AFGE lauds defense bill curbs on use of private contractors

WASHINGTON—The Government Employees (AFGE) are lauding a provision to curb the Defense Department’s use of private contractors, inserted in the huge bill that covers defense programs.

The provision, by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, D-Hawaii, was included in the bipartisan version of the massive National Defense Authorization Act, which the GOP-run House passed overwhelmingly in mid-July.

Curbing DOD’s use of private contractors is a longtime AFGE cause. The union has consistently produced studies showing contractors pay their executives excessively, on the taxpayer’s dime, and that contractor projects cost significantly more than projects run by DOD civilian workers. AFGE and other unions represent tens of thousands of those civilians.

Hanabusa’s amendment reinstates a cap on DOD spending on the contractors. That cheered AFGE President J. David Cox, whose union both represents large numbers of DOD civilian workers and includes many military retirees. Cox himself is a retired Veterans Affairs Department psychiatric nurse.

“This cap is one of several tools intended to help prevent the Pentagon from inappropriately contracting out government jobs with little to no regard for the impact on mission or the additional cost to taxpayers,” Cox explained.

“When combined with other initiatives like requiring DOD to fully account for contracted services in its budget and future-year defense program processes, the cap on service contractor spending will provide greater insight into DOD’s current use of contractors and protect more civilian jobs from being inappropriately contracted out,” he added.

Lawmakers, after AFGE-led lobbying, imposed a cap on DOD contractor spending from fiscal 2012, which began Oct. 1, 2011, through the end of fiscal 2015. That provision set the cap at fiscal 2010 levels. But the last two defense bills had no cap.

“Restoration of that cap was necessary to deter the transfer of federal work to more-costly service contractors” and to “strike a fair balance” between use of contractors and use of regular federal workers, Hanabusa told the Government Executive newsletter.

Hanabusa inserted the cap in the defense bill, which passed the House Armed Services Committee 60-1, after learning about its removal from another, smaller, union that represents Navy civilian workers in Hawaii, the Professional and Technical Engineers.

“Without this provision, DOD agencies would be compelled to outsource any new work to service contractors,” IFPTE Hawaii Local President Jamie Hiranaka wrote in a letter to her. That’s because “there would be no room to hire more federal workers under what amounts to an arbitrary cap on the DOD civilian workforce.”

Source: PAI