GAO Audit Cites Bogus Savings Claims in Forest Service Outsourcing Program

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Contact: Mark Davis, NFFE Forest Service Council Legislative Chairman

Phone: (920) 992-6208


Washington, DC – Bush Administration claims that ‘competitive sourcing’ in the U.S. Forest Service saved taxpayers millions of dollars are based on shoddy and misleading accounting practices, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today. Competitive sourcing forces either the outsourcing of federal employees’ jobs or radical internal downsizing and reorganization.


GAO found that the agency did not track significant costs, excluded others, and lacked sufficient data to back up claims of cost savings. In one case, $35.2 million in savings was reported to Congress for the competitive sourcing reorganization of information technology, however, this figure failed to include costs of over $40 million. Similarly, reported savings of $716,000 for the failed outsourcing of fleet maintenance to Serco, a British-based corporation, were not offset by costs that may reach several million dollars.


The Forest Service followed the same accounting guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that is used by all federal agencies. GAO’s findings undermine White House claims that competitive sourcing will save billions of dollars. 


In addition, GAO noted that the program jeopardized the nation’s ability to fight fires and respond to other emergencies.


“In this revealing snapshot of one federal agency, we see the White House misleading Congress and the American people about the true costs of privatizing the federal workforce,” said Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). “Congress should take a hard look at the scope of this dishonest accounting and the extent to which this kind of outsourcing is eating away at our country’s ability to provide essential services to its citizens.”


Although Congress recently acted to shut down the Forest Service competitive sourcing program for fiscal year 2008, the administration has proposed it be reinstated in 2009. 


“This GAO audit shows that the second round of competitive sourcing in the Forest Service to be as badly flawed as the first,” stated Mark Davis, Chair of the IAM-NFFE Forest Service Council Legislative Committee, noting that the earlier round was so damaging that Congress enacted legislation to reverse its outcomes.  The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), the nation’s oldest civilian federal union, represents approximately 100,000 federal employees, among them 20,000 Forest Service employees.  “It is crucial that the current Forest Service outsourcing ban stay in place until the agency can develop and obtain Congressional approval of a plan to implement GAO’s recommendations.”


See for additional information and full text of the GAO report.

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