(Washington)—A letter organized by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) last Friday was sent to U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez, asking that he “oppose a privatization review of work performed by 25 federal employees in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Logistics Support Center (NLSC).” The letter was signed by Democratic Reps. Emanuel Cleaver and Ike Skelton, and Republican Sens. Christopher Bond and James Talent.
“According to NOAA’s own records, this privatization review has cost taxpayers more than $1 million—or $41,000 for each of the 25 employees being studied for outsourcing—with the consultants pocketing two-thirds of that cost,” said Dave Saale, president of AFGE Local 1910, of which the relevant employees are members. “Internal records show that this review was started so that NOAA might fulfill an OMB privatization quota, which later was prohibited by Congress and repudiated by the administration. Furthermore, NOAA’s own senior management has been outspoken on its opposition to this review.
“NLSC is a fully reimbursable cost center and should not be subject to the competitive sourcing process under OMB Circular A-76,” said Saale. “No agency is required to use NLSC, and is free to purchase logistic and distribution services elsewhere; however, they choose NLSC because of the superior work done by its employees.
“NLSC employees have received departmental and government-wide recognition for their quality customer service and efficiency. The Center has been the recipient of multiple service awards, including two Department of Commerce Customer Service Excellence Awards, a Secretary of Commerce Customer Service Award, and numerous NOAA Administrator and Spectrum awards. Additionally, NLSC set the standard for the warehousing and distribution industry, and subsequently was given the Hammer Award by Vice President Gore,” Saale continued.
Additionally, under A-76, such competitions are not allowed to last longer than 12 months unless a written time limit waiver is completed before the competition begins. “This competition began more than 15 months ago, and the Department of Commerce has refused to show any evidence that a waiver was granted,” Saale said. “This is a flagrant violation, and this competition immediately should be stopped.” In a Freedom of Information letter, NOAA acknowledged that it had no permission to exceed the one-year time limit. The agency now says it will start the competition over.
“Despite all of these costs and problems, NOAA intends to start this whole process over again on April 30,” Saale said. “It boggles the mind that after this terrible mess NOAA wants to perform an encore.”