Government contractor groups ask Obama to lay off the executive orders already

The President has probably significantly expanded the Oval Office budget just in the cost of pens with all of the new executive orders he’s been signing. One thing most of them have in common is that as soon as Barack Obama puts down the pen, somebody is going to be paying more money for something. This has not gone unnoticed by the various contracting groups which provide services to the federal government and now four major industry associations have broken out their own pens and sent a letter to Valerie Jarrett and Denis McDonough. In short, they’re asking Obama if he could just give it a rest, dude! (Government Executive Magazine)

On the heels of a news leak about a pending presidential directive requiring federal contractors to offer paid sick leave, four major contractor groups on Tuesday wrote to top White House officials asking them to ease up on executive orders “for the foreseeable future.”

With the White House issuing more contractor-specific orders, the “rapid growth in compliance requirements is becoming untenable,” said the letter to Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett. “The impacts, inefficiencies, and in many cases, unintended consequences are such that the interests of the American taxpayer are being significantly and negatively impacted.”

Signed by presidents of the National Defense Industrial Association, the Aerospace Industries Association, the Professional Services Council and the IT Alliance for Public Sector, the letter notes that since 2009, the White House has issued 12 contractor-focused executive orders that have led to 16 new regulations, “adding thousands of pages of new requirements to an already complex federal acquisition system, which contractors must navigate.”

Private contractors supply a lot of key services in areas where rank and file government workers are simply not equipped to handle the task or are unable to use new technologies and practices to reduce inefficiency and costs. The letter points out to the administration that all of these executive orders are leading to a “substantial barrier between the commercial and government marketplaces,” cutting the government off from key solutions.

The big one expected to come down the pike next is an executive order which would force all contractors to offer their workers substantial amounts of paid sick leave and other time off for legal issues, etc. The problem is that contracting frequently involves the use of highly paid private workers (1099 contractors) who are engaged on limited duration tasks. They are not “regular employees” who get all the normal benefits you’re used to seeing, but make up for it in higher wages on an as needed basis.

An order like this is another feel good measure to show how much Obama cares about the middle class, but it doesn’t take into account the variety of employment options which go into developing and delivering the types of services under discussion in many cases. It’s going to be a crippling burden for the contracting groups and will likely wind up in less people being able to take those sorts of jobs. Will Obama listen? You might want to get your resume in order, contractors, because I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it.

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