IT jobs not FAIR game

Fiscal 2001 FAIR Act inventories

The Office of Management and Budget on Sept. 26 released the first set of jobs listed by agencies as available for outsourcing to the private sector, and most information technology jobs on the lists are not open for competition.

Under the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act of 1998, agencies must provide a list of all the commercial functions done by their employees that could be performed by contractors. This first set includes the inventories from 56 federal entities, and others will be covered in following releases.

Agencies can designate certain functions as exempt from competition, and many fall under that category. The Energy Department put almost 450 of its 576 IT functions aside, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency made more than 180 of its 203 IT jobs exempt.

The FAIR Act inventories have been controversial since the first ones were issued in fiscal 1999. And for fiscal 2001, OMB also required agencies to submit a list of those functions considered inherently governmental. Much of the controversy has surrounded what is regarded as "inherently governmental" and the process for the private sector and government employees to mount challenges.

Industry groups also have expressed concern that although jobs may be on the list, there has been no way to force agencies to actually compete any functions.

This year the Bush administration, as part of a larger push to reform government, issued a requirement that agencies compete at least 5 percent of the jobs listed in their FAIR Act inventories in fiscal 2002 and at least 15 percent in fiscal 2003.

Increasing the use of competitive sourcing is one of the five items on the president's management agenda, released in August.

But OMB will be carefully monitoring the performance of agency functions, whether they are outsourced to the private sector or kept in house, OMB's Director Mitchell Daniels Jr. told a group of commercial executives in July.

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