Washington, DC–The U.S. Forest Service is initiating studies for contracting out its entire law enforcement, budgetary and human resources staff, as well as significant portions of its environmental, fire control and timber sale workforce in order to meet Bush Administration outsourcing quotas, according to internal documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Under the agency plans,
In Fiscal Year 2004, the agency would commission studies possibly leading to the replacement of its entire law enforcement program (650 positions), natural resource monitoring and data collection (300 positions), and a significant number of positions (150) from its national fire center in Boise, Idaho;
In FY 2005, it would prepare outsourcing competitions for its entire financialmanagement (2,000 positions) and human resources (900 positions) staff; and
In FY 2006, the agency will consider replacing between 5,000 and 10,000 fire fighters with private contractors.
“Under this corporate quota plan, our national forests could be placed under operational control of timber companies best poised to low bid the jobs that are supposed to oversee their activities,” stated Jeff Ruch, PEER Executive Director. “These schemes appear designed to produce a Georgia-Pacific National Forest patrolled by private rent-a-rangers.”
At the same time, signs of Congressional opposition to outsourcing are growing. The Republican-controlled Appropriations Committee in the House reported out an Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations bill that would block further “competitive sourcing” in the Forest Service as well as the Park Service and other Interior agencies.
All told, the Forest Service is planning to look at replacing more than 10,000 of its approximately 44,000 person workforce with corporate employees by the end of FY 2007 in order to meet President Bush’s mandate that all federal agencies review at least half of all positions classified as potentially commercial under new streamlined contracting rules. As a “morale booster for employees” the agency plans a few “reverse” studies to determine whether current contractors could be economically replaced by civil servants.
“This massive contracting program is debilitating agencies, demolishing employee morale and convincing thousands that a future career in federal service is a bureaucratic crap shoot,” commented Ruch.