U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Background The Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act codifies the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76 and requires the head of each agency to submit to OMB a list of activities performed by the Federal government that, in the judgement of the head of the agency, are not inherently governmental functions. The inventory is useful in strategic planning, thereby enabling agencies to maximize resource management by identifying functions suitable for outsourcing.
OMB has provided guidance for developing this inventory in Circular A-76 and its supplemental handbook, and has instituted use of a coding schema to standardize the definition of activities across government. The USPTO's fiscal year 2001 inventory will be made available to the public on the Internet or can be requested from the agency in hard copy.
Agency decisions to include or exclude specific functions from the inventory may be challenged by interested parties including federal employees, private industry, unions, and professional associations. The challenge process takes place after approval of the inventory by OMB and notification in the Federal Register of its availability from the USPTO.
Fiscal Year 2000 Inventory Process The Chief Financial Officer and Chief Administrative Officer (CFO/CAO) at the USPTO has the responsibility for developing the commercial inventory. To ensure a balanced approach to the effort, an interoffice team was established with members from each of the business units within the organization. The team identified a specific pay period in the fiscal year as a basis for the agency's total FTE count. The team then: (1) developed a draft inventory, (2) met with staff from each individual business unit to review/discuss the draft and make changes as appropriate, (3) developed a final inventory, (4) briefed the USPTO Operations Council, which consists of senior management from each of the business units, and (5) briefed the Under Secretary and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office regarding the items composing the commercial inventory. The CFO/CAO met with USPTO union officials regarding the reporting requirements and other pertinent information on the agency's FAIR Act inventory. The CFO/CAO submitted the final report and inventory to the Office of Management and Budget for review and approval.
Challenges and Appeals to the FY 2000 Inventory The USPTO received no challenges or appeals to the commercial inventory.
Fiscal Year 2001 Inventory Process - The USPTO took a similar proactive role this year in conducting our fiscal year 2001 FAIR Act inventory. Before the process started, the Deputy Chief Financial Officer briefed USPTO executives regarding OMB's changes to the process and the President's initiative to ensure the accuracy of the inventory. The result of having senior management commitment in the early stages of the process provided the assistance needed to conduct a thorough and accurate inventory. The actual compilation of the fiscal year 2001 inventory essentially consisted of the same approach as described above in developing the fiscal year 2000 inventory, except for adding OMB function codes to our "inherently governmental" inventory as required.
Review of Commercial Activities Inventory - The USPTO's fiscal year 2000 FAIR Act inventory identified over one third of our FTE positions as performing functions that were commercial in nature. Of these positions, we made a decision to contract out the duties of the Legal Instrument Examiner (LIE) in the Office of Initial Patent Examination (OIPE). To accomplish this, we decided to directly convert these jobs to the private sector and reassign the affected federal employees thereby eliminating the need to perform an A-76 direct cost-comparison study. As a result, 101 GS-7 employees (five percent of our FAIR commercial inventory) are being reassigned to the Patent Technology Centers where they will be assigned to multi-faceted LIE tasks that differ dramatically in complexity from their duties in OIPE. The reassignment will help the Patent Technology Centers address the high volume of workload within that area. To ensure a successful transition, management along with the National Treasury Employees Union, Chapter 243, entered into an agreement to establish an 18-month training plan for these employees. The reassignment and training of these employees will be completed before the end of fiscal year 2002.