WASHINGTON: The US Army is considering a proposal to privatize more than 200,000 jobs, a move that could displace thousands of public affairs officers worldwide - and yield a wealth of opportunity for private firms.
The privatization plan is part of an effort to concentrate more of the Army's resources on fighting terrorism and to comply with a directive, issued by President Bush last year, that all government agencies must farm out work not deemed "inherently governmental."
If approved, the plan would create the largest transfer ever of government jobs over to the private sector.
Public affairs officers, however, may yet be exempted. Informing the American public is deemed an "inherently governmental" job under Title 10 of the US Code, which designates certain duties as the sole province of government employees. It therefore may prove illegal to have private agencies performing most of the work done by Army public affairs officers.
"Bottom line, our Title 10 responsibility is to inform the American public, and we feel the public affairs practitioners in the government are really intimately involved in the process of telling that story to the American people," explained Major Rudy Burwell of the weapons, environment, and technology media relations office. "So that is a piece that we're going to look at for possible exemption."
Less safe are public affairs jobs involving the production of publications or photographs, Burwell said. Such jobs are not likely to be seen as falling under Title 10 protection, and would likely be put up for bids from private shops should the overall proposal be approved.
The deadline for submitting proposed exemptions is November 29. A decision is expected shortly after that time.