WASHINGTON- The federal government has identified 420,000 jobs that could be contracted out to the private sector, and tens of thousands more are likely to be added by end of this month.
Just because a job appears on an inventory list, however, does not automatically mean it will be contracted out.
“It is still the agency’s or management’s decision if that work can be performed more efficiently in the private sector,” said Dee Lee, acting deputy manager of the Office of Management and Budget, which is compiling the list.
The list of targeted jobs are part of the 1998 Federal Activities Information Reform (FAIR) Act, which requires all federal agencies to identify jobs that are not “inherently governmental.” Once those are identified, private sector firms can bid to do the jobs.
OMB released the first FAIR list Sept. 30, identifying 320,000 employees in more than 50 federal agencies whose jobs were commercial in nature. A second list released at the end of October identified 120,000 workers at 42 agencies.
More than one-third of the government jobs in the agencies included in the first list were identified as potentially commercial jobs, while just about 30 percent of the government workers in the second set of agencies were targeted.
“It [releasing the lists] hasn’t been an easy step,” Lee said. “All the agencies have inventories that we are aiming to get out by the end of the year.”
OMB has yet to release the Department of Defense inventory, as well as lists from several other agencies.
Government workers’ union officials, meanwhile, vowed to challenge the lists as they are released.
“It’s simple,” said Wiley Pearson, a defense specialist for the American Federation of Government Employees. “We have a right to appeal and exercise that right as soon as the list comes out.”
Pearson described an “extensive outreach” by unions to alert federal workers to FAIR and its possible implications.
In AFGE’s review, Pearson said, the union first looks to determine if the position is inherently governmental and then it looks to see if an agency’s identification of a job as commercial is inconsistent with previous rulings.
Reginald Addison, a senior computer operator at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission headquarters in Rockville, was not on the list of jobs in his agency that are potentially commercial. But he said the whole process still makes him anxious.
“I feel that it’s not right,” said Addison, 50, of Gaithersburg. “It makes me angry and nervous. I wish we could see another way out of it.”