Mr. BROWN. I thank the Chair.
Mr. President, the amendment I will be calling up later this morning does not change current law. It simply reminds the Veterans' Administration to abide by current law. All Federal agencies are bound by certain rules when they outsource jobs. While the Department of Defense has its own set of rules, every other Federal agency, including the Veterans' Administration, is required to take the same straightforward steps to ensure that when outsourcing occurs, which sometimes it needs to, it actually improves upon the status quo, not outsourcing for the sake of outsourcing or to feed private contractors but outsourcing to serve taxpayers and, in the case of the VA, veterans better. If any Federal agency should be required to show a good reason before displacing Government workers, it should be the Veterans' Administration. That is because so many VA employees are actually veterans themselves. Arbitrarily firing veterans is not only wrong, it is shortsighted. The obstacles to employment are steep enough for veterans in too many cases without throwing unjustifiable outsourcing into the mix.
Even if we put that aside, taxpayers are not well served when Government contracts are handed out without regard to the costs or benefits that result. That is one of the many lessons we should have learned from Katrina. It is a lesson we are learning over and over from Iraq. These lessons don't seem to be sinking in with the administration. The VA is firing many of its blue-collar workers and replacing them with private contractors without going through the competition process that Congress has called for again and again. It is bad enough that the VA is moving forward without actually figuring out what is in the best interest of taxpayers. Sometimes outsourcing jobs makes sense. More often than not, as we have found, it doesn't. But that question should be asked before any outsourcing is done in every single case.
Making matters worse, four-fifths of the blue-color jobs targeted for outsourcing were held by veterans. So the Veterans' Administration is outsourcing Government jobs held by veterans to go to private contractors without proving that it is actually saving money. This is more than a paycheck or a path to independence. Sidestepping the rules to eliminate their jobs is bad business and bad policy.
I urge my colleagues to support the amendment.