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Copyright 2001 eMediaMillWorks, Inc.
(f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.)  
Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony

November 1, 2001, Thursday


LENGTH: 1095 words



H.R. 721             Retrieve Bill Tracking Report
                      Retrieve Full Text of Bill



November 1, 2001

Statement of Colleen M. Kelley

National President, National Treasury Employees Union

Before the

Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy Committee on Government Reform

Chairman Davis, Ranking Member Turner, and other distinguished Members of this subcommittee, my name is Colleen Kelley and I am the National President of the National Treasury Employees Union. I am also a member of the Commercial Activities Panel, an independent panel set up by Congress to evaluate and make recommendations for changes to improve the delivery of government services. As you know, NTEU represents more than l50,000 employees in 25 federal agencies and departments, including employees who work at the Department of Treasury, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Energy. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to present testimony on behalf of these dedicated men and women. During this tragic period in American history, our democracy continues to flourish thanks in large part to federal employees who have risen to the challenge of ensuring the health and safety of Americans. Whether it is at our borders, in laboratories, in jobs enforcing our tax laws, or in other critical government jobs, federal employees are on the front lines of fighting the war on terrorism while continuing to deliver other critical government services to the taxpayers in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Unfortunately, the legislation being debated today, the "Services Acquisition Reform Act," does virtually nothing to help improve the efficiencies of our valuable federal workforce. And the bill fails to make changes necessary to help recruit and retain federal employees so that we will be able to strengthen and maintain a competent federal workforce - our government's most valuable asset.

The SARA legislation provides many new incentives for contractors, but ignores the need for comprehensive government- wide changes to ensure that contractors are delivering services on time, on budget, and of the highest quality. The legislation does nothing to increase the transparency and accountability of the work performed by contractors. And the legislation totally ignores the immediate need to implement systems to track whether contracting out is saving money or improving the delivery of government services. Instead the legislation provides incentives to contract out more services even though we know virtually nothing about the contractor workforce and the work being performed by contractors.

While we do believe that more resources need to be dedicated to recruiting, training, and retaining a competent acquisition workforce, we do not believe that the sections of the bill in Title I dealing with the workforce go far enough. NTEU is very concerned that as the amount of government work being contracted out continues to increase - and with it the workload for contract officers - there has been a steady decline in staffing levels for agency contracting offices. The increased workload and decrease in staffing has led to practically non-existent contractor oversight and inadequate and rarely used public-private competitions.

In addition, we are especially concerned with the sections of the bill that provide numerous new incentives for contractors. This bill appears to be a contractor's wish list just in time for the approaching holiday season. There is incentive after incentive for contractors, but practically nothing to strengthen our in- house federal workforce.

Before Congress considers policy changes that would contract out more government work, such as those proposed in SARA, the taxpayers deserve to know exactly how their tax dollars are being spent on current contracts. Even though more dollars are doled out to contractors each year than are spent on the federal workforce, there is little or no oversight of federal contracts once they have been awarded. Agencies need to implement reliable accounting and reporting systems and dramatically increase contract oversight to track the true costs of contracting out and the quality of services being delivered by contractors.

NTEU believes the best way to get a better understanding about the costs and benefits related to contracting out would be for Congress to approve H.R. 721, the Truthfulness Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting (TRAC) Act. The TRAC Act would require agencies to implement reliable systems to track whether current contracting efforts are saving money, whether contractors are delivering services on-time and efficiently, and that when a contractor is not living up to his or her end of the deal, the government work is being brought back in-house.

The SARA legislation puts all its emphasis on risky private sector solutions rather than looking at our existing resources and implementing changes to help the government develop a more efficient in-house organization. If Congress is serious about reforming the way the government acquires and delivers services, then legislation should be passed that makes investments in increased agency staffing, better pay and benefits, and better training so that government services can be delivered by federal employees at even lower costs and increased efficiency than they are today.

Now is not the time to pass legislation that contracts out more government work. We know too little about the benefits, and more than enough about the failures, of government services being delivered by contractors. All we do know is that as a result of the lack of government oversight of contractors, rarely are timely actions taken against a contractor who is performing poorly or exceeding costs.

Mr. Chairman, I urge you to not move forward with any legislation, including SARA, which will contract out more government services. The most beneficial actions Congress can take to reform the government's acquisition of services would be to swiftly implement more accountability controls over current government contracting, such as those contained in the TRAC Act. And unless such TRAC-like systems are implemented government- wide, I would urge you to hold off on any legislation that promotes more government contracting.

Furthermore, I hope at the very least you will delay further consideration of SARA until the Commercial Activities Panel finishes its work. The government should not contract out government work if we do not know if it is in the best interests of the taxpayers.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify.

LOAD-DATE: November 16, 2001

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