In Reply Refer To:                                         			January 7, 2004
Mail Stop 409
Sunset Date:  January 2009


Subject:  Avoiding Competition with the Private Sector

This memorandum reiterates the longstanding Water Resources Discipline
(WRD) policy on avoiding competition with the private sector and
provides references for additional guidance in areas where competition
may be an issue.

The need to review WRD's role in performing work on a reimbursable basis
through the Cooperative Water (Cooperative) Program and programs with
other Federal agencies (OFA) continues to be relevant in light of the
changing technical and political environment.  The expertise and
capabilities of the hydrologic consulting community continue to evolve,
and the emphasis on the privatization and outsourcing of work previously
done by Federal agencies is increasing.  However, we believe that our
mission continues to provide clear and compelling justifications for our
Federal role in water information and that we must be ever more vigilant
in adhering to that role.  The existence of even a few projects (out of
the many hundreds we undertake) for which the justification is weak can
undermine our ability to continue to provide the services to the Nation
that is our proper mission.  Thus, for every study we undertake we must
be able to demonstrate that it is an appropriate role for WRD.

The essential role for WRD is to be the principal Federal provider of
hydrologic data, theory, research, and new technology for the Nation.
As such, the WRD needs to maintain its competence through hydrologic
research and methods development, distributed data-collection and
resource-assessment programs, and continuous stakeholder (cooperator and
OFA) input.  The continued vitality and relevance of our programs depend
on our close involvement and responsiveness to stakeholder agencies.
Internally, strong competence in field techniques and assessments,
familiarity with the full range of hydrologic systems, and a robust and
relevant research program must be maintained.  The data and hydrologic
system information gathered from the Cooperative and OFA programs is
used in turn by WRD to synthesize regional- and national-scale
water-resources perspectives.  Without these elements, the WRD program
would soon lose its scientific leadership and relevance to emerging
water-resource issues; thus, they are vital to the overall mission of
the WRD.

Paramount in our relationships and programs with other agencies,
however, is the need to maintain the longstanding WRD policy not to
compete with the private sector.  This means that WRD must be responsive
to the requests and interests of potential partners, but at the same
time, set limits on the type of work undertaken on their behalf.  As
such, projects undertaken with funding partners must meet several basic
standards.  Our projects must provide an enhancement of knowledge or an
enhancement of hydrologic methodology that is useful beyond the
immediate needs of the cooperator.  In general, if the project provides
services readily available from the private sector and is driven solely
by an operational need of the cooperator to meet an agency-specific
requirement, (such as a design or permit application) we should not
undertake it.  However, if services are not readily available from the
private sector or the cooperator's operational need can be satisfied
along with one or more of the following broader WRD mission goals, then
the work may be considered appropriate.  These broader goals for WRD
work are:
  * advancing knowledge of the regional hydrologic system 

  * advancing field or analytical methodology 

  * advancing understanding of hydrologic processes

  * providing data or results useful to multiple parties in potentially
    contentious inter-jurisdictional conflicts over water resources

  * furnishing hydrologic data required for interstate and international
    compacts, Federal law, court decrees, and congressionally mandated

  * furnishing hydrologic data or information that contribute to protection
    of life and property

  * providing standardized, quality-assured data to national data bases
    available to the public that will be used to advance the understanding
    of regional and temporal variations in hydrologic conditions.

A critical aspect of each of these goals is that all WRD programs
(whether funded by appropriations or by funding partners) actively share
the results through widely-accessible data bases and published reports.
Further guidelines on our appropriate role are given in WRD Memorandum
No. 84.21; this memorandum specifically addresses criteria to be used to
decide which hydrologic activities are not appropriately included in the
Cooperative Program.  Additionally, WRD Policy Memorandum No. 2000.04,
"New requirements for project proposals and AIS project descriptions,"
requires that every project proposal include a "Relevance and Benefits"
section that clearly explains how the proposed work is relevant to the
USGS mission and the benefits it will provide to Federal science
interests, stakeholders, and the public.

The USGS uses private sector contractors to carry out specific tasks in
projects where it is appropriate and efficient to do so.  However, when
projects have large tasks within them that are appropriate for the
private sector, we should work with cooperators to try to develop
parallel agreements between themselves and the USGS and between
themselves and private sector firms.  These agreements should contain
clear expectations as to how the USGS and the private sector firms
should collaborate.

An External Task Force Review of the Cooperative Program completed in
1999 provided two important recommendations related to competition (USGS
Circular 1192, p. 19) as follows:

  * Convene ad hoc committees by project type, composed of private sector,
       other agencies, and Cooperators, to resolve emerging competition issues,
       and to help determine what types of projects are appropriate for the
       USGS to undertake.

To address this recommendation, we have begun convening 'listening
sessions' at major national conferences involving topical areas where
competition could be a potential issue.  To date, these listening
sessions have resulted in two guidance memorandums on flood-plain
mapping.  A third guidance memorandum on the subject of bridge scour is
based on numerous interactions with cooperators and the private sector
on this topic.  Two additional guidance memorandums based on recent
listening sessions on TMDLs and aquifer storage & recovery, are planned
to be released in 2004.  Other topics will be covered as they arise and
as appropriate venues for addressing them are identified.  Current
information about existing guidance memorandums and plans for additional
ones can be found on the web at:

  * Create and convene biennially, a review panel to update WRD Memorandum
       No. 95.44 as necessary.
Because guidance memorandums on specific topical areas are being used to
update information about competition issues, we have agreed to review
and revise, as needed, our policy memorandum on competition at least
every 5 years.

The issue of potential competition with the private sector continues to
be a challenging one, requiring the use of considerable judgment and
sensitivity. While it is important that WRD stay relevant to the needs
of its funding partners, it is also important that we provide
significant technical leadership and not simply respond to their needs
as they perceive them.  This means that some potential projects will be
rejected as inappropriate for WRD.  This also means that many projects
will be greatly strengthened, from the standpoint of benefits to the
cooperator and to the Nation.

				Robert M. Hirsch
                                              	Associate Director for Water 


This memorandum supersedes WRD Memorandum No. 95.44