Congress limits outsourcing at Interior, Energy

Congress has placed restrictions on competitive-sourcing programs at the Energy and Interior departments in HR 2691, the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The appropriations bill has been passed by both the House and Senate and is awaiting President Bush's expected signature.

The limits include new reporting requirements, and, most important, requirements for the cost savings that competitive-sourcing projects'in which federal employees compete with contractors for government work'at Energy and Interior must generate.

According to the bill, Energy, Interior and the Agriculture Department's Forest Service must provide detailed reports on their competitive-sourcing studies to Congress by Dec. 30. The bill also requires the agencies to provide a detailed work program for competitive-sourcing efforts planned for fiscal 2004.

The appropriations bill limits funds available for competitive-sourcing studies to $2.5 million at Interior and $500,000 at Energy in 2004, unless the departments seek congressional approval. The Forest Service may spend a maximum of $5 million on competitive-sourcing projects started in 2004, according to the bill.

In its most restrictive language, the bill states, 'Each competitive-sourcing study involving more than ten federal employees must be based on a most cost-efficient and cost-effective organization plan, and the contracted function must be less costly to the government by ten percent or $10,000,000,' according to the conference report on the bill.

White House spokesman Alan Abney said the administration has not set a date for the president to sign the bill. An aide for the House Appropriations Committee Interior subcommittee said the administration has signaled that President Bush will sign the bill.

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