No need to fear FAIR Act?

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"Fair or foul?"

Two dozen agencies have declared 195,000 federal jobs to be "not inherently

governmental," which implies that they could be contracted out to the private

sector. But there is little likelihood that many of the jobs will be outsourced

soon.

The government is going through the motions of complying with the 1998 Federal

Activities Inventory Reform Act. The act calls for agencies to produce an

annual inventory of jobs that indicates whether a job is "inherently governmental"

and must be performed by a federal employee, or if it is "a commercial activity"

that could be performed by a contract worker.

The 195,000 figure is sure to multiply as more agency inventories are released

by the Office of Management and Budget. But few federal workers need fear

for their jobs.

"I don't know yet if [the inventories] have led to any outsourcing. I'd

be surprised if the answer was yes," said an auditor for the General Accounting

Office.

A GAO review of 1999 inventories showed that more than 900,000 jobs were

deemed "not inherently governmental," but more than a year later, only 580

of those jobs were being considered for contracting out.

Federal agencies have made clear their resistance to outsourcing. Of the

900,000 jobs identified as potentially "commercial," about 513,000 were

also declared exempt from consideration for outsourcing, GAO wrote in a

report to Congress.

Although the FAIR Act has failed to trigger much contracting out, it has

sparked a furious counterattack by federal employee unions.

The American Federation of Government Employees has lined up more than 202

congressional cosponsors for legislation that would temporarily halt contracting

out. However, the legislation — the Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability

in Contracting Act — is stalled in the House and will probably expire when

Congress adjourns.

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