(Washington, D.C.)—AFGE believes contractors and their allies in the Bush Administration have insisted on rewriting the OMB Circular A-76, which governs the public-private competition process, because it doesn’t allow contractors to take federal employee jobs often enough or fast enough.
Bush Administration officials are at war with reliable and experienced rank-and-file federal employees; they are systematically conspiring to bust their unions, gut their civil service protections, and hand over their jobs to politically well-connected contractors. AFGE approaches the Bush Administration’s rewrite of OMB Circular A-76 with considerable skepticism. However, until experts both inside and outside of AFGE have had an opportunity to carefully review the rewrite, we will reserve judgment.
During AFGE’s review of the new process, it will keep these ten important considerations in mind:
1. Does it ensure the government-wide establishment of a reliable and comprehensive system to track the cost, size, and responsibilities of the massive federal contractor workforce, which some observers have estimated to be twice the size of the federal workforce, both generally as well as for specific contracts?
2. Does it eliminate the pernicious practice of contracting out work performed by federal employees without public-private competition, whether direct conversions promoted by the infamous Office of Management and Budget (OMB) quotas or the Army’s “Third Wave” wholesale privatization initiative?
3. Does it protect the interests of taxpayers by ensuring that any use of the controversial and subjective “best value” approach is limited to a genuine pilot project that would allow for a careful and objective review of the results?
4. Does it ensure that taxpayers will receive the level of services they need at the lowest possible prices, or will it allow agency managers to charge taxpayers for unneeded “bells and whistles”? Given that the “revolving door” problem—senior officials awarding contracts to firms for which they intend to work once their federal careers are over—will be significantly exacerbated by the introduction of any subjective “best value” process, what steps does the rewrite take with respect to eliminating conflicts of interest?
5. Is it being introduced as part of a broader effort to ensure that federal employees and their union representatives have the same legal standing currently enjoyed by contractors?
6. Does it reduce the impact of wages and benefits on award decisions, so that privatization no longer results in significantly reduced living standards for those who do government work?
7. Does it ensure that agencies will finally begin to subject new government work and government work performed by contractors to real public-private competition, as they do with respect to work performed by federal employees?
8. Does it repudiate the use of numerical or functional privatization quotas, which are even more foolish and ill-advised when agencies are attempting to adapt to a wholly new and unprecedented public-private competition process?
9. Does it err on the side of caution with respect to protecting and preserving robust in-house capabilities, especially given the acknowledgement by Bush Administration officials that at least two major agencies have privatized inherently governmental work?
10. Does it envision the reestablishment of real labor-management partnerships that are necessary if in-house employees are to be given fair chances to prevail?
Although the relentlessly pro-contractor Bush Administration’s record offers little encouragement, AFGE will carefully review the rewritten public-private competition process to determine how it stacks up in relation to the factors discussed above. Given the impact and complexity of this effort, it is deeply regrettable that little more than four weeks are allowed for affected groups to provide their comments.