Policy Issues That Matter to Industry
by Lawrence P. Farrell, Jr.
As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, NDIA advocates legislation,
regulations and policies that are essential to a strong and ready
defense industrial base. We work closely with Congress and the Executive
Branch as an industry voice to ensure our government policymakers
and lawmakers know where we stand on specific issues.
In this President’s Perspective, I would like to highlight
some of the key policy issues that we—together with other
partner associations—have been working on this past year.
These issues all have significant impact on the defense industrial
base, and, hopefully, you will be pleased with the results to date.
NDIA always has opposed legislation that was designed to limit
the federal government’s flexibility in outsourcing work to
the private sector. One such piece of legislation offered last year
was the Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting
Act, which would impose a moratorium on future outsourcing, as well
as mandate the use of the Office of Management and Budget A-76 Circular
as the basis for all future outsourcing determinations.
When the bill was introduced, we provided our corporate members
with background information and sample letters for use in contacting
members of Congress. In addition, NDIA coordinated our work with
other associations through our affiliation with the Coalition for
Outsourcing and Privatization (COP). So far, we have been successful
in keeping the proposed legislation from moving forward. However,
it is still an active bill, which could be brought up again this
year. Consequently, we intend to play offense instead of defense
in the months to come.
Along the same lines, we successfully opposed a provision in the
House version of the fiscal year 2002 National Defense Authorization
Act (NDAA). The provision, as reported by the House Armed Services
Committee, would have greatly expanded the government functions
required to undergo the lengthy A-76 process in order to be outsourced,
and would have forced the Pentagon to open up contractor jobs to
competition from public-sector workers. Fortunately, it was deleted
in the House-Senate conference that preceded final passage of the
Act. Again, NDIA activities on this issue were coordinated with
other associations through COP.
Another issue that has generated controversy over the years is
the mandate requiring the use of the Federal Prison Industries (FPI)
as a preferred Defense contractor. Several federal agencies have
been required by law to procure certain products directly from FPI
with no competition. This situation represents a significant loss
of business opportunities to small, medium, and large contractors
alike. NDIA independently, and as a member of the Coalition for
Competition in Contracting, supported a provision in the Senate
version of the fiscal year 2002 NDAA that allows Defense contracting
officers to compete contracts for products that they formerly had
to assign to FPI. The provision prevailed in the House-Senate conference
and is now public law.
As we have done in years past, NDIA continues to support the Defense
Department’s efforts to conduct additional Base Realignment
and Closure (BRAC) rounds. Last year, NDIA sent multiple letters
to the House and Senate backing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s
proposal for an additional BRAC round in 2003. Congress opted to
delay another round until 2005.
On the regulatory front, NDIA vigorously opposed a proposed rule
that would have required contractors to certify, under penalty of
criminal liability for false swearing, that they have complied with
all federal and state labor, employment, tax, environmental, anti-trust,
and consumer protection laws for a period of three years prior to
being awarded any contract. Under this so-called “blacklisting”
rule, federal contracting officers, with no special training in
any of these laws, would have had to determine a contractor’s
satisfactory compliance with them before they could proceed to make
an award. Not only did NDIA express opposition to this rule on its
own but added our voice as a member of the multi-association National
Alliance Against Blacklisting. As a result, the rule was revoked.
We also were successful on two other issues—both related
to depot-level maintenance. On one issue (referred to as “hold
harmless”), private-sector partners can now file legal claims
against their public-sector partners when the latter fail to comply
with cost, schedule, and performance requirements. On the other
issue, we were successful in getting relief from the 50-50 limitation
on public-private work share. Work performed by contractors as part
of a public-private partnership is now excluded from this limitation
when the work is performed at a depot.
We also took steps to highlight industry’s human capital
problems. One of our committee chairmen provided testimony to the
House Science Committee on the loss of valuable skills in the industry
and the difficulty of hiring top managerial and technical talent
to replace these lost skills. As a follow-up to the testimony, NDIA
submitted a list of proposed legislative initiatives dealing with
the human capital crisis, specifically directing attention to fields
requiring degrees in math, science and engineering. Recognizing
that this is a problem that won’t get solved overnight, we
have included it in our “Top Issues for 2002.”
In summary, I am pleased to report that our efforts have been successful
and worthwhile. I believe that NDIA is devoting appropriate resources
to issues that matter not just to our members, but to the nation’s
industrial and technology base as well. Our Government Policy department
has been hard at work this past year and will continue to push full
speed ahead in 2003. It is an important arm of the Association.
You can learn more about NDIA’s government policy efforts
by visiting our Web site, ndia.org.