Forest Service to cut IT jobs

Workers in the Forest Service's information technology services group won a competitive sourcing contract and as many as 180 of them may be out of a job as a result.

Forest Service employees were informed this week that they had won the five-year contract, valued at $295 million. In competitive sourcing projects, federal workers compete against outside vendors to do work.

The Forest Service IT contest attracted only one competing bid. Forest Service officials have not disclosed the name of the losing bidder.

In its winning proposal, the IT services group said it could save the agency $100,000 during the next five years by eliminating 180 positions -- about 20 percent of the current workforce -- and consolidating data center operations that are in about 150 locations. The agency plans instead to operate 10 server farms.

The employees affected are primarily data center operators and help-desk employees. But some of them may be hired for other positions within the Forest Service or may be offered early retirement or cash buyouts, agency officials said.

The rules of competitive sourcing are defined under the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76. They allow federal agencies to identify jobs that could be performed by nongovernment employees and to put the jobs up for bid. The most cost-effective proposal wins.

Federal employee unions have staunchly opposed the concept, because the process results in job cuts no matter who wins a sourcing competition. Proponents tout competitive sourcing as a way to cut costs.

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