President Bush will likely veto the $90 billion 2004
Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill if the final version
includes language impeding his administration's competitive
sourcing initiative, the Office of Management and Budget said
When the House resumes debate over the bill (H.R. 2989) on
Tuesday, Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
plan to offer amendments limiting competitive sourcing efforts at
federal agencies. These amendments would “short circuit” Bush's
A-76 initiative at a time when “numerous agencies are starting to
make real progress in this area,” OMB said in a policy statement.
Hastings' amendment would keep OMB from using appropriated
funds to develop inventories of “inherently governmental”
positions. The amendment would also block funds for running
streamlined competitions, evaluating non-information
technology-related bids under the “best value” method, and forcing
in-house teams to re-compete for work at regular intervals.
to the A-76 Circular governing public-private competitions,
OMB outlined new rules for streamlined competitions involving
fewer than 65 full-time-equivalent positions. The new rules
required in-house agency teams winning competitions to re-bid work
at regular intervals and tweaked the “best value” competition
process, also called the “tradeoff” process. The revised best
value method requires agencies to place a greater emphasis on cost
when evaluating project bids.
Van Hollen plans to introduce an amendment requiring OMB to
rethink these and other measures in the revised circular. His
amendment would force agencies receiving Treasury, Transportation
or general appropriations to play by the old competitive sourcing
rules until OMB comes up with new A-76 revisions that satisfy
agencies and contractors.
Bush's advisers will encourage him to veto the appropriations
bill if the final version includes such amendments, the OMB policy
The competitive sourcing initiative, one component of a broader
five-part management agenda, “seeks to improve the performance of
government services based on the common sense principle of
competition,” OMB stated. “Prohibiting funding for public-private
competitions is akin to mandating a monopoly regardless of the
impact on services to citizens and the added costs to taxpayers.”
But in a letter asking colleagues for support, Van Hollen noted
that his amendment “doesn't eliminate, abolish, or suspend the
administration's competitive sourcing initiative.” Rather, the
amendment “would ensure that when public-private competition
occurs, the process [is] fair and balanced, thus protecting the
interests of customers and maximizing the interests of taxpayers,”
Both Van Hollen and Hastings told fellow lawmakers that
contractors have “said in writing” that they believe the A-76
revisions will make it harder for in-house teams to win work. The
percentage of competitions won by federal employees will
“dramatically decrease,” from 60 percent to about 10 percent,
Hastings told the House Rules Committee Wednesday night.
The American Federation of Government Employees doubts that the
administration's veto threat will doom the amendments, according
to John Threlkeld, an AFGE lobbyist. “Given that the Interior
[appropriations] bill, which would block all new outsourcing
studies, sailed through the House without even a hostile amendment
being offered, AFGE believes that lawmakers will see through the
usual OMB bluster,” he said.
Hastings also expects a “great deal of support” for his
amendment, one of his aides said. His language would slow Bush's
competitive sourcing initiative more than Van Hollen's, but both
amendments will face at least some opposition from industry groups
and fellow lawmakers.
Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Pete Sessions, R-Texas, on Thursday
distributed letters urging colleagues to vote against the
amendments. The letters praised the A-76 revisions as the “product
of a two-year effort that included discussions and negotiations
with all stakeholders, including federal employee groups and
private sector companies.”
The changes provide the “most comprehensive overhaul of the
process in 20 years” and will “substantially improve the way the
government conducts public-private competitions,” the letter said.
Davis and Sessions also noted that: “competitive sourcing is not
the same as outsourcing or privatization.” Federal jobs considered
for competition are not automatically lost to the private sector,
“Both of [the amendments] are part of a guerilla tactic that's
been designed by the unions to stop competition wherever they
can,” said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services
Council, an Arlington, Va.-based contractors association.
Congress is trying to stop competitions at several agencies, including
the National Park Service, and the competition drive faces
administrative hurdles as well. The Veterans Affairs Department,
the largest civilian agency, has halted
almost all of its competitions because of legal concerns.
Unions and lawmakers have partnered to protest agency decisions
to designate jobs as “commercial” under the 1998 Federal
Activities Inventory Reform Act. After joining forces with 39
congressional Democrats, AFGE won a
FAIR Act appeal on behalf of 157 seafood inspectors at the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. AFGE is also
working alongside legislators to thwart the Bureau of Citizenship
and Immigration Services plans for
competing immigration officer positions.
Jason Peckenpaugh contributed to this report.