Support the Federal Prison Industries Competition in Contracting Act of 2003
April 9, 2003
To the United States House of Representatives:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region, urges you to cosponsor and support the Hoekstra-Franks-Collins-Maloney-Sensenbrenner Federal Prison Industries Competition in Contracting Act of 2003. This bipartisan legislation would impose overdue and much-needed restraints on the unfair competitive practices of Federal Prison Industries (FPI) that inflict damage on law-abiding businesses and the workers they employ.
Under current law, FPI has a preferential status in the government procurement process that forces federal agencies to buy only from FPI rather than using a competitive purchasing process. Once a small program focused solely on rehabilitation, FPI is now a large enterprise that has a monopoly in the federal marketplace on over 300 products and services that generated nearly $700 million in sales last year. Without reform, FPI will continue its unfettered expansion in the federal and commercial marketplace even though the private sector has proven it can better address the needs of government agencies and taxpayers by providing higher quality products, more rapidly, and for a lower price.
The Competition in Contracting Act will allow the private sector to compete fairly with FPI for federal contracts by eliminating the requirement that government agencies purchase products from FPI. The legislation provides a transition period for FPI as it adapts to the loss of its preferential status as well as provides for additional vocational and educational opportunities for inmates. A smaller reform measure was recently enacted that will allow the Defense Department, rather than FPI, to choose the best possible supplier to meet its needs. The time is now for Congress to allow all federal agencies the same opportunity and to provide additional fundamental reform, which is supported by the business, labor and the federal managers communities.
The U.S. Chamber has a vital interest in protecting business from unfair government competition. FPI reform is critical to ensure a level playing field for American businesses in the federal procurement process and to curb FPI's entry into the commercial marketplace. Accordingly, we urge you to cosponsor the Competition in Contracting Act.
R. Bruce Josten
Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
U.S. Chamber of Commerce