IT industry cries foul

Information technology organizations are banding together to oppose a controversial

bill in Congress that they say could derail the growing movement toward

federal IT outsourcing and, they claim, possibly even shut down critical

functions of the government.

And although officials close to the legislation say the bill likely

will not pass this year, IT officials are concerned over its chances in

the next Congress.

The Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting (TRAC)

Act is designed to force federal agencies to more effectively track outsourcing

costs and savings and to force contracting competitions between government

workers and the private sector.

Supporters say the measure will protect government jobs while saving

taxpayer dollars, but critics rebut that it will bring outsourcing to a

screeching halt, waste taxpayer dollars and maybe even force the federal

government to shut down.

Sections of the bill that have sparked controversy include:

* A temporary prohibition on all government outsourcing unless a waiver

is signed by the Office of Management and Budget.

* A requirement that all future contracting include a competition between

the public and private sectors.

* A mandatory cost-savings analysis of current contracts and the implication

that contracts with less than a 10 percent savings be canceled.

Two versions of the bill currently exist, one in the House and another

in the Senate. Two unions, the American Federation of Government Employees

and the AFL-CIO, support the bill.

AFGE President Bobby Harnage said in a recent news release, "The public

has a right to reliable and accountable public services. The TRAC Act will

help ensure that America's taxpayers get just that. This bill simply holds

contractors accountable to the same standards as federal employees."

Meanwhile, the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), the

Contract Services Association and the Professional Services Council all

strongly oppose the bill and are considering writing a letter to lawmakers

that signals their opposition.

"The TRAC bill would prevent agencies from awarding new outsourcing

contracts until they can demonstrate cost savings and other benefits. This

would likely take years, if it could be accomplished at all. Introduced

at a time when a majority of federal [IT] employees are eligible for retirement

and agencies are struggling to find qualified technical personnel, the bill

has the potential to slow — if not cripple — critical government programs,"

ITAA President Harris Miller wrote in an Aug. 24 letter to Congress.

The bill has more than 190 co-sponsors in the House, mostly Democrats,

and 12 in the Senate, all Democrats, including vice presidential candidate

Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Supporters are seeking 218 House co-

sponsors because that number would ensure passage should the bill reach

a vote on the House floor.

But the bill is not expected to pass this year, in part because even

among co-sponsors support is seen more as an attempt to send a message to

the Defense Department and other agencies to quell their outsourcing movements

rather than as a real desire to make it law. But the large number of co-sponsors

is still causing concerns.

"Many of the co-sponsors have told us that they added their names since

the bill will not pass. My question to them, however, would be, what about

next year? How do you sponsor a bill one year, but then decline to sponsor

it again?" said Olga Grkavac, an executive vice president at ITAA.

Proponents of the bill say it's all about fairness. "It's about giving

people an opportunity to compete. Federal employees deserve an opportunity

to compete and to continue to perform functions they currently perform,

and the taxpayers deserve to know what the government is spending on those

functions," said a staff member for Lieberman.

George Sigalos, a spokesman for the Contract Services Association,

said his organization is taking a wait-and-see approach. "Regardless of whether

it's a Republican or Democratic Congress, it obviously will be a completely

different legislative environment," he said. "Either way, we'll take it

on again at that time."

Featured

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.