Last week, companion bills were introduce in the House and Senate with the name "Freedom from Government Competition Act of 2019. The purpose of the two bills is to increase opportunities for private businesses to provide goods and services to the Federal Government without the threat of "unfair competition" from a Government agency.
According to the narrative accompanying the bills, 1.2 million federal Government employees are in positions that are commercial in nature. "At a time when the annual deficit is nearly $800 billion and the national debt is over $23 trillion, the Government cannot simply afford to prolong an inefficient bureaucracy and have the Government providing goods and services better left to private businesses.
This bill would codify an official Government policy that the Government should not compete with its citizens, but instead rely on the private sector for commercially available goods and services. It also requires that every federal agency review all commercial activities to assure performance is providing the best value to the taxpayer and to implement an appropriation action or reform, regardless of whether the activity stays in-house or is transitioned to the private sector. In other words, agencies must provide justification one way or another.
Although the stated purpose of the bill is not to mandate privatization, it should encourage a system where private businesses could compete alongside the federal Government for the opportunity to perform certain functions at a lower cost to taxpayers.
Can private industry do things cheaper, better (more thorough), and quicker than Government employees? That is really an unanswerable question. As they say, you can have some combination of two, but not three. The question is what is most important to taxpayers. And that's where someone will need to weigh costs and benefits.
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