Dems ask for review of Park Service job competition plan

The National Park Service should not cut visitor services to pay for competitive sourcing studies mandated by the Bush administration, 111 House Democrats said Monday. In a June 16 letter to Joshua Bolten, President Bush's nominee to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, the lawmakers urged OMB to review Park Service plans to comply with Bush's competitive sourcing initiative, which aims to put 425,000 federal jobs up for public-private competition. The Park Service plans to make 1,708 of its 15,000 employees face job competitions in fiscal 2004. The Democrats expressed concern that the Park Service would curtail services in order to stage job competitions, which will cost the agency between $2.5 million and $3 million in fees to consultants, according to an April 4 internal memorandum from National Park Service Director Fran Mainella to Interior officials. "The [Mainella] memorandum also reports that the significant costs of fulfilling the privatization quotas are unfunded, and that those costs could seriously impede on visitor services and seasonal operations," said the letter. The letter was orchestrated by Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Tom Udall, D-N.M. Trent Duffy, an OMB spokesman, said OMB had not received the letter as of late Monday and that he could not comment on its details. But Duffy noted that public-private job competitions routinely generate substantial savings. "As we all know, the 30 percent average savings from conducting competitions is proven and well documented," he said. "There is no question there are savings." The Park Service has already cut back some facility repairs in order to finance competitive sourcing studies and law enforcement costs related to the war on terrorism. In a May 7 memorandum to park superintendents in the Pacific West Region, which encompasses five western states, Park Service officials announced that $4.6 million in building repairs would be cut. "Our region recently received a $4,617,000 assessment [from the regional repair program] to fund law enforcement costs for anti-terrorism activities and for competitive sourcing studies," said Cynthia Ip, chief budget officer in the Pacific West Region, in a recent memo. "The assessment is a substantial cut of 28 percent from the congressional approved amount for the [program]," she added. Repair projects put on hold include the seismic retrofit of 18 historic buildings in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, according to an attachment to Ip's memo. Park Service spokesman David Barna did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Ip's memo.
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