Letters to the editor

Defending Interior

Although Interior Department Secretary Gale Norton did not create the unfortunate American Indian trust fund problems, you are correct to note that it is her job to fix the mess that has been a plague for more than 100 years. That is exactly what has been taking place since the Bush administration assumed office.

Judge Royce Lamberth's recent contempt ruling is based on facts in a trial that ended in February 2002. Regrettably, both his ruling and your article ["Interior management slammed," FCW, Sept. 23] fail to take into account measurable accomplishments Interior has achieved. For example:

n There has been unprecedented consultation between Interior and American Indian officials involving hundreds of hours of consultation by senior department officials. Indian tribal leaders have acknowledged that this type of collaboration has not been seen in modern times.

n Norton established a new Office of Historical Trust Accounting to complete historical accounting for individual and tribal Indian accounts. In less than a year, the office has completed accounting for 11,609 accounts.

n Norton has requested for fiscal 2003 a record $83.6 million in spending increases for trust management and accounting. This includes a 44 percent increase for the office that oversees trust activities.

Last, Judge Lamberth's decision against the Office of the Secretary was not against Norton personally. In fact, some of his ruling focused only on events that transpired before she took office.

Interior, under Norton's leadership, is committed to building on the progress made in helping solve the long-standing problems associated with Indian trust accounts.

Eric Ruff Director of communications Interior Department

Big Problem for Small Business

I am a loyal reader of FCW and a former Air Force contracting officer and small-business advocate.

I would like to address an issue covered by Carl Peckinpaugh in his Sept. 16 column ["Sizing up small biz laws"] — the issue of General Services Administration schedule holders being able to retain their small-business status on the GSA schedules when they have long since become large businesses. This is a real problem for GSA schedule holders that truly are small companies and cannot often compete with large businesses due to economies of scale.

I think the fact that Part 6 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation gives an exception to small-business considerations for schedule buys also is anti-small business. One of our biggest nemeses is a company shown as a small business in GSA Advantage and as a large business on all of its contracts.

I can't see the GSA Federal Supply Service caring much about this (it's their bread and butter), but I would certainly think the Small Business Administration and the General Accounting Office should.

This seems to be a conflict between acquisition streamlining and small-business regulations, and I think something really needs to be done about it.

Debbie Gallegos IPI GrammTech Ltd.

Outsource TSP

I have read Milt Zall's comments on the Thrift Savings Plan ["TSP anticipation," Sept. 16]. My wife owns a small company with four employees. They have a 401(k) plan in which they can select from among 30 investment plans with strategies ranging from conservative to aggressive. When they want to transfer their money from one plan to another, they call or go online to request a change. It takes effect the next morning, if not the same day.

If a small company of four can have that kind of investment support, why in heaven's name do the feds have to develop their own system instead of using one of what must be a plethora of commercial investment plans available?

I think it is laughable that they tried to con Civil Service Retirement System people into moving into the Federal Employees Retirement System by pointing to the stock market performance. It wasn't too long afterward that the market went into a hyper nosedive.

Neither the TSP board nor the contractor(s) will stop blaming each other. And they want us to retire on that?

For all the talk about outsourcing "nongovernmental" jobs to contractors, I think this task is a classic case for outsourcing to private firms. I am surprised that no one has suggested this.

Steve McNeil Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command System Center San Diego

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