Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Abercrombie fights
to protect federal jobs

His legislation targets military
contracts and tries to keep in-house
workers employed

By Gregg K. Kakesako

U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is pushing legislation that he believes will "level the playing field" for those federal workers who face the prospect of losing their jobs because of the military's attempt to privatize work on island installations.

Abercrombie points to recent highly publicized cases where the military tried to privatize jobs at Pearl Harbor and Schofield Barracks, Fort Shafter and the Big Island's Pohakuloa Training Area.

Mike Slackman, Abercrombie's aide, said, "The congressman believes the deck is stacked and it needs to be unstacked to give in-house work force a fair chance."

Slackman explains that under current practice, the military depends on an internal study to determine whether it is feasible to use the existing labor force or put the jobs out to bid in the civilian labor market.

"This didn't give the in-house labor force time to get together to make a bid," Slackman said.

In the two recent cases, 45 Pearl Harbor civilian refuelers kept their jobs after Abercrombie interceded when analysis of the bid submitted by Trajen Inc. showed that the hourly wage it used was too low.

Last year, Trajen initially won the Navy contract because its bid of $12.7 million was the lowest. The General Accounting Office sided with the Texas company during the appeals process, but the Navy in the end decided to retain in-house force.

In the other case, 200 civilian maintenance, supply and transportation workers at three Army posts are waiting to see if they will lose their jobs after BAE Systems of Walton, Fla., was awarded a $59 million contract last year.

But the 200 workers protested because their in-house bid was $1.3 million less than the BAE proposal. The Army reversed its decision, so BAE appealed to the GAO, which in May said the Army failed to clearly state its actual requirements, and required a new evaluation and cost comparisons.

The Army workers had asked Abercrombie for help after they noticed that their in-house proposal had been changed after it was submitted last summer. They said their proposal was more than $1 million less than BAE's. They also maintained that changes made to the proposal after it was submitted increased costs.

The Army said it was still working to implement the GAO decision and does not know when it will reopen the bidding process.

Abercrombie said his amendment to the 2002 defense authorization bill being debated in Congress "will not prevent private contractors from participating, but would give in-house workers the ability to bid on the same basis as contractors."

Slackman said Abercrombie's measure calls for an open bidding process when the military decides to contract out jobs currently performed internally. And the bidding would commence without the military conducting an internal cost study.

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