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USMA evaluating 500 civilian jobs Print

By Alexa James - October 24, 2006

West Point — Under federal mandate, the United States Military Academy has launched a yearlong study to evaluate and put out for bid more than 500 Department of the Army civilian jobs.

When the study concludes, the government and the private sector will compete for what the academy calls its Directorate of Public Works positions: engineers, carpenters, electricians, painters, plumbers and the like.

"These are commercial activity studies," said West Point spokesman Lt. Col. Kent P. Cassella. "They're happening all across the federal government."

At the Academy, an in-house team, supported by a consulting contractor, will scrutinize 531 current positions and open what's called an A-76 competition. A solicitation will ensue, and the private sector will compete with the feds to see who can produce the most bang for the taxpayer's buck.

Competitions like this are nothing new at the Academy. In the past 15 years, West Point has re-examined its custodial, logistics and information-management teams, and each time, the government bids beat out the private companies.

"It doesn't mean we haven't reduced our staff," said Kathy Cunningham, a management analyst for the federal office that assembles the government's bids. Cunningham said previous studies have downsized departments by 20 percent to 30 percent.

Among current employees, "that's the biggest fear," said Cunningham, whose husband's job is among the spotlighted positions. "We're not immune to downsizing," she said. "Every once in a while you need to do that."

The difference this time around is the pace of the process. Cunningham said previous A-76 competitions lasted several years before an employee was affected one way or the other. This time, the study, the proposals and the decisions are scheduled to wrap by October 2007.

The Academy said it employs about 2,200 Department of the Army civilians and roughly 400 outside commercial service workers. Overall, the civilian work force outnumbers military staff by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1.

"What's important is this: 531 positions are being studied, and that's 531 members of our team," said Cassella. "We understand how vital each member is."

"We can't predict the results of this study," Cassella said, "but we're not looking at a mass layoff."
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