Senator James Lankford (R-OK) on Friday celebrated House passage of his bill with Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), the End Human Trafficking in Government Contracts Act of 2022, which will ensure the US government is not paying for or participating in human trafficking of vulnerable third-country workers through our contracts overseas, including those in defense and national security. The bill refers all potential instances of human trafficking to suspension and debarment officials, who ultimately terminates contracts found to be involved in human trafficking and importantly contractors known to have participated in trafficking and prevent them from trafficking people with US taxpayer dollars ever again. The bill now awaits signature by the President after unanimously passing in the Senate earlier this year.
“My bill with Senator Ernst to end the immoral, illegal, and tragic human trafficking taking place in US overseas contracts is finally making its way to the President’s desk for signature into law,” said Lankford. “Most Americans rightly assume their government would never traffic human beings using their tax dollars, but sadly it’s happening. This needs to stop now, and we must put safeguards in place to make sure it never happens again.”
In 2012 during his time in the House of Representatives, Lankford offered a similar bill, the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act, as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, but the practice is still going on.
Lankford’s revised bill ensures the US government could terminate any government contract that participated in human trafficking, penalize contractors engaged in trafficking, and prevent future trafficking. However, a recently published Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, as well as annual Defense Department Inspector General (IG) reports, show that human trafficking tragically still exists in overseas government contracts, so the End Human Trafficking in Government Contracts Act of 2021 is needed to provide oversight of remedial action and ensure enforcement of the law.
A majority of contracting officers are aware of the need for contracts greater than $550,000 to have a compliance plan that ensures they are not participating in human trafficking, and a majority of contracts have that clause, though not all.
Lankford penned an op-ed in The Hill to discuss the immediate need for this legislation.