Bush outsourcing plan may revitalize fizzling FAIR Act

Challenging the government's annual inventories of jobs that could be contracted out is a waste of time, according to a growing chorus of stakeholders. But the Bush administration may soon give more teeth to the legislation behind the inventories, experts say. The 1998 Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act requires agencies to review their workforces each year and come up with lists of federal jobs that could be performed by contractors. A month after the release of agencies' final 2000 FAIR Act lists, contractors plan to cut back on the challenges they make to the lists. Last year, only about 6 percent of challenges to the largest federal agencies' FAIR Act lists were successful. "Some [contractor] associations that filed challenges last year will not [do so] this year," said Chris Jahn, legislative director for Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., the sponsor of the FAIR Act. Contractors are reluctant to challenge the new FAIR Act lists because few challenges were successful in 1999 and also because agencies' justifications for competing positions may not be challenged, according to Jahn. Explanations by agencies about why jobs on the FAIR Act lists should be considered for outsourcing are contained in "reason codes" developed by the Office of Management and Budget. Although agencies have identified 849,389 federal positions in this year's lists as "commercial in nature," meaning the work could be performed in the private sector, agencies use the reason codes to exempt many of these jobs from commercial competition. While interested parties can appeal decisions about jobs left on or off the lists, they cannot challenge agencies' reason codes. "The agency is saying that what we are doing here is commercial, but [they are] using the reason code to say that they can't 'compete' it," said Jahn. "That needs to be fixed." The Professional Services Council, which represents federal contractors who provide professional and technical services, this year plans to forego specific challenges to the FAIR Act lists. "We are not going to challenge anything; it's virtually a waste of effort," said Stan Soloway, president of the council. "Those who have tried to file challenges in the past have been rebuffed, so why bother." In 1999, the council sent a blanket challenge to OMB complaining about its general oversight of the FAIR Act and agencies' use of reason codes. The Information Technology Association of America will also not file any challenges to the lists. The association raised 13 unsuccessful challenges in 1999. "It took a lot of effort and was not beneficial in the end," said Tinabeth Burton, vice president for communications at ITAA. But not all contractors view FAIR Act challenges as a lost cause. The Contract Services Association of America plans to file some challenges and also plans to meet with agency heads regarding certain positions, according to association spokesman and counsel George Sigalos. "We're seeing a little more progress on how agencies have identified positions," he said. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has not yet decided whether to challenge any FAIR Act lists, said Stephanie Starkey, the chamber's manager of privatization policy. Jahn and other proponents of outsourcing expressed hope that the Bush administration may require agencies to use FAIR Act job inventories as a guide for outsourcing goals. The FAIR Act itself does not require agencies to outsource any commercial jobs. "This administration would be well-served in linking the FAIR Act process to outsourcing decisions … I definitely think they will do it," said Carl DeMaio, director of government redesign at the Reason Public Policy Institute. Until now, only the Defense Department has signaled any intent to use FAIR Act lists as a basis for outsourcing. But OMB is currently at work on a plan to open about half of the government's 850,000 commercial jobs to competition. While the administration may wait until it begins preparing the fiscal year 2003 budget to link the FAIR Act to specific outsourcing goals, OMB could move earlier, DeMaio said. "Our focus is on the executive branch fully implementing the FAIR Act," said Jahn. "The act can be improved through administrative action alone."
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.