Letters to the Editor

Level Playing Field

Steve Kelman's column deriding two pending small-business procurement bills in the House fails to take into account that the American taxpayer for whom he expresses such concern fundamentally wants a level playing field — in this case, a fair go at the federal marketplace for all players, large and small ["A pair of misguided bills," FCW, Sept. 18].

This desire is not served well by contract bundling. Here's why:

    * Savings don't automatically flow to the government just because there are two or three contracts instead of 10 or 20. Overhead for managing large contracts and large numbers of subcontracts increases as contracts grow in size. Those increased overhead costs get passed along to the government. Has Mr. Kelman forgotten the outrage expressed in the 1980s over $400 toilet seats?

    * Bundling drives small businesses from the federal marketplace. Fewer bidders means less competition. Less competition always leads to higher prices in the long run.

    * Bundling also fundamentally reduces the control small businesses can exercise over their own future by forcing them into a subcontractor role. On large, bundled indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity and government-wide acquisition contracts, small businesses increasingly complain that their firms are used as window dressing to win the contract but are squeezed out of expected work by the primes and other team members after the contract is awarded.

Beyond price and efficiency issues, is it ultimately in the government's — and the prime's — best interest to shrink the federal industrial base by driving thousands of small businesses out of federal contracting? There may be a price we are willing to pay for the security of greater choice.

Acknowledging procurement efficiencies instituted by Mr. Kelman during his tenure at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, we nonetheless need to remember that the federal government does not exist to maximize profit. Government must address other, important social priorities that are not served by bundling, like guaranteeing equality of opportunity.

Paul Murphy

President

Eagle Eye Publishers Inc.

High or Low?

I read the Bureaucratus column "What protection?" in FCW's Sept. 18 issue and must take exception. Zall decries the fact that only 18 percent of the cases that reach the Merit Systems Protection Board are adjudicated in favor of the employee.

I believe that number probably reflects errors in procedure by management with a few wrongly accused personnel. Most of the people who are being fired, suspended, etc., have done something that warrants the action taken against them. Why does Zall think the agencies are persecuting their employees?

Usually action is only taken against the very worst. If 18 percent of the employees have the action overturned, I maintain that is a high number, not a low one!

Jim Wise

Pride in Workforce

This is in response to the letter in the Oct. 2 issue that was titled "Clearing the Way for Contractors."

I am tired of being looked upon as being renowned for "sloth" and having an "attitude for noncompetitiveness" that is "holding our country back," as the writer stated in his letter.

This attitude starts at the highest levels in our government and with our Congress. We are doing what the legislation passed by Congress and signed by the president requires us to do.

I realize that some of this disdain has been earned, but it is not the case any longer. I have worked for the government for close to 40 years and am proud of what I have accomplished and what my organization is now accomplishing.

The division I manage has taken approximately a 50 percent workforce cut in the past nine years, and we are doing the job better and have assumed more responsibilities than before the cuts. We have accomplished this because of the advances in automation, by working smarter and by having a very dedicated workforce.

On top of this, we are now under an A-76 study that will require us to take at least another 30 percent cut if we expect to keep our jobs. I do not see how the government employee of today is slothful or noncompetitive. We want to the best job possible with the minimum of waste.

Ned Sworts

Division Manager

Defense Department

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