Nation’s Top Construction Official Says New Rule Allows Federal Officials to Punish Firms at Will and Impose Arbitrary Consequences, Making it Hard for Many Firms to Continue Federal Work

The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America issued the following statement today in response to the release of a final federal regulation that would allow unelected federal officials to blacklist firms who run afoul of vague guidelines:

“Few other organizations have fought harder, for longer, or more successfully than the Associated General Contractors of America to make sure honest firms aren’t forced to compete with bad firms. The last thing any of our members want is to compete against a firm that cuts corners on safety or fails to properly compensate hard working craft people. That is one reason we have worked so hard to make sure the federal government has a robust, clear-cut and fairly-administered suspension and debarment program to deal with the extremely small number of federal contractors that do not operate in good faith. 

“Unfortunately this new Obama administration rule is a step in the wrong direction when it comes to weeding out the very few unfair and unscrupulous federal contractors. In addition to the already substantial consequences firms currently face, this new measure permits unelected federal bureaucrats to make arbitrary decisions about which other firms will be singled out for punishment. Even worse, this new rule gives those same federal officials broad latitude to impose separate and inconsistent consequences on those firms.  

“While there are many flaws with this new measure, one of its biggest is that it gives federal officials enormous discretion to decide which firms should be singled out for punishment.  For example, it allows a federal contracting official to give greater weight to the same safety violations depending on which firm was accused of committing them. Such subjective criteria opens the door to punishing federal contractors based on which political, social or labor causes they support, instead of their safety performance or treatment of workers.

“This new rule will make it extremely difficult for many firms, particularly smaller ones, to continue working with the federal government. While all federal contractors will face difficulties finding ways to deal with the added new compliance and risk costs, smaller firms especially will likely decide the risks far outweigh the reward. As a result, an administration that frequently claims to champion the cause of smaller business will have yet again made it difficult for them to perform federal work.

“Needless to say, we will explore all possible legislative and legal measures for undoing this deeply troubling and unnecessary new federal mandate.”