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Privatizing the Park Service

Senate Roll Call No. 361
108th Congress, 1st Session

Rejected: 44-51 (see complete tally)
Career employees of the National Park Service and other federal land management agencies play a critical role in protecting our nationís public lands for future generations. Yet, the Bush administration in 2003 has launched an aggressive effort to privatize many critical park service jobs, potentially allowing low-bidding private contractors to take on more than half of all jobs in the chronically understaffed, financially strapped National Park Service. Environmentalists argue that privatization poses serious risks for the future of our national parks by allowing bureaucratic goals and dictates from the Office of Management and Budget, rather than individual park needs and local park-driven priorities, to govern decision making. According to a memorandum by the Park Serviceís own politically-appointed director, the end-result could harm the experiences of millions of park visitors, and could further limit the ethnic diversity of the Park Service workforce.

Notwithstanding these risks, the White House continues to push for studies to determine which park service positions could be outsourced. Cost estimates of these outsourcing studies range from $3,000 to $8,000 per position studied, money that is diverted from desperately needed operations funding for the national parks. The jobs under study include positions that are critical to the mission of the Park Service, such as archaeologists, biologists, museum curators, masons, and other workers who serve park visitors, educate school groups, and protect the parks for future generations.

In an effort to slow these privatization efforts, Senator Harry Reid (R-NV) on September 23, 2003 offered an amendment to prohibit funding for one year to the Department of the Interior for the Administrationís outsourcing studies for the national parks and other land management agencies. Language identical to the Reid amendment had earlier passed the House with bipartisan support, having been included in the chairmanís mark by Interior Subcommittee Chairman Taylor (R-NC).

On September 23, 2003, the Senate rejected the Reid amendment by a 44-51 vote (Senate roll call vote 361). YES is the pro-environment vote. Ultimately, the conference report on the Interior appropriations bill restricted the flexibility of the administration by capping the total amount the Department of Interior (including the Park Service) and the U.S. Forest Service can spend on outsourcing studies at $2.5 million and $5 million, respectively. The provision also included other elements that demonstrated Congressís continuing skepticism about the administrationís initiative, although scarce operational dollars will still be spent on unnecessary studies during the coming year.

Vote Map: Senate Roll Call No. 361
Votes For : 44
Votes Against : 51
Not Voting : 5


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