Message #246 Date: Sat, 03 Oct 1998 17:01:05 -0700 Subject: Contractor Switch [ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] : From: Stephanie Stoermer email@example.com Once again, an item in 'Got CALICHE?' has jumpstarted my befuddled brain (see article below). When I first read this article, I thought the "State Archaeology Office" in question was the NM State Archaeologist Office. Most, if not all, State Archaeologist Offices have to do more with less because they are so woefully under-funded, so I made an incorrect asumption. However, contracts from other state agencies (particularly DOTs) can funnel needed dollars into OSAs and don't increase the burden on the taxpayers. Because I have been unable to detect what relationship exists between the NM Office of Archaeological Studies and the NM OSA, I cannot be very explicit. At any rate, I feel that my comments still apply. I would like to see some feedback generated on the privatization issue...As much as I love 'Got CALICHE?' meaningful discussions are needed too ! This is not a slam at private consultants. The article is another example of what I like to call the "DOT mentality" ! Most of the non-archeological/non-environmental people associated with DOTs have a rather quaint notion that the private sector can somehow do things quicker and cheaper and that projects can be magically expedited if a "private" consultant does the work. In the process, DOTs seem to forget that someone has to oversee the contracts, coordinate these projects with regulatory agencies and check on consultants' work. Most engineering types are woefully under equipped to make these decisions, although I have detected an unsavory tendency to put engineers in environmental planning and project manager positions. And resources suffer ! Yes, for a variety of reasons, projects do get backlogged. Been there, done that. The bottom line is that DOTs don't really care about the resources involved or the resource coordination time involved-- they don't have to. It's good PR to appear to be "environmentally sensitive" but the DOT mandate is still going to be build those roads and to hell with the rest! I doubt that out-of-state consultants will be flocking to NM to scarf up the DOT's contracts. At present, the Office of Archaeological Studies may not have the necessary staff to complete backlogged reports, but that could be remedied! Privatization is still privatization no matter what you call it. Every day I see examples of environmental consultants who have taken months to complete projects that should have taken a few days. Because Texas decided that privatization was the way to go, my agency is turning the archaeology/environmental staff into managers to oversee the consultants' work because most engineers don't have the expertise in cultural or natural resources to know whether the end products are any good (plus, they are easily impressed by smoke and mirrors). And so it goes. Will highway projects in NM be expedited by using the private sector instead of the Office of Archaeological Studies? I doubt it ! Stoermer, Stephanie M. 204 N. Commerce Street, Mart, TX 76664; Environmental Quality Specialist/Archaeologist, Texas Department of Transportation; firstname.lastname@example.org Article: >CUTBACKS COULD BE ON THE HORIZON FOR STATE ARCHAEOLOGICAL OFFICE 09/29/98 02:04PM SANTA FE (AP) _ The state Office of Archaeological Studies might suffer cutbacks because Gov. Gary Johnson's administration is asking private companies to bid on work the office has had a lock on. The state Highway and Transportation Department has asked for bids on about $600,000 worth of archaeological survey work this year. The move to switch to private contractors could reduce the archaeological office's budget and trigger layoffs of some of its 41 workers, said Tim Maxwell, office director. The office has successfully bid on one of the department's proposals, but the office will have to seek work from private companies without the remainder of the road agency's money, he said. Federal law requires archaeological surveys for the department's road projects to prevent destruction of important sites. Members of the Legislative Finance Committee said Monday the move by the department to privatize the agency's annual contract for archaeological surveys would threaten the state's cultural resources. ``I'm worried that people who aren't familiar with New Mexico's history and culture will get this work,'' said Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Dona Ana, a committee member. The department needs to move faster on highway construction, and the archaeology office works too slowly, said Pete Rahn, department secretary. But when questioned by legislators, Rahn said the proposals would result in shortening the wait by only 25 percent to 30 percent. He could not identify the specific projects that would be speeded up. Rahn also rejected the term ``privatization.'' The archaeology office received about $800,000 worth of department work this year, but it needs about $2 million annually to operate, Maxwell said. The office usually has received $1.4 million or more annually from the department. The office still has about $3.4 million worth of analysis and cataloging to conduct on about 39 department projects, Maxwell said. ``We've bent over backwards to accommodate the department, and that's why we have a backlog of 39 cases,'' he said. SASIG Ed. Note -- Ms. Stoermer wants feedback, meaningful discussion, and debate. While I may be crucified for blasphemy, for the purposes of such debate, here are ideas to consider: The issue of 'privatization' has been around a long time and the pendulum swings between extremes when considering whether (or how) the government should fund archaeology. If I might weigh in, this issue is a false god. Probably more important are the issues of contractual obligation and measurable workforce productivity. It is important that the duration, timing and relationship of fieldwork, reporting and consultation (sometimes with multiple agencies) be made explicit in advance. Often, both contracts and in-house projects will specify timeframes for fieldwork and reporting, but not specify timeframes for the conclusion of the consultation process. Half of the CRM process is ignored by the persons and agencies funding contract archaeology, and thus, the ultimate goal of the exercise (eligibility determination/ mitigating impacts) is lost. Governors, agency heads, and developers are in denial if they think that privatization is the complete solution to the problem they face. The problem they face is not the timely conclusion of archaeological fieldwork -- it is the succesful conclusion of consultation negotiations). Debate Point #1 PRODUCTIVITY and PRIVATIZATION "the private sector can somehow do things quicker and cheaper" Archaeological fieldwork itself is usually quite efficient whether done by contractors or by agency archaeologists. Developers, agency heads and Governors (sometimes from the get-go) philosophically view archaeological fieldwork and consultation as an imposition that delays development and ultimately reduces profits in the free enterprise system. Ah, a good sound bite for free enterprise, No? Of course! The executive branch (the governor) looks good to the developers (at the expense of the legislative branch which passed the regulations) when says he will move the function of fieldwork from government to the private sector. But wait a minute! Most of the archaeological work in this country is already done for profit by contractors. To blame agency archaeologists or CRM contractors for the time needed to complete archaeological fieldwork is really akin to saying that developers could really make more money if only they could get rid of their archaeological contractors. But this doesn't make much sense, does it? -- because they can't. The PUBLIC demands that archaeology be dealt with properly and thats why regulatory systems were established by our federal and state legislatures (not the executive branches of government). Does it matter if archaeological work is contracted in-house or through a private contractor? NOT REALLY. If Governors truly believe that government is the more expensive way to get something done, then they should resign their positions and turn their duties over to contractors, no? The reality is this -- CRM can be done by government or by for-profit firms. It really does not matter as long as expectations of performance are explicit and practicioners are held accountable. Debate Point #2 REPORTING and CONSULTATION ACCOUNTABILITY 'Productivity' problems more often arise in the reporting and consultative phases. The problem is not reporting or consultation per se, but, how agencies choose to manage -- how they manage data gathering, how they manage reporting, and ultimately, how they engage the consultation process. Sadly, not all phases of the cultural process been thought through by Governors and Agency Heads. DOT's and Governors like Gov. Johnson presume that because they will paid 'X' dollars, that the results of any contracted activity (CRM clearance) will be ready at 'Y' time. This a a NOT a fair presumption! Project Managers with explicit in-house work assignments or contract performance specifications can demand results for the paid work that they have sponsored -- but remember, they paid only for the fieldwork and the report, but they have not paid for the consultation process. Agency heads and project managers rarely ask for an explicit statement or definition of the regulatory process and it's time frame. Why is this so? Why would they ignore this component? Because they lack leadership to tackle consultative processes. Americans are seeking consultation, and governors think in terms of command and control -- they think they are in command because they were elected. Command and leadership are not the same thing. what we need from governors and agency heads is management leadership. With regard to CRM, why do agency heads and governors focus on whom should or should not get the contract to do the work, rather than focusing on negotiating explicit expectations with all interested parties and moving their projects through the regulatory process to completion? Why do they fail to consider let alone actively negotiate in advance the second half of the CRM equation? This failure is NOT the SHPO's fault. It is the fault of the developers and Governors and Agency Heads who refuse to understand the mandate of the SHPO, and subsequently, fail to adequately negotiate in advance with other interested parties, or, fail to manage their in house staffs and contractors to focus on negotiating the regulatory process. Archaeologists haven't helped out their bosses much. Rather than concentrating on significance, eligibility, and avoidance or mitigative strategies, consultation often degenerates into archaeologists asking archaeologists to re-write reports or change words. Much time is spent with the 'clock on hold' while practicioners purify reports to correct peceived inadequacies. This isn't report editing in the traditional sense (although it can be). This involves pleasing some archaeologist's political or philosophical disposition in order to move to the next phase. Every archaeologist I know (including myself) has engaged this shameful game. The funny thing is that this goes on and on and on, sometimes long before the real consultation process actually begins. Archaeologists are highly skilled at chewing on reports. Where agency heads fail to keep their archaeological staff or contractors focused on the desired end result, the wheels of project resolution spin in the mud. A solution? Perhaps archaeological reports should be issued to stand or fall on their own merit without resort to politcal redaction as practiced by archaeologists. CRM might do better if it consultation followed the model of corporate annual reporting. Corporations prepare their annual reports (including income statements, balance sheets cash flow statements and footnotes). Outside accountants review the data and issue an 'unqualified opinion' (an opinion made without qualification) that the data is correct and representative. Individuals then can decide whether or not they should act on the facts presented in the report. Wouldn't it be interesting if archaeologists (contract or in-house) would send their reports to SHPO along with a fee which would pay the SHPO for review. The SHPO within it's 30 day timeframe would consult with interested parties and issue an unqualified (or qualified) opinion regarding the report and resource significance/eligibility. The agency could then use the SHPO opinion to make decisions about the success of the actions of their contactors or in-house staff. They also could use the SHPO opinion to decide how to treat eligible properties. Just as corporations and their accounting firms can be held liable for incorrect reporting or a bad opinions, in CRM the agency or the public could seek redress with the archaeologist for bad reporting, or with the SHPO for faulty eligibility determinations. Of course, the agency faces consequences of public lawsuit if they destroy eligible or potentially eligble resources without first mitigating impacts to those resources... If agencies currently pay fees for fieldwork and for curation of collections, shouldn't they also pay fees for SHPO opinions? Shouldn't SHPOs be orporate entities which earn their fees by charging for reviews? Entities which obtain their authority by bidding on State contracts to take on the liability and role of the regulator (administrative law judge) on behalf of the State? SHPOS are mandated by the federal government, but don't States have latitude to decide how SHPO offices might function? Summary Agency heads, developers and governors have thought out only one half of the process (fieldwork) in the free market; the regulatory portion is excluded from their considerations. This is where they make their mistake. What would happen if both the archaeologist and the SHPO were fee-based services? Should such regulation be done in the marketplace? Maybe. Maybe not. Finally, If we note that any consultative process must take some amount of time, would privatizing both sides of the CRM process improve productivity in reporting and consultation? Or, would developers and agency heads and governors still complain that someone wanted to review their actions and that it took time to do so? What about the fact that the public would like to see 'progress' and preservation filtered through a consultative process as well as the free-market process? Time-keeping command and control will not solve the problem. We need consultative leadership. Date: Sun, 04 Oct 1998 12:50:03 From: Stephanie Stoermer Thanks for the input on this issue. Yes, the privatization question is a rather elderly false god. I presented the privatization question in hopes that it would be used as a springboard. As you so aptly stated: "Probably more important are the issues of contractual obligation and measurable workforce productivity". I agree ! As I noted in my original posting, I do not intend to slam consultants/ contractors. My comments were directed at the misguided efforts of government entities that either cannot or will not accept the fact that no matter who does the fieldwork, the time frame for consultation, coordination, and clearance fluctuates from project to project--and want a cheap, quick fix that simply does not exist.