More Than 100,000 Jobs Expected to Face Outsourcing Review
By Stephen Barr
Monday, October 6, 2003; Page B02
The Bush administration's "competitive sourcing" initiative has reached all the way to Carville, La., where the federal government operates a hospital complex that provides treatment and rehabilitative services for leprosy patients.
Employees at the Gillis W. Long Hansen's Disease Center were notified recently that their jobs will be put up for bid in the fiscal year that began Wednesday. The center has about 108 employees, and 90 to 100 have been tentatively identified as holding jobs that are commercial in nature, said JonNelson, an associate administrator at the Health Resources and Services Administration.
Under President Bush's management agenda, agencies are systematically reviewing jobs to determine if federal work can be performed more cheaply and effectively in the private sector. Several agency projects have sparked controversy on Capitol Hill, where some Democrats have questioned whether staging job competitions is worth the cost -- in money and morale.
At least 103,000 federal jobs are listed in government competition plans, according to a report issued Friday by the Office of Management and Budget. (The report does not include data from the Department of Homeland Security, the government's third-largest agency.)
The job competitions follow OMB guidelines, which were revised in May. Some take longer than others, and the number of employees targeted can vary from a few dozen to several hundred. In general, administration officials estimate that federal employees won at least half of past competitions.
That was the case at HRSA recently, where four job reviews resulted in the work staying in house, Nelson said. "Obviously, employees were pleased," he said.
The reviews were conducted under expedited procedures, aimed at reaching a decision in three to four months. The reviews evaluated exactly what the workers did, how much they were paid, and what their overhead costs were. The findings were compared against existing contracts in the private sector for similar activities.
Under the expedited procedures, employees are not asked to form a "most efficient organization" or take other steps typically associated with the review process.
Nelson said the reviews concluded that 45 technology employees, 10 architects and engineers, 11 health education loan employees and 10 grants administration employees should remain in their jobs.
HRSA will look at larger numbers of employees, probably in grants management, as it gets further along on its competitive sourcing project, Nelson said. HRSA has about 2,000 employees in the Washington area, and about 50 percent have been categorized as performing commercial activities. The agency, part of the Health and Human Services Department, seeks to expand access to health care for low-income and special-needs citizens.
Asked how much outsourcing reviews cost, Nelson said "my rule of thumb" is about $3,500 per employee. That includes all the costs of the job reviews -- from determining whether positions should be placed on a list of commercial activities to conducting cost comparisons and running competitions between employees and contractors. Expedited reviews cost less, he said.
The leprosy, or Hansen's disease, center has been selected for review in the coming year, Nelson said, in keeping with HRSA's goal of studying 10 percent of its commercial-type jobs each year.
The government purchased the Carville Leprosarium from the state of Louisiana in 1921 as part of the Public Health Service's investigation into the origin and prevalence of the disease. The center, which dates back to 1894, once treated hundreds of people for Hansen's disease, but recent news media reports indicate only about 20 patients remain at the facility. The director at the Carville center was not available for comment, an aide said.
The application season for the Mike Mansfield fellowship program has started. The first information session will be held Wednesday at the program's offices in Washington.
The fellowships are designed for federal employees with a strong career interest in the U.S.-Japan relationship. Fellows spend a year working in Japanese government offices after completion of a year of language and other studies in the United States. After their year in Japan, fellows return to their U.S. agencies.
For information about the program, go online to www.mansfieldfdn.orgor call 202-347-1994. To reserve a seat for the Oct. 8 session, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other information sessions will be held Nov. 5 and Dec. 3. The application deadline is April 1.
Stephen Barr's e-mail address email@example.com.
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