"Competitive Sourcing" and People with Disabilities
Last month, his family learned that Goodman is among tens of thousands of federal employees, the vast majority of them not disabled, whose agencies are evaluating whether their jobs could be performed better and more cheaply by a private contractor. It is all part of President Bush's "competitive sourcing" initiative, which requires civil servants across the government to prove they can do their work more efficiently than private contractors, or risk seeing the work outsourced.
The initiative has thrown a scare into many federal workers, who are anxious about whether they will be forced to go to work for a private contractor or find themselves with no job at all. But the policy is especially vexing for employees with disabilities and their advocates. They fear that a strict economic comparison puts such workers at a decided disadvantage because they often require more supervision and extra help, and therefore cost more to employ.
Advocates say Bush's focus on the bottom line ignores the fact that for decades, through various policies and laws, federal agencies have gone out of their way to hire members of certain populations, from veterans to disabled people to welfare mothers and students. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, for instance, banned discrimination against disabled people in federal hiring and required agencies to develop plans to hire and promote more people with disabilities.
The competitive sourcing policy also flies in the face of more recent efforts under the Bush administration's New Freedom Initiative to promote opportunities for disabled people and better integrate them into the general workforce, the advocates say.