

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