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.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

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