Push to compete adds weight to FAIR Act

Push to compete adds weight to FAIR Act

But Round 2 of inventories to define jobs that are not inherently governmental finds that IT workers are difficult to identify

Industry groups and Congress last month took a closer look at the second list of agency inventories released this year under the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act to see how they would be affected by the Bush administration's goal of opening more federal jobs to competition from the private sector.

In the latest inventory, the Office of Management and Budget detailed 201,000 functions at 34 agencies, of which 74,000 were deemed not inherently governmental and therefore potentially subject to competition.

This year, OMB has reviewed a total of 91 agencies and found 302,263 functions that fall into the noninherently governmental class.

The Bush administration hopes to open at least 5 percent of all noninherently governmental jobs to private-sector competition next year, and 10 percent by 2003.

But officials cannot give an accurate count of how many positions are IT-related. Agencies record jobs under 26 broad categories and more than 300 specific functions.

'The definition of an IT worker is not so easy anymore,' said James Flyzik, CIO of the Treasury Department and vice chairman of the CIO Council. 'Just about everyone uses a certain amount of IT in their work on a daily basis.'

Despite this uncertainty, the Information Technology Association of America is considering whether to regroup its FAIR Act task force for next year.

'Earlier this year, the procurement policy committee made a decision not to do anything with the FAIR Act unless something changes, and something has changed,' said Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of enterprise systems for ITAA. 'OMB is gearing up to have more jobs competed, so now we will take a second look at the inventories.'

Please explain

ITAA challenged 13 agency inventories in 1999, when the first sets of functions were released. Grkavac said the process frustrated her organization and many others.

'It was hard to understand the inventories because the terminology varied so much,' she said. 'The inventories on the agency Web sites also were hard to find.'

Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said the Bush administration's commitment to competition is making vendors and agencies take a closer look at the inventories.

'It might take the administration some time to get the new processes in place, but when it does, the usefulness of the data will increase,' Allen said.

A staff member on the House Government Reform Committee said the inventories should be used to make sure the government functions efficiently.

'We are supportive of competition, but not outsourcing for the sake of outsourcing,' the staff member said. 'The best way to use the FAIR Act would be to list all jobs that are inherently and noninherently governmental so agencies will have a complete document that is updated annually and useful for management.'

Flyzik agreed that the objective is to improve government operations.

'What we will see is an evolution of the kinds of skills the government has in-house,' Flyzik said. 'The government will outsource more operations and maintenance-type functions and keep program management functions in-house. The FAIR Act is a way to ask the hard questions and make the government more efficient.'

Flyzik also said competition does not mean loss of jobs for government workers.

'At Treasury, we've gone to seat management in a number of places, and we found that we could retrain and redeploy those employees who were displaced,' he added. 'The one thing we know is that there is more work than workers, so no one will lose their job.'

OMB still needs to review 20 more agencies' inventories for this year. The next set of inventories will be released by June 30.

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