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Update on Competitive Sourcing in the Forest Service: Office of Communications Work to Be Studied under A-76 Prepared by the Forest Service Council January 27, 2006 Summary “Competitive” outsourcing studies in the Forest Service (FS) continue to be driven by arbitrary Office of Management and Budget (OMB) quotas, not by informed managerial decisions. The quotas have simply moved behind closed doors. Some specifics are given for the planned A-76 study of FS Communications work currently performed by civil servants. Chronology of A-76 Study of Communications July 14, 2003: The FS announces the decision to study 100 Communications jobs.1 This decision was driven solely by quotas from OMB.2 July 24, 2003: OMB replaces “government-wide numerical goals” with “negotiated tailored baselines.3” June 3, 2004: The FS maintains plans to study 100 Communications FTEs.4 April 26, 2005: Announcement of a “feasibility study” to determine “how best to conduct a competitive sourcing study of approximately 100 [Communications] full-time equivalents.5” May 3, 2005: FS draft memo documents that OMB is “holding the FS accountable for studying 100 [Communications] FTEs in FY 05.6” June 30, 2005: FS Feasibility Study “recommends” that approximately 130 Communications FTEs be studied under A-76 for possible outsourcing.7 September 12, 2005: FS Executive Leadership Team “decides” to conduct an A-76 study of about 150 positions in Communications.8 November 30, 2005: FS notifies the union of tentative plans to formally announce in FEDBIZOPS an A-76 study of approximately 130 FTEs in January 2006.9 Current status: A-76 requires substantial preliminary planning be completed prior to formal announcement of a study in FEDBIZOPS.10 For example, the cost of performing the work with the incumbent service provider must be determined. Agency documents acknowledge that this work has not been done. In fact, it has not yet even been assigned.11 The spectacular failures of earlier FS forays into “competitive” outsourcing are well know.12 All indications are they are about to be repeated. Highlights from the May 3, 2005 Draft Competitive Sourcing Memo Note: The chronology includes a May 3, 2005 draft memo that explicitly identifies OMB as the source of the arbitrary quota driving the FS Communications “competitive” outsourcing study. This document is worth examining in detail. In this section, quotes are from the May 3, 2005 draft.13 Italicized text in brackets indicates the content of the cleaned up draft subsequently released14. These changes are a fascinating study in political spin whereby the driving force candidly ascribed to OMB is repeatedly reallocated to the department or agency. “…the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) expects agencies to study 20% of their commercial inventory annually.” [removed] “OMB/USDA recently restated that they were holding the Forest Service accountable for studying 100 FTEs in FY 05.” [“USDA recently restated that they expect the Forest Service to meet the competitive sourcing goals that the Forest Service set in the Agency’s Green Plan.”] “OMB recently notified USDA that it was highly probable that it's previous "Yellow" rating in competitive sourcing on the PMA Scorecard will be changed to "Red" for FY 05… [B]ased on the rating change they are not in the same position to help us as much as they were previously.” [“The Department recently notified Forest Service that the Forest Service needs to pursue competitive sourcing activities more aggressively.”] “…OMB has never been satisfied with the lack of competitions in the Forest Service and this has been communicated to the new Secretary of Agriculture.” [“…[C]ompetition is an important method to ensure that agencies have been as thorough as possible when looking at ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Therefore, the Department continues to advocate for more competition in the Forest Service.”] “The number of FTEs studied is important, this is an accountability item for the Agency…” [“The Green Plan is an accountability item for the Agency to the Department.”] “[The feasibility study will] determine the selection of work activities to study, determine how to package or bundle the activities and in what sequence to study the activities.” [This admission, that the feasibility study will not be used to determine whether to competitively source, escaped editing.15 ] “Right now, the Agency does not have that kind of staff work to back-up how the 100 FTEs in communications was selected previously.” [removed] “[The agency is] accountable for competing at least 100 of the communications FTEs…” [removed] Endnotes, Forest Service Council Update on FS Competitive Sourcing, January 27, 2006 1 Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth distributed the “finalized decisions” regarding work to be studied under A-76 for fiscal years (FYs) 2003-2007 to his National Leadership Team (NLT) on July 14, 2003. Included was a commitment to study 100 Communications full time equivalents (FTEs, i.e., jobs) in FY 2005. See July 14, 2003 email from USDA Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth; also COMPETITIVE SOURCING PLAN FOR FY 2003-2007 (July 14, 2003). 2 By the agency’s own admission, this and other outsourcing study decisions were “based solely on OMB’s direction” to study 50% of all commercial FTEs by the end of FY 2005. Research and analysis of agency needs played no role. See AUGUST 28, 2003, FS RESPONSE TO CHARGE OF UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE, WA-CA-03-0578. 3 Statement of Angela B Styles, Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, Before the Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia, Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate (July 24, 2003) 4 The arbitrary quota of 100 Communications FTEs appears in the Forest Service Competitive Sourcing “Green Plan” dated June 3, 2004. This document takes its name from OMB’s traffic light scoring system. Agency “Green Plans” are submitted to OMB for approval. The Forest Service Green Plan states, “100 [Communications] FTE’s will be studied using competitive sourcing tools.” See Competitive Sourcing Green Plan, FY 2004-2008 (June 3, 2004) at p. 8. 5 On May 11, 2004, Department policy was released that required feasibility studies to determine whether to conduct competitions from among mission functions identified as viable candidates. See USDA Guidance for Determining the Feasibility of Conducting Competitive Sourcing Competitions (May 11, 2004). The record clearly shows this decision had already been made for the 100 Communications FTEs in the FS. In fact, the FS announcement stated the purpose of the feasibility study as “selecting work activities to study, determining how to package the activities and in what sequence to study the activities, and also access (sic.) how best to conduct a competitive sourcing study of approximately 100 [Communications] full-time equivalents (FTEs).” See April 26, 2005 letter to all FS employees from Chief Bosworth, SUBJECT: COMPETITIVE SOURCING FEASIBILITY STUDY FOR COMMUNICATIONS. 6 The draft memo was distributed to by Associate Deputy Chief for Business Operations Jacqueline Myers to Forest Service managers involved in the planned Communications “competitive” outsourcing study. See USDA FOREST SERVICE COMPETITIVE SOURCING INFORMATIONAL UPDATE (May 3, 2005). Myers is the agency’s lead on this study. See May 9, 2005 letter to field managers /s/ Irving Thomas for Christopher Pyron, Deputy Chief for Business Operations, USDA Forest Service. Subsequently, a cleaned up version of the same memo was released. See USDA FOREST SERVICE COMPETITIVE SOURCING INFORMATIONAL UPDATE (May 6, 2005). There are two interpretations to this series of events. Either Myers, a recently appointed Associate Deputy Chief, was undiplomatically revealing what she knew, or else she was fabricating stories that contradicted the official line. Only the former explanation is plausible. 7 See Feasibility of Conducting a Cost Comparison on Communication Activities in the USDA Forest Service, June 30, 2005. This report received scathing reviews from the field, where it was distributed for comment. See, for example, Comments provided by CAT Publishing Arts, August 1, 2005 and Implications of Draft Feasibility Study for Communications Competitive Sourcing on Research and Development Publications (document undated; cover letter dated August 12, 2005). We have no evidence of any process whereby the solicited feedback was considered; the feasibility report was not modified. We plan to perform a detailed analysis of the report and the comments it engendered; however, suffice it to say for now that it is a deeply flawed document developed without significant input from field managers responsible for the targeted work. Unsurprisingly, it yielded the preordained result. 8 DECISIONS BY EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP TEAM & PAO DIRECTORS, September 12, 2005 9 November 30, 2005, letter to William R. Dougan, President, National Federation of Federal Employees (sic.), /s/ Jacqueline Myers (for): Christopher L. Pyron, Deputy Chief for Business Operations, USDA Forest Service 10 Circular No. A-76, Attachment B – Public-Private Competitions, Section A – Preliminary Planning, Revised May 29, 2003 11 See December 12, 2005 letter to USDA Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth from William R Dougan, President, National Federation of Federal Employees Forest Service Council and references therein. For example, as of November 29, 2005, no team had been formed to begin the preplanning process. See November 29, 2005 letter to field managers from USDA Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. We have been assured that appropriate preplanning will be done; however, neither we nor affected employees have received notice of a revised timetable changing the official start date of the A-76 study. As of the writing of this brief, the team had still not been assembled to begin the preplanning. Preplanning is not only required by A-76, but is absolutely essential to carrying out a competent study. 12 See, for example, House Report 108-542, which states, “The Committee remains very concerned about how the Forest Service has implemented the `Competitive Sourcing' initiative. The Committee has looked into this issue in detail and found a number of cases of mismanagement of this effort. Accordingly, this issue is addressed once again in bill language, included under Title III--General Provisions, limiting the use of funds for competitive sourcing efforts and providing certain other guidance. The new language will allow competitive sourcing efforts to continue, but limit the cost to $2,000,000. More importantly, language is included in Title III which recognizes that past mistakes have been made and obviates the Forest Service from continuing expensive monitoring and recompeting previous sourcing efforts, which should have never been contemplated.” 13 USDA FOREST SERVICE COMPETITIVE SOURCING INFORMATIONAL UPDATE (May 3, 2005), supra note 6 14 USDA FOREST SERVICE COMPETITIVE SOURCING INFORMATIONAL UPDATE (May 6, 2005), supra note 6 15 It is noteworthy that Chief Bosworth’s memo to the all FS employees included a similar admission. See April 26, 2005 letter to all FS employees from Chief Bosworth, SUBJECT: COMPETITIVE SOURCING FEASIBILITY STUDY FOR COMMUNICATIONS, supra note 5.
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