(WASHINGTON) - The American Federation of Government Employees, today, criticized efforts by the Department of the Air Force to privatize food service at several key domestic installations.
According to the union, more than 300 federal employees may be affected by a pilot privatization initiative being carried out by the Air Force at bases in Alaska, California, Arkansas, Washington state, and Florida. The pilot program known as the "Food Transformation Initiative" would replace existing federal employees with contractors without a demonstration that the conversion to contractor performance would actually save money for taxpayers, a violation of federal law. "We believe that the contracting out of this work without first conducting a public-private competition is against the law," said John Gage, AFGE national president.
In its attempt to outsource the work, the Air Force did not conduct a public-private competition, known as an A-76 study, which is required to justify contracting out. "This action by the Air Force to by-pass the A-76 process, gives you no cost comparison to prove this contracting out action saves the taxpayer money," said Gage. "If there are no proven cost saving and no proven benefits for service members, then there is absolutely no justification for putting hundreds of federal employees out of work."
"This outsourcing plan will affect hundreds of cooks and food servers and Air Force installations around the country," said David Owens, president of AFGE Local 1101, which represents civilian defense employees at the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. "These men and women, many of whom are veterans themselves, take pride in servicing our uniformed personnel. The actions being taken by the Air Force are callous and ill-conceived."
AFGE attempted to have a meeting with the Air Force to discuss these issues, but the Air Force refused to meet with the union. The Air Force has also previously refused to allow AFGE to review any solicitations for the work to determine which employees might be most adversely affected. "This entire process has been mired in secrecy," said Gage. "It is the antithesis of the type of open, transparent contracting process that Congress mandated when it reformed federal outsourcing."
"If this is allowed to continue, we'll begin to see it throughout the Department of Defense and throughout the federal government, undermining the intent of Congress to regulate such initiatives." Because of these concerns, Congress has directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct an investigation into the initiative and has prohibited the Air Force from expanding the privatization beyond the pilot project until the investigation is complete.