Amendment would level competitive-sourcing playing field

The Defense Authorization bill passed by the Senate Oct. 1 includes provisions that would restrict competitions between private contractors and government employees for federal work, a practice the Bush administration advocates as a way to save money.

An amendment Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) added to the Fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act seeks to level the playing field for civilian defense employees in public/private competition, known as competitive sourcing under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76. Kennedy's Fair Competition Amendment would allow federal employees to appeal decisions to send work to private contractors and would not allow Defense Department officials to consider the cost of health and retirement benefits in bids.

Kennedy also aims to give more authority to DOD. His amendment would prohibit quotas for holding competitions while giving DOD officials the authority to decide whether to put work up for competition. In addition, DOD managers would decide if they wanted to extend a contract awarded by public employees. Currently, DOD requires another competition at the end of the contract.

"This is a victory for fairness," Kennedy said in a statement.

The Bush administration has praised the savings and benefits of competitive sourcing. In a statement, administration officials said DOD saved more than $5 billion because of competition done between 2001 and 2006. The officials expect that number to increase by more than $4 billion after DOD finishes all the planned competitions started in 2007.

When competing against the private sector, federal employees won most often. Agencies selected federal employees to perform 87 percent of the work competed in 2006, according to a competitive sourcing report by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

However, President Bush may still veto the bill because the administration opposes many other provisions in the House and Senate versions of the authorization measure.

Kennedy's amendment passed the Senate 51 to 44. The overall bill passed 92 to 3 and now goes to a conference committee, which will work out the differences between the versions.

Matthew Weigelt writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

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

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