Bill increases room for protests

Revised Circular A-76

A new bill would expand the right of federal employees to protest competitive sourcing decisions under the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76.

The legislation came after General Accounting Office officials ruled in April that, under the law, federal employees lack standing to file protests with the GAO. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) introduced the bill. Collins chairs the Governmental Affairs Committee, while Levin is ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.

Under the bill, two federal officials would have the right to protest: the Agency Tender Official, who is the designated official in charge of developing the employee group's bid; and a representative chosen by the employees.

The issue of who should have protest rights is one of the more controversial aspects of A-76 competitions. Industry groups, including the Professional Services Council, advocate limiting such rights to the tender official. Federal employee unions urge broader protest rights for employees.

"The ATO has very little incentive to protest something that his employer decided," said Susan Grundmann, general counsel for the National Federation of Federal Employees. The ATO is subject to internal political pressures, she said.

"If you give standing to the ATO, it's a win for the agency," she said. "If you give standing to the employee rep, it's a win for the union."

Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) co-sponsored the legislation with Collins and Levin.

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