Agencies opt out of competing 500,000 of 850,000 jobs, OMB says

The Bush administration's goal of competing 850,000 federal jobs for possible outsourcing has hit a snag.

After analyzing agencies' job inventories, the Office of Management and Budget found agencies had deemed 500,000 of those positions as possibly commercial but also inherently governmental'meaning agencies don't think they should be subject to competitive sourcing.

'OMB will take a hard look at those positions to see if they should be subject to competition,' Angela Styles, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said today.

Styles, speaking at a discussion on outsourcing sponsored by IBM Corp.'s Endowment for the Business of Government, added this was the first time agencies submitted their job inventories in a consistent manner, which made it possible for OMB to do the governmentwide analysis.

OMB's acknowledgment of agencies interpreting some jobs as commercial but inherently governmental comes on the heels of the House Appropriations Committee adding a provision to the Interior Department and Forest Service's fiscal 2004 funding bill that would not allow the agencies to pay for additional job competitions next year. The Park Service, a bureau in Interior, came under fire from Congress for the high cost of its competitive sourcing plans.

'There is a lot of misinformation on competitive sourcing,' Styles said. 'Interior is one of those places that is on the edge of implementing a number of studies, and it creates controversy. We will see this at every agency as people try to pick off these efforts one-by-one. We will fight every one of these and fight them hard.'

The provision would stop Interior, the Forest Service and some smaller agencies from starting new competitions, but it would let the agencies finish reviews started this year and last. Interior and the other agencies would have to submit a report detailing the schedules, plans and cost estimates for future and ongoing competitive-sourcing studies.

Helen Bradwell-Lynch, Interior's director of competitive sourcing, said the effect of the congressional provision would be to basically stop all competitive-sourcing work.

'We have no problem finishing what we have and then doing a report on what we saved or the results of the program,' she said. 'We plan to do that ourselves so we know what we are achieving.'

She said Interior is in the middle of seven studies, which would all be finished by December.

Styles added the transition to the revised OMB Circular A-76 rules has gone smoothly so far, with four agencies asking for specific changes to the new rules.

'We want agencies to interpret the new circular,' Styles said. 'We are there to help them. If they are not in direct conflict with the rules, they have the flexibility to do what they want within the circular's context.'

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