Bill would spare thousands of Defense civilians from A-76 studies

Almost 10,000 Defense Department civilian employees would not have to compete for their jobs next year under a provision in the 2002 Defense authorization bill that the House is scheduled to take up soon. Section 331 of the bill strictly limits the number of federal jobs the Defense Department could submit to new public-private job competitions in fiscal 2002. While the Pentagon has targeted roughly 13,000 positions for new outsourcing studies next year, the bill caps the number of jobs that could be competed in new studies at 3,053. Under the limit, the Army can start competitions on no more than 328 civilian full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. The Navy may review up to 453 new FTEs, while the Air Force is capped at 936 FTEs and other defense agencies at 1,336 FTEs altogether. No civilians working for the Marine Corps may be subject to new competitions. If the limit becomes law, the Pentagon could be hard-pressed to meet competition quotas that will be part of the Bush administration's competitive sourcing initiative in the future. Since the limit does not apply to ongoing Pentagon job competitions, it would have no effect on the Pentagon's ability to meet its fiscal 2002 goal of competing approximately 22,000 jobs considered commercial in nature. The Defense Department will come close to meeting this goal, according to a Defense official who requested anonymity. The House Armed Services Committee approved the limit on new competitions during markup of the Defense bill last month. The limit ensures the Pentagon will only start competitions it can pay for, according to the committee's report on the bill. "The committee is increasingly concerned with the outsourcing process and believes the agencies and services are under too much budgetary pressure to initiate and complete studies," said the report. The committee imposed the cap of 3,053 jobs instead of approving a Pentagon request to add an additional 3,200 positions to the 10,000 jobs it had already planned to put up for competition in 2002. The Pentagon made the request at the behest of the Office of Management and Budget, which directed the department to compete 3,200 more positions to meet future competition targets set by the administration, the Defense official said. The limit applies to both the request of 3,200 positions and to the previous 10,000 jobs, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Capping the number of new jobs competed at 3,053 would save Defense $34 million between 2002 and 2004, according to the CBO. Competing fewer positions would result in smaller long-term savings for the Pentagon, however. Using information from the Pentagon and the General Accounting Office, the CBO estimates the department will net $10,500 in recurring savings for each position competed. This means the Pentagon would miss out on $155 million in potential savings in 2005-2006 alone if it competes only 3,053 new jobs next year, according to the CBO. The limit needlessly interferes with the Pentagon's competitive sourcing program, according to the president of a contractors' association. "That's baloney. I mean, you're trying to manage the government from Congress?" asked Gary Engebretson, president of the Contract Services Association. "Congress was not elected to manage the [Defense] department."
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