Promoting Higher Labor Standards in Federal Contracting

CAP Action’s David Madland testifies before the Panel on Defense Acquistion Reform of the House Committee on Armed Services. Read the full testimony (CAP Action)

Chairman Andrews and Ranking Member Conaway, I am David Madland, Director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

I am pleased to appear before the Panel on Defense Acquisition Reform today and applaud your efforts to ensure that federal contracting provides taxpayers with good value for the money. As the work of this panel, as well as many others in Congress and the administration has made clear, the federal contracting process needs to be reformed to limit waste and better ensure the government’s interests are upheld.

While the Center for American Progress and Center for American Progress Action Fund have advocated for a range of reforms including: increasing competition, strengthening the acquisition workforce, improving transparency and oversight, and preventing the contracting out of essential government functions, I want to focus on a less well-known but equally critical issue: the pay, benefits and working conditions of the low-wage contract workforce.

As I will explain, the contracting process gives inadequate consideration as to how contractors treat their workforce, which can cause the Department of Defense to receive less than full value for its investments.

In my testimony, I want to make three main points:

First, many federally contracted workers have low-quality jobs. The workers I am talking about sew military uniforms, rebuild army bases, and provide security for secure facilities.

Second, while poor treatment of workers is an important problem in its own right, more to the point of this panel, low pay, limited benefits and poor working conditions impose costs on the government and taxpayers and make it hard for high-road companies to compete.

Third, promoting higher labor standards can be part of a strategy for ensuring better value in contracting.

CAP Action’s David Madland testifies before the Panel on Defense Acquistion Reform of the House Committee on Armed Services. Read the full testimony (CAP Action)