OMB to propose FAIR Act process changes

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The Office of Management and Budget will soon propose changes to Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act regulations, giving federal workers more time to protect their jobs from being targeted for outsourcing-and giving contractors more time to challenge agencies' contentions that certain work must be performed by civil servants.

Under the FAIR Act, federal agencies last year identified about 900,000 jobs currently held by government workers that could be performed in the private sector. Private companies hope the FAIR Act lists will lead to more work being outsourced, and more dollars being spent on their products and services.

Last year, federal workers and contractors could appeal the designation of jobs within 30 calendar days from when the agency made the FAIR Act list available. OMB is proposing to give people 30 working days to submit appeals when agencies update the lists later this year.

Federal unions and contractors challenged the designations of thousands of jobs in 1999, but agencies changed only a handful in either direction.

OMB is also planning to give agencies more guidance on how to structure their FAIR Act lists, which were released in a wide variety of formats last year. In addition, agencies will be required to post their lists on their Web sites (As in 1999, GovExec.com will provide a comprehensive list of all the FAIR Act lists online at www.govexec.com/fairact).

Contractor groups have been briefed on the upcoming changes by Deidre Lee, the outgoing chief of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

Contractors want OMB to require agencies to release lists of jobs that are considered inherently governmental, not just positions that could be outsourced, said Felix Martinez, the director of procurement programs at the American Consulting Engineers Council.

"There's no way for us to figure out what the omissions from the list are," Martinez said.

But OMB decided not to make that change.

Next week, the engineers council, along with other contractor groups, is participating in a press conference on Capitol Hill calling for agencies to outsource more jobs. Martinez said several members of Congress will be on hand to criticize the administration's handling of the FAIR Act, including Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn., and Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo.

OMB will publish the proposed changes to the FAIR Act regulations in an upcoming edition of the Federal Register.

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