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Md. Company Wins 5-Year Maintenance Contract at Naval Medical Center

By Stephen Barr
Tuesday, April 5, 2005; Page B02

A Columbia contractor has taken over maintenance and other work that was performed by 273 federal employees at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda.

LB&B Associates took over the Navy work Friday, ending a job competition known as an A-76 in government jargon. The Navy awarded the contractor a five-year contract valued at $115 million and projected that it would lead to savings of $9 million over the next five years.

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The Navy plans to offer early retirement, severance pay and job placement opportunities to the displaced employees, said Lt. Tommy Crosby, deputy public affairs officer for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, based at the Washington Navy Yard.

The Bush administration has made the job competitions, which it calls "competitive sourcing," one of its top federal management priorities. In fiscal 2004, federal agencies completed 217 competitions. The average number of employees involved was 58.

Since the decision was made to outsource the jobs at the medical center, about 120 employees have registered in a job placement program and 15 of them have transferred to other Defense Department vacancies, Crosby said.

About 103 of the employees have opted for voluntary early retirement or separation pay.

Displaced employees have the right of first refusal for any jobs with the contractor, Crosby said.

The Navy announced a tentative decision in July 2004 to contract out several occupations deemed commercial in nature because a study showed that the work could be performed for less in the private sector.

After hearing appeals of the decision, the Navy notified Congress that the contract would be awarded in December and take effect April 1.

Some of the occupations being outsourced include plumber, pipe fitter, electrician, painter, boiler mechanic, carpenter and locksmith, according to a Navy employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Senior managers of LB&B Associates could not be reached for comment on the contract award. A company employee said the owners and senior managers were away at a conference; they did not return telephone messages left at their hotel. The company does not have a Web site, but federal contracting officials said the firm has held contracts with several agencies, including the Agriculture Department and NASA, over the past decade.

GAO to Probe OSC

The Government Accountability Office plans to conduct an audit at the Office of Special Counsel, which has been engulfed in a controversy over a reorganization and whether career employees are being pushed out of their jobs.

The GAO audit will focus on the agency's contracts for the services of consultants and the hiring of a short-term employee, officials said. The audit will not address the controversy over the reorganization because of a separate complaint, made by employees, that may lead to a review by an interagency group of inspectors general, the officials said.

The GAO audit was requested by six House Democrats -- Reps. Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.), Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), Danny K. Davis (Ill.), Edolphus Towns (N.Y.) and Barney Frank (Mass.). The GAO informed Engel that it would undertake the audit on the two issues which the House members raised in a letter this year.

Scott J. Bloch, head of OSC, has called the allegation of an employee purge "false." The agency has said its reorganization has been carried out in accordance with civil service law.

A Senate committee, chaired by Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), plans to hold an oversight hearing on OSC this year. The independent agency enforces the Hatch Act and investigates complaints of reprisal against federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse in the government.

Diary Live

Looking for tips on how to use performance- based personnel systems to succeed in your job? Steven L. Katz, a former legislative and executive branch official, will take your questions on performance pay and related issues at noon tomorrow on Federal Diary Live at www.washingtonpost.com.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com

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