OMB’s Hissy Fit Over Bans on Contractors

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is having a hissy fit over S. 3001 Ė National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 and has threatened a veto if Congress proceeds with its plans to clean up the scandal, corruption, and other problems created by using contractors to conduct out military defense.

Of course, that’s not quite the way they put it.

For those of you who have paid attention to GAO reports on the use, or, more accurately, misuse of contractors (one of les specialites de la maison Unbossed) or oversight hearings on the same issues, the elements of the bill will seem long overdue. But clearly the Administration through the OMB will go down to the death fighting this one.

To here OMB tell it, the use of contractors and giving contracts to companies that evade their tax obligations is just the Adminstration’s way of meeting their sacred duty to the American people.

Or as they put it:

The top priorities of the Administration include (1) full support for the Armed Forces as they carry out their missions, (2) strengthening the capabilities of the armed forces to defend America and American interests around the globe, and (3) improving the quality of life for the members of the Armed Forces and their families.

OMB pulls out all the stops, including that failing to use contractors will mean we are letting the terrorists win.

Yeah . . . right . . .

So here is a brief overview of what you will find in the memo, some of which I will quote at greater length than others.

First, OMB objects to barring contractors from combat zones, because, gosh darn, we need them for ltos of reasons if we are to carry on the Mission.

Second, interrogations:

Prohibition on Interrogation of Detainees by Contractor Personnel: The Administration strongly objects to requirements that would prevent the Department of Defense (DoD) from conducting lawful interrogations in the most effective manner by restricting the process solely to government personnel; in some cases, a contract interrogator may possess the best combination of skills to obtain the needed information. Such a provision would unduly limit the United Statesí ability to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack

Third, good help is so hard to find in the military but can be acquired, at a price, from the private sector. Suggesting, wouldn’t you say, that if we raised the pay of the military, we could have both?

Be sure to read the section that follows in the context provided by this one:

Military Pay: The Administration strongly opposes section 601 of the bill, which provides an additional 0.5 percent increase in 2009 above the Presidentís 3.4 percent across-the-board pay increase. As the 10th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation recently reaffirmed, the overall military benefit package provides a good quality of life for service members and their families. While the Administration agrees that military pay must be kept competitive, the 3.4 percent raise, equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index, will do that. The cost of increasing the FY 2009 military pay raise by an additional 0.5 percent is $293 million in FY 2009 and $2.5 billion from FY 2009 to FY 2014.

This section not only claims that DOD cannot find good help in the military, it also claims that these prohibitions invade the executive’s sacred constitutional rights.

Can you say “unitary executive”?

Prohibition on Interrogation of Detainees by Contractor Personnel: The Administration strongly objects to requirements that would prevent the Department of Defense (DoD) from conducting lawful interrogations in the most effective manner by restricting the process solely to government personnel; in some cases, a contract interrogator may possess the best combination of skills to obtain the needed information. Such a provision would unduly limit the United Statesí ability to obtain intelligence needed to protect Americans from attack.

A later part of the statement makes the unitary executive issue crystal clear:

Constitutional Concerns: The Administration notes that several provisions of the bill raise constitutional concerns. Several provisions of the bill would impermissibly constrain the Presidentís constitutional authorities as Commander in Chief (sections 232, 841, and 2913), to supervise the Executive Branch (sections 586, 905(c), 921, and 923(c)), to conduct foreign affairs and diplomacy (sections 841 and 1616), and to protect against the unauthorized dissemination of national security and other sensitive information (sections 905(c), 923(c), 1037, 1052, 1054, and 1055). In addition, several other provisions raise constitutional concerns regarding the Recommendations Clause (sections 171 and 1053) and the Presentment Clause (section 1002). Finally, certain of these provisions (such as sections 586, 843, and 921) also raise general separation of powers concerns. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to revise the bill so as to avoid these concerns.

Fourth, let the torture, er, interrogations carry on.

Intelligence Interrogations: The Administration strongly opposes any amendment that would impose a requirement to video-record all intelligence interrogations, which is impractical, burdensome, and runs the risk of significant unintended consequences in current and future military operations. Further, the Administration strongly opposes any amendment that would prevent the Intelligence Community from conducting lawful interrogations in the most effective manner by restricting the process solely to Government personnel; as noted above, in some cases, a contract interrogator may possess the best combination of skills to obtain the needed information.

Fifth, See No Evil Contractor, Hear No Evil Contractor . . . a/k/a we just don’t want to know.

Contractor Conduct Database: The Administration strongly opposes section 831, which would require the development of an unwieldy new database of information on improper conduct and questionable behavior by contractors. Much information on contractor conduct and performance is already collected by DoD. Collections of additional information on administrative agreements, State and local actions, civil proceedings, and individual non-responsibility determinations will increase the likelihood that contractors will be improperly excluded from federal business opportunities without due process of law. It would also hamper agenciesí abilities to resolve disputes with contractors in manners that provide the most effective protection for the government.

Report after report has shown that the DOD is totally incapable of imposing accountability on contractors.

Sixth, speaking of corruption and lack of accountability, the Administration wants to let its buddies rake in the taxpayer dough while escaping owing any taxes themselves.

Contractor Payroll Tax Avoidance: The Administration opposes section 823, which would require the Department to make corporate structure determinations in reviewing and selecting contractors with international subsidiaries, which the Department is not equipped to do. As written, section 823 would delay acquisitions and increase costs to the Department and inhibit the Departmentís ability to conduct fair source selections. Further, enforcement of this provision would be impractical and subject to legal challenge since the Department would be required to ascertain the purpose of any corporate structure that uses offshore entities without having the means to make such determination.

And, there is so much more where in this release from OMB.

The OMB memo may be found here.

I swear. Once the Obama administration begins what will I do with my snark voice?

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