Employees fail in challenging outsourcing decisions before GAO

Butsofar,nonehasbeensuccessful.
EmployeescanchallengeanoutsourcingdecisionbeforetheGovernmentAccountabilityOffice.BeforeJanuary,onlycontractorscouldchallengeanadverseagencycontractingdecision—also,beforetheGAO.
SinceJanuary,GAOhasseenadoublinginthenumberofchallengesbeinglodgedovercompetitivesourcingdecisions.GAOhasdecided14casesprotestingdecisionsandsolicitationsissuedunderOfficeofManagementandBudgetCircularA-76,therulebookthatgovernshowagenciescanoutsourcework.EightofthosecaseshavebeenbroughtbyemployeessinceJanuary—therestarechallengeswagedbycompanies.Infiscal2007,GAOhandledjustsevencasesfortheentireyear.
Thegrowthinthenumberofchallengestocompetitivesourcingdecisionsisnotsurprising,saidAlanChvotkin,vicepresidentoftheProfessionalServicesCouncil.
“Everytimethereisadecisionthatisadverseto[employees],[theunion]filesaprotest.Theyhopetooverturnitorcreateadelayintheaction,”Chvotkinsaid.“Manycontractorstakethesameapproachtomakesuretheprocurementisdoneproperly.”
Butthoseadditionalchallengesaren’ttranslatingintooutsourcingdecisionsbeingoverturned.
Everyemployeechallengebroughthassofarhasbeendismissedordenied,andthereasonsvarycasebycase.Insomecases,thelawauthorizingthechallenge—the2008DefenseAuthorizationAct—wasnotyetineffect.Inothers,thepersonbringingthechallengelackedlegalstandingtowagethechallenge.
ThishasnotdeterredtheAmericanFederationofGovernmentEmployees,whichhasbeenthedrivingforcebehindmanyifnotalltheemployeecases.
“AFGEhasandwillcontinuetodiligentlypursueourrighttoprotesttoGAOinordertoprotecttheinterestsoftaxpayersandfederalemployeesbyholdingagenciesaccountableforfollowingprocurementrules,”saidDianaPrice,anAFGEprocurementspecialist.“Ifweareunabletoachievethesegoals,wewillworkwithCongresstoimprovetheprocess.”
OutsourcingatSheppardairbase
ArecentlargeoutsourcingdecisionbytheAirForceislikelytopromptanotheremployeeprotest.
TheAirForceannouncedlastmonthitwilloutsource180civilianjobs—mostlycivilengineers—atSheppardAirForceBaseinTexas.
AFGEiswaitingtobebriefedonthedecisionbeforeitfilesaprotest.
TheunioncontendstheAirForcebrokethelawbyallowingthecompetitiontocontinuebeyondthe30-monthstatutorytimelimitforpublic-privatecompetitions.
TheSheppardcompetitionbeganin1999andwascanceledin2001whiletheCircularA-76competitionruleswerebeingoverhauledbytheOfficeofManagementandBudget.Afternewruleswereinplace,planningforanewcompetitionbeganin2003withtheformalcompetitionstartinginSeptember2006.
“Theunionbelieveswehaveastrongcasewithplentyofprocurementviolations,”saidGaryJohnson,presidentofAFGELocal779,whichrepresentsemployeesatSheppard.“TheDepartmentofDefensehasallowedthiscompetitiontogoonforovernineyears,andwithallthewillfulviolations[oflaw]takingplaceduringthattime,wecanonlypraythatjusticewillprevail.”
ButtheAirForcefiguresthetimelinedifferently,ignoringthe1999competitionandtheyearstheworkerswerekeptinlimbowonderingwhatwouldhappentotheirjobsandthepreliminaryplanningphasethatbeginin2003.Instead,theAirForcecontendsthetimelinestartsinSeptember2006,just24monthsago.
Astheprotestproceeds,itcouldbeuptoGAOtodeterminewhentheclockstartstickingonpublic-privatecompetitionsconductedunderA-76,somethingthatcouldbecrucialtofuturecompetitions.
GAOfinalizednewrulesinJunethatallowanindividualfederalemployeedesignatedbyamajorityoftheemployeesinvolvedinthecompetitiontochallengeacompetitivesourcingresultontheirbehalf.
“Becausethelawwassorecentlypassed,almostallofthecasesdecidedtodateraisedissuesoffirstimpression,”saidMichaelGolden,GAO’smanagingassociategeneralcounselforprocurementlaw.Thatmeanstheycouldsetaprecedentforfuturecompetitions.
ChvotkindownplaysanyeffectthatarulingintheSheppardcasemighthavegovernmentwide.
“Sheppardisoneofthoseunusualcases.…Itisnotrepresentativeofthetypesofcompetitivesourcinginitiativesthedepartmenthasbeendoingoverthelastcoupleofyears,”hesaid.“Youdon’tseeverymanyofthose[competitions]thathavebeenextendedbeyonda30-monthperiod.”
Farmorethreateningtocompetitivesourcingarecongressionalproposalsthatwouldplacemoratoriumsonpublic-privatecompetitions.The2009DefenseauthorizationbillpassedbytheHouseinMaywouldplaceathree-yearbanoncompetitionsatthedepartment.Anda2009financialservicesappropriationsprovisionwouldimposeayearlonggovernmentwidebanoncompetitions.


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