- The Washington Times - Friday, November 15, 2002

The White House yesterday announced a plan to make it easier for private companies to compete with federal workers to perform government services, despite the objections of unions.
"We will save taxpayer money and make government more efficient," said White House Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan. "Public-private competitions save in excess of 30 percent on each competition."
The plan will be published in the Federal Register on Monday and then implemented by the White House Office of Management and Budget after a 30-day period of public input. It does not require congressional approval.
Labor officials said the plan is the first step toward full privatization, and an all-out assault on unions by the Bush administration.
"It's their way of emasculating the federal employee unions, which is honestly a sad development not just for the unions but for the nation as a whole," said Wiley Pearson of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).
"This is going to be just a wholesale jump into privatization," he added. "It's a cover story for an attack on federal employees in order to get rid of their jobs."
But OMB officials said union workers can compete along with non-union workers for up to 850,000 federal jobs. They pointed out that the plan is largely an effort to streamline existing bidding procedures that discourage competition from private contractors.
The process is currently so burdensome that it often takes upward of two years to secure a contract.
"From the public announcement of a public-private competition to when we have a solicitation on the street, it's taking an average of 20 months and that's for mowing the lawn," said Angela Sayles, OMB's administrator for federal procurement. "It's absolutely unacceptable."
OMB spokesman Trent Duffy said large numbers of federal employees are performing tasks that could be more efficiently performed by private firms.
"The Navy currently has 540 people who craft eyeglasses can LensCrafters or Sears do it better?" he said. "We have park rangers who instead of protecting public lands at national parks are collecting fees when you drive in or collecting refuse."
Unions said the plan was particularly ominous coming on the heels of President Bush's push for a Department of Homeland Security. The president wants the right to suspend collective-bargaining procedures on matters of national security.
"It's a one-two punch," said Mr. Pearson. "It's a massive, wholesale onslaught on the morale of the federal employees who are left.
"I mean, suddenly no one is safe," he added. "It used to be that you'd go into federal employment because it gave you job security, it gave you an element of respect, and it gave you the idea that you were serving the federal good. All three of those are being thrown out."
But OMB officials said government agencies during the Clinton administration became experts at discouraging competition from the private sector. Furthermore, federal bureaucrats expanded their fiefdoms by branching out to provide services to separate, unrelated government entities.
"I've been in government for only a short time and it is mind-boggling, truly mind-boggling, to see the amount of work that flows from bureau to bureau," said Jack Kalavritinos, OMB's associate administrator for competitive sourcing. "During the last administration, there was sort of a blossoming of what is euphemistically called entrepreneurial government bureau-to-bureau work.
"The Department of Treasury actually takes out booths at government conferences to sell human resources consulting. They go around to other agencies and hold themselves out to be HR experts and get contracts.
"That means the Department of Treasury people go to, like, Agriculture, to teach them how to be more effective employees," he added. "That's the kind of thing that is happening like crazy throughout the government."
Mr. Pearson disputed the notion that the previous administration was supportive of federal employee unions.
"The Clinton administration wasn't particularly kind to us, but at least we had an ability to talk with them and voice our objections and concerns," he said. "Now we're being viewed as the enemy. The Bush administration has handed us a hand grenade and taken the pin out."
Mr. Pearson acknowledged that his union, which has more than 200,000 members, was consulted in the formulation of the Bush plan. The AFGE and other unions will be further briefed today by Miss Sayles.
The new rules will not affect more than half the federal government's civilian work force of 1.8 million. That's because bureaus representing nearly a million workers told the OMB that their services could not be performed by commercial entities.


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