Proposal seeks to bar A-76

Two proposed amendments to the Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill could effectively block the Office of Management and Budget's ability to enforce its competitive sourcing rules during fiscal 2004.

The amendments would forbid OMB, which is funded through the bill, from using its appropriations to carry out Circular A-76. The circular governs the designation of federal jobs as either inherently governmental or commercial.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to his colleagues urging them to oppose the proposals.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) plans a sweeping amendment that would forbid OMB to use its funding to implement A-76. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) plans a more selective amendment that would only block certain parts of the circular.

In his attempt to quell support for the expected amendments, Davis said that competitive sourcing leads to better values for taxpayers, regardless of who wins the competitions.

"Competitive sourcing is not the same as outsourcing or privatization," he wrote. "Its purpose is neither to downsize the workforce nor to contract the jobs out. It is about harnessing the benefits of competition to produce superior performance for the taxpayer, regardless of who performs the services."

The new A-76 is not as benign as the older law, Van Hollen said in his own letter to colleagues. Under the new version, the number of competitions won by federal employees could decrease from around 60 percent to as little as 10 percent, he said.

David Goldenberg, senior legislative assistant in Hastings' office, said Hastings' amendment would forbid OMB to use the funds to conduct new inventories of commercial and governmental jobs. It would also bar use of A-76's streamlined competition process.

"There's nothing stopping the government from using the inventories it already has," Goldenberg said. "There's nothing preventing the government from using the standard competition process. My boss feels like it's a fair compromise. It gives federal employees a fair shake."

Lawmakers have recently seemed more willing to resist the Bush administration's agenda, said Richard Brown, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees. "Of course, you're coming into an election year," he said. "The federal employees are not going to forget what has happened, and they'll act accordingly at the polls. What we're seeing now is politicians on both sides of the aisle go against the president's initiatives."

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