Senate anti-outsourcing provision raises ire

An industry group and the White House are protesting a Senate amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2004, which would prohibit conversion of any FAA facilities or functions from federal to private-sector performance.

The Senate passed the bill, S. 824, June 12. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., was approved by a 56-41 vote. The White House has threatened a veto if the provision is included in final legislation approved by Congress.

"Such restrictions are unnecessary and would hinder the FAA's ability to manage the air traffic control system," the White House said June 12 in a Statement of Administration Policy.

Lautenberg said the administration has used the "obscure" Circular A-76 process, which lays out rules for public-private competition of government work, in order to reclassify most air traffic control work from "inherently governmental" functions that cannot be outsourced to "commercial" functions that can be sent to the private sector. He said the amendment would prevent outsourcing of air traffic control jobs.

"One thing we learned from 9-11 is that the public does not want private contractors responsible for the safety and security of air travelers," Lautenberg said.

The Professional Services Council opposed the amendment, saying it prohibits the FAA from conducting public-private competitions to determine the best source for the performance of commercial work that is connected to, but not at the core of, air traffic control and support.

"This is about access to essential technology services to make the skies safer," said Stan Soloway, president of PSC, an Arlington, Va., group representing companies providing services to the federal government, including information technology and engineering.

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