Lawmaker revives bill requiring competitions for new contracts

A Maryland lawmaker late last week reintroduced legislation that would ensure that agencies consider federal employees when putting new contracts up for bid.

The 2003 Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting (TRAC) Act, introduced on Oct. 30 by Rep. Albert Wynn, D-Md., requires agencies to announce all new contract opportunities and give in-house teams a chance to bid on the work. Agencies would receive an exemption if they could show there "is no reasonable expectation that federal employees would win a public-private competition" for the contract.

Two previous versions of the TRAC Act introduced by Wynn never made it out of committee. Those bills stalled partly because of a provision that would have frozen existing contracts until agencies had a chance to review them and ensure that they are cost effective. The latest version of TRAC (H.R. 3426) does not include this language, but is similar to past bills in most other respects. The latest legislation may have a slightly better chance of getting somewhere, since it does not freeze existing contracts, said Amaya Smith, a spokeswoman for Wynn.

But according to Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an Arlington, Va.-based contractor's association, the latest version of the TRAC Act still places an "untenable burden" on agencies by requiring them to award virtually all contracts through the competitive process. "To the extent [the latest version] has improved, it's nibbling around the edges," he said.

A union official disputed this view, saying the bill would only require agencies to subject half of all new contract dollars to public-private competition. Agencies would have up to five years to hit the 50 percent threshold, the official said.

American Federation of Government Employees President John Gage praised Wynn for reintroducing the legislation at a time when "bipartisan disgust with the Office of Management and Budget's wholesale privatization agenda is at an all-time high." The union will work with Wynn to make sure the bill is passed into law, Gage said.

As in the past, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., plans to introduce a companion TRAC bill in the Senate. The details of the Senate legislation are still under negotiation, according to Angela Benander, a spokeswoman for Durbin.

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