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Bush Opens 850,000 Federal Jobs to Competition

Thursday, 14 November 2002 12:00 AM

The plan, contained in the White House's Office of Management and Budget Circular No. A-76 (Revised), was to be published today in the Federal Register, starting an adoption process in which Congress will have no say.

Under A-76, all government work deemed a "commercial activity," from secretarial duties to building and grounds maintenance, is to be opened to competition from private bidders.

Competitive bidding, the administration notes, would save the government millions of dollars, foster innovation and service efficiency.

About half the estimated 850,000 jobs in the government now considered commercial activities would be subject immediately to the proposal, after a 30-day discussion period after the notice's publication.

"The proposal is part of the president's plan to make government more efficient and more effective, and the proposals being put forth today would open certain non-core government functions to competition," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"As a result, we will save taxpayer money and make government more efficient. Public-private competitions save in excess of 30 percent on each competition, according to various reports.

"I think the president from day one has talked about making government more efficient and more effective and to work better, making government work better for the American people. We'll always remain committed to those principles."

The rule would not apply to senior positions or job categories that an agency deems a government service. In those positions, employees exercise government authority or make decisions on behalf of the government.

Appeals of category status can be made in a two-stage process to the Inventory Challenge Appeal Authority.

Trent Duffy, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, said the process envisaged would simplify the outsourcing process that has been around since the 1950s.

President Bush tussled earlier with pro-Democrat unions on his proposal to create a Department of Homeland Security. Democrats objected to his demand for authority, which he enjoys over other departments, to exempt some employees from collective bargaining for reasons of national security.

The proposal stalled in the Senate, but a new version was passed in the House on Wednesday by the lame-duck 107th Congress in the wake of the Republican victory in midterm elections. It was expected to gain Senate approval.

Bush had earlier threatened to veto any legislation that didn't give him the hiring and firing flexibility he said was necessary.

The new proposal meets Bush's need but includes an appeal process.

OMB says the competitive process would save taxpayers "tens of billions" over the years.

According to American Federation of Government Employees, government workers in competitive bidding are winning about 60 percent of contracts put out for bid.

OMB says studies by the Department of Defense, which has been active in the competitive bidding process for a number of years, shows that when jobs are won by the private sector, many displaced workers are either reabsorbed into the government or are hired to do their previous jobs by the private company.

"We're extremely pessimistic about it. If nothing else, we've been ignored in the compiling in this thing, and we've been blindsided," said Wiley Pearson, an analyst with American Federation of Government Employees.

Government officials said that unions were not ignored and that consultations had been going on for a year.

"It's been an ongoing dialogue, and we've considered their comments," said OMB's Duffy.

"They certainly know what direction we've been going, and we've been taking into account all of the input they have been giving us."

"The point that I think is key here is if there was true competition, if there was fairness in the system, I would probably echo those sentiments" of cost saving and improved efficiency, Pearson said.

"But having been through these drills for the past eight or nine years, I really have some questions about whether whatever they put out on the street is going to be fair, whether it will have the taxpayers' best interests or whether this is, as is our view of homeland security, a wholesale assault on the federal workforce."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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The plan, contained in the White House's Office of Management and Budget Circular No. A-76 (Revised), was to be published today in the Federal Register, starting an adoption process in which Congress will have no say. Under A-76, all government work deemed a "commercial...
Thursday, 14 November 2002 12:00 AM
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