EPA to set jobs up for competition

The Environmental Protection Agency is coming closer to deciding which functions might be ripe for inclusion in the agency's push to competitively source an average of 200 jobs a year through 2008.

Earlier this month, the agency's Competitive Sourcing Council selected 10 possible job functions. They include specialists in information technology, records management, financial services, grants management and project management.

A final list of recommendations will be forwarded to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson by the end of the month, according to an agency statement.

Competitive sourcing, a controversial part of the President's Management Agenda, encourages agencies to open jobs considered not inherently governmental to competition with the private sector in an effort to cut overhead. The Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76 outlines the parameters of those competitions.

Which jobs within the final functions will be put up for bid will depend on the specific competition, said Luis Luna, the EPA's assistant administrator for administration and resource management, in a written statement.

Competitions require "considerable effort, taking weeks and even months following the decision on which functions to compete," Luna said. "Only then will we have a fuller idea of how many actual positions could be affected by the competitions." Competition will not automatically result in jobs lost inside the agency, he added.

Unions representing EPA workers are skeptical. The agency already relies heavily on contractors, said Diana Price, an American Federation of Government Employees procurement specialist. Pressure from the Office of Management and Budget is forcing the EPA to tip the balance even further, Price said.

"The only factor that matters to OMB is whether EPA is allowing contractors to get their hands on more taxpayers' dollars," she added.

But the fact that the agency already depends on industry workers doesn't mean it can't compete jobs that are inherently commercial anyway, said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, an industry association.

"I don't think counting heads tells you anything," he said. What matters is "to make sure you have the residual capacity to manage, oversee and evaluate the performance of its contractors," he added.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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