Washington, DC–In order to meet Bush Administration quotas on outsourcing federal jobs, the National Park Service will have to reduce visitor services and make other cutbacks, according to a memo from the Park Service Director released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Since the administration did not seek funding to cover the costs of the thousands of “competitive sourcing” studies it has mandated, the costs are being absorbed by reductions in park operations.
In an April 4, 2003 memo to Assistant Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella revealed that 900 jobs are already slated for immediate replacement by private contractors with another 1,323 jobs to be bid out in coming months. Altogether, removing these more than 2,200 employees–just the first installment of outsourcing–will turn over approximately 13 percent of the Park Service’s permanent work force.
In the memo, Ms. Mainella laid out some consequences of implementing the Bush plan:
Cutbacks for “visitor services and seasonal operations” will occur just as national parks gear up for the busy spring and summer tourist months;
Due to an estimated cost of $3,000 to study each full-time job slated for possible outsourcing, “there will be substantial additional human resources costs, including Reductions-In-Force (RIF) actions” to make up for these large unbudgeted expenses; and
There will be a potentially devastating effect on Park Service efforts to ethnically diversify its workforce, citing “for example, 89 percent of the FTE (full-time equivalent jobs) proposed for study in the Washington, DC, area may affect diversity of our workforce. Studies in San Francisco and Santa Fe show large concentrations of diverse FTE [to be affected] as well.”
“Ironically, the idea behind ‘competitive sourcing’ is to improve federal agencies, not impoverish them,” commented PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. He noted that although Park Service employees were promised that they could compete against commercial bidders for their own jobs, the decision has apparently already been made to replace the first 900 jobs through “direct conversion.” “This memo is a plea to the administration to come clean and disclose the real consequences of adherence to these arbitrary quotas and deadlines.”
While many of the Park Service positions set for privatization are maintenance and administrative positions, the lists submitted by Mainella include hundreds of archaeologists, biologists and historians. If fully implemented, for example, the Park Service will turn over almost all of its archaeological and cultural resource inventory and protection responsibilities to private consultants. In addition the agency’s Wildland Fire Program is heavily targeted for contracting, although the source for replacement firefighters remains unclear.
“Make no mistake, this is a radical attempt to commercialize the federal workforce such that the majority of people working in a national park do not answer to the superintendent, but to their home corporation,” Ruch added. “These lists of affected jobs do not convey the human dimensions of what will happen: thousands of people representing incalculable dedication and institutional memory will be auctioned off to the lowest bidder.”
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