Denett: Proposed bills include "poison pills" for competitive sourcing

Lawmakers are working on several major bills that could undermine the Bush administration's competitive-sourcing initiative, according to the government's top procurement official.

Language in those bills would make it difficult to create a fair environment in which federal employees and private companies compete for non-inherently governmental work.

“Unfortunately people in control of Congress have issues with competitive sourcing. They continue a drumbeat, saying it’s unfair for federal employees and that we go too far,” said Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, in a speech at the Government Electronic and Information Technology Association’s conference.

“I hope this Congress does not continue to slip what I term ‘poison pills’ in a variety of legislation, waving the flag of fairness for government employees,” he said.

Recently, the Senate included a provision in its Fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act that would level the playing field for civilian defense employees in public-private competitions conducted under the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76.

The bill would allow federal employees to appeal decisions to send work to private contractors and would prohibit departmental quotas for holding the competitions.

Competitive sourcing is an important tool, and “it’s one we should not be deprived of,” said Denett, who worked at five different departments before retiring to the private sector. He said he saw the benefits of competitive sourcing during his time at the departments.

People opposed to competitive sourcing say administration officials often outsource inherently governmental functions, Denett said, but that is not the case.

"Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. He points out that federal employees won 87 percent of competitions held in 2006 and 83 percent of competitions between 2003 and 2006.

As for the defense authorization bill, the Senate and House have passed their versions of the legislation and a group of senators and representatives are working out the differences.

The administration has said it opposes the bill.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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