The US Congress: Thwarting Spend Management Efforts

Despite my strong free market leanings, I'm an equal opportunity blogger from the standpoint of disliking the two US political parties equally when it comes to Spend Management policy. In my view, the centrists in both the Republican and Democratic parties today are out of touch with understanding the core of what Spend Management means. I have no doubt that the Bush administration's no-bid, free-spending approach to procurement and economic policy is making the Ronald Reagan's and Barry Goldwater's of the world turn over in their graves. And the current Congress is no better. Government Computer News just put out a must-read article that discusses how, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Congress is getting in the way of savings implementation from sourcing efforts involving make / buy decisions.

According to the article, "Although competitive-sourcing efforts during the past three fiscal years will likely save the government more than $5 billion, the Office of Management and Budget contends that legislation Congress passed last calendar year will hamper the net benefits of such competitions ... OMB said these savings could be restricted in the future because Congress … [is forbidding] agencies from converting work performed by more than 10 employees to the private sector unless the agency proves a contractor could perform the work for an amount equal to or lesser than 10 percent of the personnel-related costs, or $10 million." One wonders why Congress is getting in the way. It's my bet that the protectionist unions are tossing campaign contributions and lobbying clout in an effort to defeat any make / buy award decision which involves the loss of Federal jobs. In the article, Colleen Kelley, National Treasury Employees Union, is cited as saying that the "OMB's call for a repeal of this language is disappointing and shows that the administration is "out of touch" with the American public."

Given the Bush administration's early track record on no-bid contracts and protectionist tariffs it's a breath of fresh air to see the OMB take a stand against Congressional policies that clearly run counter to Spend Management thinking. Protectionist policies that defend Federal union jobs -- not to mention Congressional campaign contributions -- are clearly getting in the way of sourcing and cost reduction programs that will help the country. As I've said recently, the United States can no afford to make contract award decisions based on social policies (regardless of whether the intent behind them is in the spirit of the public good). In my view, much of the OMB's recent commentary and perspectives are right on the money. Let's hope the rest of Washington wakes up and realizes so as well. Because even in Washington, spend matters just as much -- or more -- than it does in the private sector.

Jason Busch

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