Senate opens door for A-76 protests

Federal employees could have broader power to protest competitive sourcing decisions under legislation that the Senate passed today.

The legislation came in response to a General Accounting Office determination that federal employees do not have standing to protest decisions to GAO under the Competition in Contracting Act. It enables an employee-chosen representative to protest when agency leaders choose to hire private contractors to perform work that federal employees had previously done. Such competitions are commonly called A-76 competitions, a reference to the Office of Management and Budget circular that governs them.

Senate Governmental Affairs Committee chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Carl Levin (D-Mich.) co-sponsored the legislation. It is now an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill currently under debate in the Senate.

According to the proposal, either the Agency Tender Official — the person who prepares the bid for a group of employees — or a representative chosen by the federal employees could file protest with GAO. Some industry groups favor limiting the protest power to the Agency Tender Official.

In April, the GAO held that federal employees lack standing to file protests with the GAO in A-76 competitions. Comptroller General David Walker urged Congress to address the issue and to consider legislation that would amend the Competition in Contracting Act.

"Our legislation will strengthen the competitive sourcing program by leveling the playing field for all parties," Collins said in a statement.

"It is basic fairness that the public side of a public/private competition should have the same appeal rights as the private side of the competition," Levin said in a statement. "Our amendment will take an important step in providing that fairness."

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