House boosts agency spending in fiscal 2009 appropriations

The House passed the $410 billion fiscal 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act Feb. 25 to wrap up last year’s appropriations bills. The measure also has provisions to limit competitive sourcing and the use of contractors.

The bill (H.R. 1105) would fund departments that have been under a continuing resolution in this fiscal year. The resolution expires in March. The bill passed 245-178 and goes to the Senate.

The appropriations include:

  • $151.8 billion for labor, health and education.
  • $20.5 billion for agriculture, rural development and the Food and Drug Administration.
  • $57.7 billion for commerce, justice and science.
  • $33.3 billion for energy and water.
  • $22.7 billion for financial services and general government.
  • $27.6 billion for interior and the environment. 
  • $4.40 billion for the legislative branch.
  • $36.6 billion for state and foreign relations.
  • $55 billion for transportation and housing and urban development.

The proposed funding for each part of the bill would be an increase from fiscal 2008 spending levels.

In September 2008, President George W. Bush signed the fiscal 2009 Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance and Continuing Appropriations Act (H.R. 2638). It only funded the Defense and Homeland Security departments. The other departments remained at the same funding levels under the continuing resolutions. It included a continuing resolution after Bush and the Congress couldn’t agree on spending bills.

The new appropriations bill would continue to restrict competitive sourcing, which has federal employees compete against private companies for government work. Under this bill, agencies wouldn’t be able to apply any of these funds to begin or even announce a study regarding a conversion of federal work to contractors, as allowed in the Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76.

Meanwhile, the legislation would make it easier to agencies to pull work back into the agencies and away from contractors. It would require agencies to draw up guidelines for considering whether federal employees can do any new work and even perform work that contractors are currently doing.

During those reviews, agencies would have to consider if:

  • Government employees had done the work at any time during the past decade.
  • The work is close to inherently governmental work, which only federal employees are allowed to do.
  • The agency awarded the work to a company through a contract awarded without competition.
  • The new duties are similar to work federal employees have done in the past.

Agencies must have finished their guidelines four months after the bill becomes law, the bill states.

About the Author

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

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