IBM's competitive sourcing report draws ire of unions

The largest federal employee unions harshly criticized the findings of a report on competitive sourcing released this week by IBM Corp.'s Center for the Business of Government.

The report, "Competitive Sourcing: What Happens to Federal Employees?"., came to the conclusion that claims about the negative impact of competitive sourcing on federal employees are unfounded.

John Threlkeld, legislative representative for the American Federation of Government Employees, said the data was "seriously flawed," and because the authors are in favor of public-private competitions, the report was not objective.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said the facts were misconstrued and their total cost savings estimates were "wrong."

The report was written by Jacques S. Gansler, Defense Department undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics under President Clinton, and William Lucyshyn, a research director at the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency. Gansler and Lucyshyn analyzed more than 65,000 positions competed by DOD since 1995 and found 5 percent of the employees lost their jobs involuntarily.

The authors also found that the competitions under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76 saved 44 percent of the baseline costs before the competitions.

"It is clear that much of the claims of negative impact of competitive sourcing on federal employees is unfounded," the authors wrote. "Competitive sourcing has proven to be effective in improving the quality of government services while lowering the cost for taxpayers."

But Threlkeld said DOD's system, called the Commercial Activities Management Information System, has come under fire from the Government Accountability Office on three separate occasions for having incomplete data about competitions.

In a December 2000 report on DOD's competitive sourcing efforts, GAO wrote, "We have previously reported concerns about the accuracy and completeness of data contained in CAMIS. As early as 1990, we stated that CAMIS contained inaccurate and incomplete data. In a 1996 report, the Center for Naval Analyses also found that the data in CAMIS were incomplete and inconsistent among the services and recommended that the data collection process be more tightly controlled so that data would be consistently recorded. As recently as August 2000, we continued to find that CAMIS did not always record information on completed competitions or reported incomplete or incorrect information."

"Gansler was a champion of job privatization during the Clinton administration," Threlkeld said. "His stubborn determination to reward contractors at the expense of federal employees and taxpayers in the 1990s earned him the wrath of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. So Gansler's cheerleading for the Bush administration's privatization initiative comes as no surprise."

Kelley added that the Treasury Department has not seen anything similar to the report's findings when it comes to savings and federal employees losing their jobs involuntarily. She said in two recent competitions, more than 400 IRS workers were displaced by competitions.

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