Fix A-76 or else

Thomas R. Temin

There's nothing like an outlandish piece of legislation to focus the mind.

The Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting Act certainly has the systems integration contractor crowd up in arms as well as Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who represents the area in Northern Virginia that many systems integrators call home.

The TRAC Act, recently introduced for the second time by Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) and 125 co-sponsors, is downright scary, but that is its apparent purpose. The bill would effectively stop all contracting work'whether for information technology or grass-cutting'at least temporarily [GCN, May 17, Page 1].

Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy, has said the bill won't make it to the House floor. But its reintroduction should spur efforts to improve outsourcing.

The bill's purported goal is to establish elaborate accounting systems to make sure the government is getting its money's worth from vendors, but TRAC is really designed to put the brakes on the outsourcing juggernaut and the wholesale gutting of the federal career ranks.
The parties affected each see the bill from a different facet of the prism.

Unions are suspicious of any proposal that has the potential to eliminate jobs. Who can blame them, given the Federal Activities Inventory Reporting Act.

Federal managers must navigate through the incredibly cumbersome OMB Circular A-76 process, a shortage of IT talent and the need to deliver on programs with often scant resources.
And contractors, not surprisingly, want to stop anything that threatens their livelihoods. So the TRAC Act has given all three parties crosses to bear.

It might be a particularly unwise bill. Yet it just might stimulate the wiser among Congress, the Bush administration, agencies and contractors to set about fixing the A-76 process, finishing up work on federal work force issues and generally bringing more sanity and fairness to outsourcing.

There's no shortage of ideas, but now it's time to do something'enough with the grandstanding. Otherwise, everyone might have to live with the TRAC Act.


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