Omnibus Measure Wins Senate Approval; Boosts Funding, Helps Level Contracting Playing Field


3/11/09: The Senate has joined the House in approving a fiscal 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill containing a one-year government-wide moratorium on new public-private job competitions for federal work.

The measure, which now goes to President Obama for his signature, also requires agencies to establish guidelines for bringing back into the hands of federal employees government work currently being performed by private contractors, in line with a broad outline contained in an Obama administration memorandum on contracting issued March 4.

“These are two very positive steps for taxpayers,” said President Colleen M. Kelley of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), who has been leading the fight against the ballooning growth of federal contracting. “They are part of a welcome review of the entire government contracting process, including a much closer look at what work clearly should continue to be done by federal employees.”

She noted that just last week—after a long battle led by NTEU—the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ended a two-year program of privatizing federal tax collection. “The end of that costly and misguided program,” Kelley said, “reflects a strong vote of confidence in IRS employees.”

NTEU has been pressing for the in-sourcing of contracted-out work for some time. President Kelley said the unfettered growth of contracting often has resulted in “higher costs, poorer service, increased opportunities for waste, fraud and abuse, and diminished government flexibility, control and accountability.”

The omnibus bill also provides funding for programs and agencies covered by the nine appropriations bills not yet enacted for this fiscal year. President Kelley lauded the measure for providing several NTEU-represented agencies with much-needed increases in funding.

Among its other provisions, the $410 billion bill would provide $11.5 billion in funding for the IRS for fiscal 2009—an increase of $428 million above fiscal 2008 levels; an additional $352 million for the Food and Drug Administration; $37 million for the Securities and Exchange Commission; and $100 million for the Social Security Administration aimed at aiding the agency in reducing a growing backlog of disability claims.

“The fiscal 2009 omnibus is an excellent first step toward restoring badly-needed resources to our federal agencies,” said Kelley. “NTEU looks forward to working with this Congress and the administration to build on this legislation in the next fiscal year.”