Agencies say 100,000 jobs could be contracted out

A series of agencies have identified more than 100,000 jobs that could potentially be outsourced to private firms. And the list will grow as all agencies issue reports on their commercial activities, as required by a law enacted last year.

On Thursday, 50 agencies-including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development-released their lists of jobs that are not inherently governmental. The agencies have a total of 320,000 employees, nearly a third of which were classified as performing functions that could be done by private firms. Private sector companies will be combing the lists for outsourcing opportunities.

The lists of jobs that could be contracted out are required by the 1998 Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act. Under the FAIR Act, agencies reviewed every job in their workforces to determine whether they had to be performed by a government employee. If not, the job went on the FAIR Act list. Categories of jobs that could be outsourced range from payroll processing to criminal investigation to public relations.

Under the FAIR Act, companies can protest an agency's contention that a certain activity is inherently governmental. Conversely, employee unions can protest the inclusion of activities on the outsourcing lists. OMB is also requiring agencies to submit annual reports detailing their outsourcing efforts.

All major agencies have submitted their FAIR Act lists to OMB. The next wave of agency lists is under OMB review and should be released sometime in October.

The lists released so far suggest a wide swath of federal jobs could be contracted out. The Education Department, for example, identified 3,624 jobs in its workforce of 4,965 that are not inherently governmental. However, Education officials also announced that the department is not planning to outsource any of the jobs. is developing a comprehensive database of agencies' FAIR Act lists that will be updated as the lists are released.

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