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Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support Holds Hearing on FY2004 Defense Authorization

Location: Washington, DC

Congressional Hearings
Mar. 19, 2003
Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support Holds Hearing on FY2004 Defense Authorization

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Mr. Secretary, it's always good to see you. Glad to have you back with us.

Thank you.

I can't help, as I'm listening to this discussion, as we're sitting here on the brink of war, one of my projects over the last 8.5 years has been to get a definition of core work. And you all know what we went through last year with our defense authorization bill. And I was finally willing to concede, at the end of the day, because of the right concessions being made.

But I don't see any contractors jumping up and down today volunteering to go to the Middle East. And I know that there are any number of civilians at Robbins Air Force Base that are prepared to go, not because they want to go, but because that's part of their job.

So I'm always reminded of the fact that there is core work out that's public depot system is an absolute necessity. And I hope we never lose sight of that.

And I see that leading in, Mr. Secretary-and Ms. Styles, too-my comment and my question on A-76. I don't like A-76. And I don't like it because I don't think it's fair. And there is nobody who believes in competition more than I do.
I think competition does wind up giving you the best bang for the buck. But what's happened with A-76 is it's a one-way street. Every A-76 contract that I'm familiar with is a project that's being done within the depot, that all of a sudden, we decide we want to A-76 it and see whether or not we can do it cheaper on the outside.
I'm familiar with only one project that's ever been A-76ed from the outside to decide whether or not we can do it cheaper within the depot. Now I beat up on the last administration every time I had the opportunity over this issue. And I was willing to give you all some time to try to straighten that out because I asked this question for the last two years on the House side.

And I don't see any movement in that direction now. So I'd like the benefit of your thinking with respect to contracts that have been awarded or outsourced-because Mark, unlike you, I don't like that word, but it's a fact. We have outsourced contracts both under A-76 and otherwise. What are we doing with respect to those contracts that have been outsourced regarding the possibility of being able to do that work cheaper within the depots?

If I can start by addressing what we're doing in the draft revisions that we have to A-76, when I first confronted this question with the current A-76 that's now in force, that has been in force for quite a while, it appears to me that there are barriers in the circular and in the policy to bringing work back in.

I have made changes to eliminate all barriers to bringing work back in-house, to holding a competition for bringing work back in- house. Those will remain in the final circular, without any question in my mind.

The changes are going to remain, not the barriers?

The barriers will be removed. There is no question that the barriers that I perceive to be in the current process to bringing work back in-house will be removed.

There are specific instances in this administration where we have been encouraging agencies that are clearly having contract management issues, that have sent more than an appropriate amount of work out the door without having the capacity to manage that work from a contract perspective, to look at bringing work back in-house through competition. That would be HUD and that would be the Department of Energy.

However, I will be frank with you, our focus has been on work that is in-house that is performed by government employees that is commercial in nature and has never been subject to the pressures of competition. I think we made that decision because we have 850,000 jobs that have never been subject to the pressure of competition.
At least when work goes out to a contractor, it is subject to competition every three to five years.

Senator, I would just comment on a couple of things. One, the concern I think we all have is that if a government agency wants to reenter and compete for something that has gone private, it provides there is excess to do so, which may or may not be the true case.

I never have been able to get a good definition of what excess capacity is.

That's right. But I do remember visiting Warner Robbins, as a matter of fact, right shortly after I was confirmed and went through the depot. And clearly, they showed me one case where we have some problems on some C-5s engine cells. And it could not be defined-the work be defined-well enough to go out for contract because you have to write down the specifications. And the only people who could have done that work were government employees who could react immediately to that demanding requirement to replace those cells on C-5s as rapidly as possible.

That is clearly one of those cases where we would not have been able to contract out that kind of work. And I think the way we're heading is looking at making sure the functions are well performed. And we create partnerships, I believe, with the industry, is probably the best long-term solution to these problems.

And I agree with that. Partnering is the long-term answer. And it's worked well. But you all will be asked that question by me, next time you come, as to what progress we've made on reviewing contracts that have been outsourced to see whether or not we ought to bring them back in.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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