Senators oppose outsourcing changes

Calling proposed changes to federal outsourcing rules "biased in favor of contractors," 35 Democratic senators this week sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget opposing proposed changes to OMB's Circular A-76.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) led the effort. Other senators who signed the letter include Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.)

The public comment period on the proposed rules is officially closed, and the final rules will come out in "a few weeks," according to Angela Styles, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at OMB, in recent remarks at a meeting of the Coalition for Government Procurement.

The proposed changes would limit the kinds of work that agencies could consider suitable only for government staff to perform and would force them to open more jobs to private-sector bidders.

The senators expressed their concern that federal employees would suffer as the new rules move about 850,000 jobs into the private sector.

The letter, addressed to OMB Director Mitch Daniels Jr., urged that no work be privatized without giving federal workers a chance to compete.

However, "We are concerned that even when there is competition, the new rules are biased in favor of contractors," the senators wrote. They also expressed concern about a lack of accountability for contractors.

In comments sent to OMB, business representatives have largely supported the proposed changes, which could throw more businesses their way. Agencies, however, have chafed at many of the proposals, saying they are unrealistic and burdensome.

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