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Context of 'December 2002: Forest Service Says Content Analysis Team Is Being Reviewed for Possible Outsourcing'

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The Bush administration pressures the Forest Service’s Content Analysis Team (CAT) to stop accepting form letters. CAT’s job is to review comment letters from the public and produce summary reports on public opinion for policy decision-makers. (Hanscom 4/26/2004)

Newfields International, an environmental consulting firm, completes a study comparing several different content-analysis techniques used by government agencies and private contractors. The study, commissioned by Yosemite National Park, finds that the Forest Service’s Content Analysis Team (CAT) is using the most cost-effective, high-quality system available, explaining that the team has a “track record (that) is not equaled by any other organized process.” CAT is in charge of reviewing comment letters from the public and producing summary reports for policy decision-makers. Two months later the Bush administration will announce that the program will be reviewed for possible outsourcing to private contractors (see December 2002). (Hanscom 4/26/2004)

Forest Service officials inform employees working for the agency’s Content Analysis Team (CAT) that their jobs are being reviewed for possible outsourcing to the private sector. The employees are assured that the review would make them “a shining example for the rest of the agency of how successful federal employees can be.” Months later, CAT will undergo “direct conversion” instead, and all but the team’s top managers will lose their jobs to private sector outsourcing (see March 2003). (Hanscom 4/26/2004)

Forest Service officials inform employees of the agency’s Content Analysis Team (CAT) that the work they are doing will be outsourced to the private sector. The management team will remain, but the content analysis work will be farmed out to contract consultants. This decision is made despite the department’s reputation for remarkable efficiency. In October 2002, a study commissioned by Yosemite National Park had praised CAT saying it had a “track record… [un]equaled by any other organized process.” (see October 2002). A study three months later will conclude that outsourcing will actually cost the agency more (see June 2004). (Gehrke 11/14/2003; Devlin 11/15/2003; Hanscom 4/26/2004)

The Forest Service outsources the work of 47 agency employees of the Content Analysis Team (CAT) to private consulting companies, despite an August 2002 independent study praising the team for its efficiency (see October 2002) and a June 2003 internal analysis concluding that outsourcing would increase the Forest Service’s costs (see June 2004). (Gehrke 11/14/2003; Devlin 11/15/2003; Hanscom 4/26/2004)

The Forest Service conducts an internal analysis which concludes that outsourcing the work of its Content Analysis Team (CAT) (see March 2003) will not save US taxpayers any money. In fact, the study estimates that hiring private consultants would cost approximately $425,000 more than keeping the work in-house. (Gehrke 11/14/2003; Devlin 11/15/2003; Hanscom 4/26/2004) No study is conducted to determine whether outside consultants could do the work better than the Forest Service’s experts. (Hanscom 4/26/2004)


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