House Rejects Outsourcing of Federal Jobs in Vote to Block Revival of Circular A-76

Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., wrote the successful amendment. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., wrote the successful amendment. Matt Rourke/AP

The House on Thursday voted to continue a seven-year-old moratorium on public-private competition to perform certain federal jobs under the long-standing Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76.

A bipartisan amendment by Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., attached to the fiscal 2018 Defense appropriations bill was approved 253-172.

“The fundamental flaw inherent in the A-76 process is the erroneous underlying methodology used to determine whether or not federal civilian jobs would be outsourced,” said Cartwright, noting that the last time such contractor-versus-agency employee competitions were attempted was in 2003. “These studies rely on a process that both the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General of the Department of Defense concluded could not demonstrate any savings.”

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., countered that, “I support competition, and these competitions, as a whole, have been beneficial to the Department of Defense. The OMB has reported that, regardless of whether the federal government or the private contractor win the competition, the act of competition alone has saved or generated a cost savings up to 10 to 40 percent --10 to 40 percent just having the competition.”

Calvert warned that a renewed ban would “block opportunities for the defense industrial base, protect the status quo within the DoD civilian workforce, prevent cost savings at the DoD and negate the natural innovation that comes from competition.”

One group pleased with passage is the American Federation of Government Employees.  “Taxpayers benefit when the government’s work is performed by civil service employees, who are less costly and more accountable than private-sector workers,” said its national president, J. David Cox Sr. “But the current privatization process is biased against federal workers, which is why Congress must retain the longstanding ban on contracting out federal jobs using the flawed A-76 outsourcing method.”

In hailing passage of the amendment, Cartwright noted that it would protect federal civilian jobs at Pennsylvania’s Tobyhanna Army Depot.

The amendment is now part of a fiscal 2018 package combining the appropriations bills for the Defense Department, military construction and Veterans Affairs Department, energy and water, and the legislative branch.

The package must still clear the Senate.

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