Message #246

Date: Sat, 03 Oct 1998 17:01:05 -0700
Subject: Contractor Switch

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

From: Stephanie Stoermer sstoermer@earthlink.net

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;
sstoermer@earthlink.net 


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.