Regarding the Sept. 17 Business story "Short- Staffed FEMA Farms Out Procurement":

We don't need to be "loosening contracting laws" or "exposing the government to fraud" by changing contracting procedures.

The government has a program to validate contractor qualifications in advance and ensure fair and reasonable pricing. The GSA Schedules Program mirrors commercial buying practices. It is the fastest, easiest and most effective contracting vehicle available.

The program establishes long-term government-wide contracts with firms to provide access to more than 10 million commercial supplies and services.

GSA Schedules offers customers direct delivery of state-of-the-art, high-quality commercial supplies and services at volume discount pricing. GSA Schedules also offers the potential benefits of shorter lead times and reduced administrative costs.

Orders placed against GSA Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) contracts are considered in full and open competition. Placing an order this way ensures that the order represents the best value and results in the lowest overall cost alternative to meet the government's needs.

We need to look at existing programs before making quick fixes that could weaken proven procedures and open up possibilities for abuse.




Regarding the Sept. 27 front-page story "FEMA Plans to Reimburse Faith Groups for Aid":

Will the federal government reimburse firefighters and police outside the Gulf Coast area for their essential assistance? What about universities across the country that have enrolled students from the stricken area? And animal shelter volunteers who searched through flooded areas to find family pets? How about families who have taken in relatives with no idea of how long they'll stay?

None of these organizations or people expects federal reimbursement for hurricane relief efforts, and neither should churches.




Why shouldn't casinos affected by Hurricane Katrina get tax breaks ["In Break With Tradition, Casinos May Get Tax Breaks, Too," front page, Sept. 22]? As Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour said, casinos should be "treated like any other industry."

The nearly 14,000 gaming industry employees along the Mississippi Gulf Coast need the jobs our industry provides. It is outrageous to imply, as the article did, that they should be treated like second-class citizens because of some bias toward our legal business.

Mississippi's Gulf Coast casinos contributed more than $120 million in tax revenue to state and local governments last year in addition to paying federal corporate taxes. How can anyone argue that they should be treated differently from all other industries? Gaming facilities certainly were not treated differently under past legislation for disaster relief.

Our companies should not be punished for remaining committed to these communities and to our employees in the region, whom we continue to pay in the wake of the hurricane. If the federal government wants to make certain that the economies of the storm-affected areas are not damaged forever, denying aid to large employers that provide significant tax revenue would be counterproductive.

The idea that the gaming industry should not receive support because it has properties elsewhere, if applied across the board, would exclude hundreds of other businesses, too.


President and Chief Executive

American Gaming Association