Letters to the editor

Seeking a fair shake

I read with great interest your recent article "Summer winds of change" [Federal Computer Week, June 27] regarding the possibility of eliminating the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).

I am one of those people affected by this provision in the Social Security system. I am retired with about 32 years of civilian service in the Federal Civil Service Retirement System and about 25 years in nongovernment employment under the Social Security system. It has never seemed fair, after paying into both systems, that I will have my Social Security benefits so drastically reduced.

First, I believe my Social Security benefit reduction is about 40 percent. But there's another kicker. My wonderful, faithful wife stayed at home to raise our children, care for the home and do volunteer work.

Late in life, with the children grown, she worked outside the home, but did not have the required 40 quarters (10 years) of payments into Social Security. Therefore, although having paid into Social Security, she could not collect on her own record. She filed under my record of payments into Social Security. As such, her benefit was reduced by 50 percent of mine.

There is no place on earth better than the United States of America. I am not pleading hardship. I am only pointing out inequalities in our government benefit system.

Harold Cook
Cocoa Beach, Fla.

Look at the true costs of competition

I just finished reading the editorial "Making the important decision" [FCW, June 13]. It states that the Office of Management and Budget's "Report on Competitive Sourcing Results" for fiscal 2004 included "that every dollar spent on competitive sourcing that year will produce $20 in savings during the next five years."

I was left wondering if this includes the overhead of the competitive sourcing process. I see just the tip of the iceberg of what my agency does every year to comply with the competitive sourcing regulations.

I'm sure there are a lot more hours and other costs that are not visible. For example, every year the annual agency inventories are compiled, reviewed and sent up the chain. Who knows what happens then? All this is before a competition is even started.

The true cost of competitive sourcing should include these upfront costs. Then a determination can be made if competitive sourcing really saves any money.

Name withheld at the writer's request

Seeking GWAC precision

In your editorial "Rules of the road" [May 2], FCW continues to perpetuate the myth that there is an over-abundance of governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs) that operate without oversight and therefore need to be reined in.

Only four agencies are authorized by OMB to issue GWACs: the General Services Administration, NASA, the National Institutes of Health and the Commerce Department.

Only GSA has an abundance of GWACs. NASA and Commerce have one each and NIH only has a small number of interconnected ones. All four agencies report to OMB, which has full oversight and performs an annual re-certification process.

There is a proliferation of interagency contracts, which are often mistakenly described as GWACs. They, however, do not have OMB oversight and do not go through the OMB authorization process. By contrast, the number of agencies authorized to issue GWACs has decreased from five to four. It has not increased.

On a more direct point, the idea that GSA would provide guidance, monitoring and oversight seems a little strange because it was GSA — not NASA — NIH or Commerce that experienced the problems last year. In fact, the NASA Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement (SEWP) contract vehicle has a reputation for integrity and consistency centered on extensive automated and manual processes and a strong program management team.

SEWP has led the way in many areas that GSA and others are just now catching up with, including extensive customer training, easy-to-use online search and tools for requests for qualifications. Other examples include review of all items available on contract, and review of all orders issued against the contracts, partnering with contractors and government agencies to ensure contracts are consistent with Federal Acquisition Regulations and other regulations, spot discounting, encouraging the use of agency-specific policies and terms and conditions, annual recertification of small businesses, and others.

Although I would also argue that the majority of what GSA accomplishes is beneficial to the government, all of the GWACs provide their own assets. I would advocate that OMB continue to provide oversight, that publications such as yours do a better job of identifying and understanding the four GWAC agencies, and that the four GWAC agencies work together to provide mutual mentoring.

Joanne Woytek
SEWP program manager NASA


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