America has always relied on private companies during times a war to help arm and protect our fighting men and women. But many functions have always, always been performed by our highly trained federal employees.
Until changes made by the Bush Administration, that is, which has now resulted in an amendment penned by Congresswoman Nancy Boyda that would put in place a three-year ban on outsourcing Defense Department civilian jobs.
In Boyda's words:
Don’t get me wrong; contractors have their place within the defense environment and work as partners with the Department of Defense and with our bases.So, to rephrase: It is wholly appropriate to seek outside contractors to do some work in some areas- not only is it possible there are experts out there that could be useful, it also could save the taxpayers a few bucks. The problem is that the Administration leaned hard to leaders of the armed services to engage in this public-private competition process- even if they knew their internal work force was the best prepared and most able to do the job.
However, in House Armed Services Committee briefings and hearings, I heard time and time again that the pendulum had swung too far to contracting out all types of functions, which is affecting readiness. The Boyda amendment allows the Department of Defense, not the White House, to determine when it is in the best interest of national security to contract out.
With two wars and BRAC, the last thing our armed forces need to be strong-armed into engaging in a resource-intensive process that redirects attention from supporting our men and women in the field, and Congress has already acted in an attempt to limit such bullying and refocus those priorities, but it hasn't produced the desired effect.
[Army] Officials told the inspector general that they feel "extreme pressure from the [Office of the Secretary of Defense] to conduct public-private competitions" and they asked for relief from competitive sourcing targets, but to no avail.So, since 2005 the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy have been asking the Administration to back off and stop micromanaging the system- but they've been ignored, so Congress decided to act.
Boyda's amendment, unfortunately, isn't the first step along this road- it's just the latest action taken to correct the problems within the system.
The A-76 ban is the most aggressive move lawmakers have attempted so far to limit the controversial practice of job competitions. Last year, Congress passed many measures curbing the practice, including: barring public-private competitions at some agencies; granting protest rights to federal employees who lose competitions; and excluding federal health benefits costs from agencies’ calculation to determine the winner of a jobs competition.
In addition to support from three branches of the armed forces and her fellow Democrats, Boyda's amendment also saw support from the Republicans on the committee. Actually, it passed unanimously.
IFPTE President Gregory Junemann wrote to Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, urging inclusion of the amendment in the authorization bill. Junemann said Boyda's amendment was crucial, as Defense was failing to adhere to provisions of last year's authorization bill directing the department not to follow OMB contracting quota requirements. The union also insisted Defense continues to force federal employees who won A-76 competitions to recompete for their jobs every five years, despite legislation reversing that requirement.
"Unfortunately, the [department] has refused to conform to the law, and [Rep.] Boyda's amendment would put a stop to the A-76 process until the existing law is followed," wrote Junemann.
With our forces spread thin, and our resources even thinner, the Boyda amendment will make sure those limited resources are directed to supporting our troops, and used to fund unnecessary and time-consuming distractions.