Washington, DC — The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service may soon be replacing hundreds of its biological technicians and fish hatchery workers with private contractors. The USFWS Director, however, is asking his superiors at the Department of Interior to stop the process, according to the all-employee email released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
On February 8,USFWS Director Steve Williams sent out an all-employee email confessing his unhappiness with the way contractor competitions (under a Bush Administration initiative called “Competitive Sourcing”) had been conducted for its biological science technicians and aquatic husbandry staff. Williams contended that the competition results did not match departmental needs and were not conducted in a manner that “is fair to both our employees and to potential private bidders.”
Williams’ action strongly implies that the private companies underbid the federal employees and are in a position to take over these job classes. Offices of Personnel Management records show USFWS employing 659 biological science technicians, who conduct much of the fieldwork for agency scientists, and 90 aquatic husbandry personnel, who support the agency fishery and hatchery operations.
In the email, Williams disclosed that –
“I believe that the Biological Support Services study needs further consideration. I have recommended to the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, who is the DOI Competitive Sourcing official, that we terminate the Aquatic Species Husbandry competition and that we review the Biological Support Services study to determine whether we can conduct this competition in a way that meets the goals of the President’s Management Agenda…”
The Interior Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget is Lynn Scarlett, recently nominated by President Bush for a promotion to Deputy Interior Secretary, the second highest-ranking position in the Cabinet agency. Scarlett spent the 20 years prior to the Bush Administration at a right-wing free-market think tank called the Reason Foundation. In the past, Scarlett has spurned pleas from department heads, such as the National Park Service Director, to slow the pace of privatization.
“Williams’ email is just the latest acknowledgement that the Bush Administration drive to auction off the maximum number of federal jobs is disrupting the public services that are supposed to be improved,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Wildlife does not care about free market ideology but they stand to be casualties in the bidding war cross fire now underway.”
To ease concerns that stopping the current competitions would slow the pace at which USFWS was meeting Bush Administration management targets for contracting, Williams announced that he was offering to speed up bidding for engineering, architecture and clerical positions. Most of these positions are in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
“Bean counters not experienced wildlife professionals are making the key management decisions for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,” Ruch concluded.