Letter to the editor
I believe the philosophy of political conservatism is the reason why the Bush administration wants to outsource government jobs. Some Americans see government as a vehicle for social progress, while others see it only as an evil necessary to maintain order and to defend against foreign enemies. This controversy has been with us since the Articles of Confederation.
In the years I was associated with NASA as a contractor and as a government employee, contractors were usually in technical and administrative positions, while the government workers were in contract administration and technical direction positions. There was a great balance and it worked very well.
Then, with the Reagan administration, the civil servant started to become the target of ridicule. They were pictured as lazy bureaucrats who were drones who contributed nothing. With stories like the $700 hammers and the $1,200 toilet seats, the incompetence of government workers became the stuff of folklore.
The conservatives who came in with Ronald Reagan found his election an opportunity to get rid of much of the progressive movement that started with FDR and to get the federal government out of the peoples' lives. If the country wanted to go into space, then they would pay for it through private enterprise. The same went for the food inspections, the cure for cancer, etc. The philosophy that the market will solve everything almost became a religion.
There were two obvious ways to do this: Reduce government funding through tax reform and high military spending so that the civilian side could not afford social ventures. Then, get rid of the cadre of nonmilitary government workers who actually did the work.
So the reason you see no consistency with the aims of the Government Performance and Results Act and the actions of the Commercial Activities Panel is because there is none ["GPRA and government business"]. The administration sees no reason for government workers, so why should they see any need to attract highly qualified people into government work, much less how to measure their efficiency.
I will be retiring soon so much of this will become academic, but I believe the conservatives sent the wrong man for the job. Even with Uncle Dick to lead the way, George W. will become the only lame-duck president in his first term and then the value of recruiting highly skilled government workers and finding ways to measure their effectiveness will again become relevant.