Thomas R. Temin
Fifty-two agencies responding to a congressional order have managed to cough up lists of 320,000 jobs, a third of which could in theory be outsourced. They've forwarded the lists'or job inventories'to the Office of Management and Bud-
get. OMB compiled them and sent them to Congress, all in compliance with the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act.
The job inventories have provoked howls of protest from the Hill and from vendors, many of whom are salivating at the possibility of feasting on all those supposed outsourcing contracts.
Skeptics might see OMB's compilation as a brilliant display of bureaucratic obfuscation that keeps the wolves at bay. I can imagine the agency managers saying, 'You want lists? I'll give you lists.'' The resulting job lists are inconsistent from agency to agency and are difficult to read. In short, the inventories aren't the tidy menus of contract opportunities that critics evidently had hoped for.
But perhaps the whole exercise is a contrivance. A lot of work is already outsourced. Besides, it is unfair to ask those who might be put out of work to scour their agencies for outsourcing possibilities.
At a recent conference, the director of government contract services at one company'echoing the sentiments of others'described some of the plans under which eliminated federal workers would land jobs with the companies hired to do the work.
He described a scenario in which government professionals, at least those in high technology, could be viewed'or could view themselves'as feeder stock for the private sector.
Never mind that many employees entered the federal work force with a more elevated view of public service. Suppose that all 100,000 workers whose work was outsourced got jobs working for contractors. If, as is widely known, private-sector people get more money and benefits than their government counterparts, where then is the savings for the government, which would have lost much of its knowledge base?
The government needs a partnership with the private sector. But half of the partnership shouldn't spend its career under a continuing threat of job loss.
Thomas R. Temin