High Road? Except for the Tolls, Check Points and Costly Detours

The Center for American Progress, some labor leaders and their allies on the Hill have been placing pressure on the Administration to implement significant changes on how the federal government does business with the private sector. These groups want a government-wide “High Road Contracting Policy” to be put into effect by an executive order. Such a Presidential edict would dictate specific terms of employment that contractors must have in place in order to receive preferential treatment for federal contracts.

This proposal would add further burdens onto an already complex federal contracting system that would discourage competition in federal contracts and place smaller-sized manufacturers and non-unionized workplaces at a disadvantage for federal contracts. Led by Sen. Susan Collins, ranking member of the Senate’s committee with oversight over federal contracting policy, several Senators recognized the dangers of this proposal and have urged the Office of Management and Budget to reject any “high road” changes.

The administration claims its goal is to maximize efficiency in federal contracting. However, previous executive orders enacted supposedly to achieve the same goal have actually done the opposite. Bidders who wish to provide goods or services to the federal government should be evaluated on their ability to provide and deliver on the terms of the contracts. This process fosters competition and allows the bidder that demonstrates the best value to be recognized when bids are accepted and awarded.

The proposed “high road contracting policy” is a further attempt to achieve goals of the jobs-killing Employee Free Choice Act by executive fiat. As Roll Call notes, a group of Members of Congress recently urged the President to issue such an executive order. But as fundamental matter of labor-management relations, this is a policy matter that should be considered by the policy-making branch of the federal government – the Congress. If the Administration seeks to raise the costs of federal contracting – costs ultimately borne by the taxpayer – it should make its arguments in Congress.

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