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Thread: Senate seeks to halt competition for immigration jobs

  1. #1
    Source: GOVEXEC.com

    By Amelia Gruber


    The Senate Wednesday evening approved an amendment to the Homeland Security Department's fiscal 2005 spending legislation that would prevent the potential outsourcing of more than 1,100 federal immigration services jobs.

    The language passed by a vote of 49 to 47 with four Democrats absent: Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Hillary Clinton of New York. It would halt funding for an ongoing public-private competition for immigration information officer, contact representative and investigative assistant work, announced in August 2003. House members approved similar language by a comfortable margin in mid-June.


    White House officials threatened to veto the $32 billion appropriations bill if the final version contains provisions hindering the Bush administration's competitive sourcing program, a management initiative aimed at allowing contractors to bid on thousands of federal jobs. Competitive sourcing helps agencies operate more efficiently, Office of Management and Budget officials said in a Sept. 8 policy statement.


    "The administration has adopted a reasoned and responsible approach for ensuring the fair and effective application of public-private competition," the White House officials stated. "On a governmentwide basis, competitions completed in fiscal 2003 are estimated to generate savings, or cost avoidances, of more than $1 billion over the next three to five years."


    OMB derived these estimates from agency reports on competitive sourcing efforts in fiscal 2003. A provision in last year's omnibus spending package required agencies to submit the reports detailing money spent on job contests, the outcomes of the competitions and anticipated savings.


    Administration officials have said they hope the reports will foster an informed debate over the controversial management initiative, but so far the reports have engendered criticism. Labor union officials said that OMB inflated the savings figures.


    The American Federation of Government Employees thanked lawmakers Thursday for standing by the amendment in spite of the veto threat. "It took real courage for the Senate to pass this measure," stated John Gage, the union's president.


    But industry groups blasted the provision. "I'm concerned that Congress is meddling in the day-to-day management decisions of this critical government agency," said Chris Jahn, president of the Contract Services Association, in a statement following the vote. "This vote wasn't about homeland security - or doing what was best for the American taxpayer - it was all about protecting public sector union jobs."


    In turn AFGE argued that the Bush administration acted against the public's best interest by issuing a veto threat. The White House "made clear that it would deny essential funding to homeland security efforts around the country in order to pursue its privatization and outsourcing agenda," stated Charles Showalter, president of the AFGE National Homeland Security Council.


    Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a sponsor of the Senate amendment, said on the Senate floor Wednesday that the federal employees occupying the jobs at stake in the Citizenship and Immigration Services job competition act as the front line in screening for fraudulent immigration applications. The jobs are inherently governmental since the federal workers are "critical" to weeding out potential applications from terrorists, he said.


    "The amendment that I have offered is the same amendment that passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives with strong Republican support," Leahy noted.


    But opponents of the language argued that the jobs under consideration are commercial in nature, and should be subject to competition. The vulnerable immigration services employees aren't responsible for making policy decisions, said Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo. They complete GS-5 to GS-8 level work and are supervised by federal employees at the GS-9 level, he said.


    "These are not people who make decisions," Thomas said. "These are the people who do the detail work."


    Thomas also said that DHS is well into the job competition, and echoed the Bush administration's argument that competitions prompt agencies to consider options for enhancing efficiency. A vote for the amendment is a vote for the status quo, he said.


    "We've voted on this same issue a dozen times," Thomas added in reference to a number of past appropriations bill amendments attempting to scale back on various public-private competitions.


    Thomas offered an alternative to the Leahy provision. It would have allowed CIS to complete the immigration services competition, but would have required the agency to check in with Congress at least 60 days before announcing the contest's outcome.


    Agency officials would have needed to give lawmakers an estimate of anticipated savings and share CIS's "strategy for mitigating the adverse effects of [the decision], if any, on federal [employees]."


    The Thomas amendment passed, also by a vote of 49 to 47, but will not come into play if the Leahy language prohibiting the contest altogether remains in the final version of the legislation.

  2. #2
    Source: GOVEXEC.com

    By Amelia Gruber


    The Senate Wednesday evening approved an amendment to the Homeland Security Department's fiscal 2005 spending legislation that would prevent the potential outsourcing of more than 1,100 federal immigration services jobs.

    The language passed by a vote of 49 to 47 with four Democrats absent: Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, John Edwards of North Carolina, Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Hillary Clinton of New York. It would halt funding for an ongoing public-private competition for immigration information officer, contact representative and investigative assistant work, announced in August 2003. House members approved similar language by a comfortable margin in mid-June.


    White House officials threatened to veto the $32 billion appropriations bill if the final version contains provisions hindering the Bush administration's competitive sourcing program, a management initiative aimed at allowing contractors to bid on thousands of federal jobs. Competitive sourcing helps agencies operate more efficiently, Office of Management and Budget officials said in a Sept. 8 policy statement.


    "The administration has adopted a reasoned and responsible approach for ensuring the fair and effective application of public-private competition," the White House officials stated. "On a governmentwide basis, competitions completed in fiscal 2003 are estimated to generate savings, or cost avoidances, of more than $1 billion over the next three to five years."


    OMB derived these estimates from agency reports on competitive sourcing efforts in fiscal 2003. A provision in last year's omnibus spending package required agencies to submit the reports detailing money spent on job contests, the outcomes of the competitions and anticipated savings.


    Administration officials have said they hope the reports will foster an informed debate over the controversial management initiative, but so far the reports have engendered criticism. Labor union officials said that OMB inflated the savings figures.


    The American Federation of Government Employees thanked lawmakers Thursday for standing by the amendment in spite of the veto threat. "It took real courage for the Senate to pass this measure," stated John Gage, the union's president.


    But industry groups blasted the provision. "I'm concerned that Congress is meddling in the day-to-day management decisions of this critical government agency," said Chris Jahn, president of the Contract Services Association, in a statement following the vote. "This vote wasn't about homeland security - or doing what was best for the American taxpayer - it was all about protecting public sector union jobs."


    In turn AFGE argued that the Bush administration acted against the public's best interest by issuing a veto threat. The White House "made clear that it would deny essential funding to homeland security efforts around the country in order to pursue its privatization and outsourcing agenda," stated Charles Showalter, president of the AFGE National Homeland Security Council.


    Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a sponsor of the Senate amendment, said on the Senate floor Wednesday that the federal employees occupying the jobs at stake in the Citizenship and Immigration Services job competition act as the front line in screening for fraudulent immigration applications. The jobs are inherently governmental since the federal workers are "critical" to weeding out potential applications from terrorists, he said.


    "The amendment that I have offered is the same amendment that passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives with strong Republican support," Leahy noted.


    But opponents of the language argued that the jobs under consideration are commercial in nature, and should be subject to competition. The vulnerable immigration services employees aren't responsible for making policy decisions, said Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo. They complete GS-5 to GS-8 level work and are supervised by federal employees at the GS-9 level, he said.


    "These are not people who make decisions," Thomas said. "These are the people who do the detail work."


    Thomas also said that DHS is well into the job competition, and echoed the Bush administration's argument that competitions prompt agencies to consider options for enhancing efficiency. A vote for the amendment is a vote for the status quo, he said.


    "We've voted on this same issue a dozen times," Thomas added in reference to a number of past appropriations bill amendments attempting to scale back on various public-private competitions.


    Thomas offered an alternative to the Leahy provision. It would have allowed CIS to complete the immigration services competition, but would have required the agency to check in with Congress at least 60 days before announcing the contest's outcome.


    Agency officials would have needed to give lawmakers an estimate of anticipated savings and share CIS's "strategy for mitigating the adverse effects of [the decision], if any, on federal [employees]."


    The Thomas amendment passed, also by a vote of 49 to 47, but will not come into play if the Leahy language prohibiting the contest altogether remains in the final version of the legislation.

  3. #3
    Remember all those applications and supporting documents that were trashed a couple of years ago in an INS office? That was done by contractors, in the name of "efficiency".

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