Saturday, November 15, 2003

The Joys of Privatization


Dozens of Forest Service employees in Utah and Montana were told last March they would be among the first victims of the Bush administration decision to bid out work by government employees to private contractors, who could do it cheaper.

A required analysis three months later showed it's going to cost the government $425,000 a year more for the same work that was being done by the 41 members of the Forest Service's Content Analysis Team in Salt Lake City and in Missoula, Mont.

"I think we can make a pretty strong case for keeping us on board, but nobody gave us an opportunity to do that," said Karl Vester, whose last day on the job was Friday. "The Forest Service should be ashamed for what they've done to us."

In all, 41 members of the team are losing their jobs to private contractors in the competitive sourcing program.

The Forest Service spent $24 million studying the idea, which was meant to reduce the federal payroll by switching the work to private contractors, assuming they can do it at lower cost.

In 93 percent of the cases, the Agriculture Department agency found it was cheaper for government employees to do the work. Fewer than 250 jobs are being sent to the private sector.

Look, this is no surprise. These jobs aren't very high paying. A lot of the infrastructure to do them is in place. People become Forest Servce employees not to scam money out of the government, but because it's something they really want to do.