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Federal work opened to competition

By Associated Press,
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 30, 2003

WASHINGTON - About 850,000 government jobs will be opened to private companies under new rules Thursday that encourage competition to replace federal workers who perform tasks such as giving weather reports to private pilots, fixing computers, and taking money and tickets at national parks.

Democrats and labor unions see the Bush administration changes as union-busting and political favoritism, and they pointed to problems at NASA as a red flag.

The procurement rules are among many revisions the administration is undertaking that do not require congressional approval. Officials are revising which workers are entitled to overtime pay and acting to allow religious groups that receive government funds to discriminate in hiring based on religion.

Nearly half of the 1.8-million civilian government work force performs tasks duplicating work in the private sector, the administration says. President Bush wants to let companies bid for that work, with at least 15 percent opened to competition by Oct. 31.

The regulations issued Thursday "will open much wider the doors to those businesses and their workers who can seek to provide to the American taxpayer a better value at a better price," said Mitch Daniels, outgoing director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Daniels could not say how many government jobs might be lost. He noted that agencies are allowed to compete for the work.

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