GAO orders Air Force to outsource public works jobs

The General Accounting Office has reversed an Air Force decision and ordered that more than 800 military and civilian base operation jobs at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., be outsourced to contractors because they can perform the work at a lower price. The Air Force had awarded the work to federal employees following a public-private competition in February. But the losing contractor, DynCorp Technical Services, appealed that decision to the GAO and will now be awarded the $198 million, five-year contract. As a result, 472 military jobs and 402 civilian jobs at Maxwell will be eliminated. Most of the positions are public works jobs related to maintenance and other support activities. "The Air Force is reviewing the GAO's formal decision now," said Air Force Col. Frances Martin, commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell AFB, in a letter sent to all base employees on Wednesday. "We're going to use that time to determine what the next steps are in the process … and a timetable for any changes that ultimately take place." Martin said GAO found DynCorp could perform the work at a better price. The Air Force is reviewing the GAO's written decision and expects to release it within the next two weeks. The public-private competitions followed rules outlined in Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76. Those rules require a competition between federal employees and contractors before any jobs are outsourced. The work goes to the lowest bidder. The losing bidder can appeal the decision to the agency. If a contractor's appeal is rejected, it can ask GAO to review the case. The Air Force rejected DynCorp's initial appeal of the competition in March. A-76 competitions are likely to come under increased scrutiny in the next few years. The Bush administration is requiring all agencies, not just the Defense Department, to hold competitions for many jobs that could be performed by private firms. Most other agencies have not conducted A-76 competitions in the past. Defense uses the competitions to free up money for readiness bills and new weapon systems.
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