Federal agency heads will be expected to review the contracts their organizations have awarded over the past two years to determine whether those contractors or subcontractors used labor from or performed work outside the United States.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Aug. 3 aimed at making federal contracting and hiring more beneficial for American workers.

“The head of each agency that enters into contracts shall assess any negative impact of contractors’ and subcontractors’ temporary foreign labor hiring practices or offshoring practices on the economy and efficiency of Federal procurement and on the national security, and propose action, if necessary and as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to improve the economy and efficiency of federal procurement and protect the national security,” the order states.

The order also requires agency heads to review their employee hiring practices to ensure that such practices meet with the legal requirements that all employees hired under the competitive service are U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents seeking citizenship, refugee and asylum recipients who intend to seek citizenship or a person who owes allegiance to the United States.

“Within 120 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency shall submit a report to the director of the Office of Management and Budget summarizing the results of the reviews …; recommending, if necessary, corrective actions that may be taken by the agency and timeframes to implement such actions; and proposing any presidential actions that may be appropriate,” the order states.

The executive order wades into a space of ongoing tension between lawmakers, agency leaders and federal employee groups in the outsourcing of federal jobs.

Past efforts to cut costs moved the work of many federal employees onto the shoulders of contractors, who claimed that they could perform the work at a lower expense than the government.

Government contractors are not subject to the same merit systems regulations, hiring practices and benefit entitlements as federal employees, thus the government may save money on contracted work but have less control over where the work is performed and by whom.

The American Federation of Government Employees noted when Trump took office in 2017 that the federal government had “two workforces” — federal employees and contractors — the latter of which had grown significantly over the past two decades.

Federal appropriations bills in recent years have included provisions that prohibited agencies from using those funds to announce a study or competition that would transition work performed by federal employees to private contractors.

According to a White House fact sheet issued alongside the executive order, the president’s actions come in response to the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority’s announcement that it plans to outsource 20 percent of its technology jobs to foreign countries.

“TVA’s action could cause more than 200 highly-skilled American tech workers in Tennessee to lose their jobs to low-wage, foreign workers hired on temporary work visas,” the fact sheet states.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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