Agencies say most federal jobs not 'inherently governmental'

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About 900,000 federal employees-more than half of the civilian workforce-do work that could be performed in the private sector, according to lists released by 115 agencies and compiled by GovExec.com.

The first-ever governmentwide tally of jobs that could be outsourced, released under the Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act, indicates that fewer federal jobs are inherently governmental than are candidates to be contracted out. The 115 agencies that released inventories employ a total of 1.7 million workers, so only about 850,000 federal jobs are inherently governmental, according to the FAIR Act lists.

Under the FAIR Act, if a private sector company could perform the work, an employee's job must be included on the outsourcing list. The lists also indicate whether agencies plan to actually outsource the jobs or if they plan to keep the work in-house.

The Defense Department, which employs 662,900 civilian workers, listed 504,000 civilian jobs on its FAIR Act inventory that could be performed in the private sector. But the Pentagon is considering outsourcing only 304,000 of those jobs, and has designated only about 229,000 jobs as candidates to be contracted out.

Once DoD jobs are designated for outsourcing, workers undergo a public-private competition, which gives the in-house employees a chance to defend their jobs against private companies. About 50 percent of public-private competitions result in jobs being outsourced.

Private contractors are combing through the FAIR Act inventories to see if they think even more federal jobs should be included on the lists, while employees and unions are reviewing the lists to determine if jobs on the inventories should be re-classified as inherently governmental.

The FAIR Act inventories were released in three waves in 1999-one in September, one in October and one in December. Updated inventories will be released annually.

The FAIR Act lists are compiled in GovExec.com's FAIR Act Report.

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