The National Institutes of Health (NIH) plan to put thousands of scientific support jobs up for bid by outside contractors drew fire this week from agency watchdogs.

In a letter sent to Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and the Maryland congressional delegation complained that the outsourcing plan would put NIH at risk because it "meddles with scientists, opens the door to unnecessary security threats, and seriously undermines morale and productivity."

The NIH effort is part of the Bush administration's effort to privatize as much government work as possible. Over the next few years, outsourcing could affect as many as 4600 jobs on the sprawling 327-acre NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., just outside the US capital.

Today (October 22), NIH will announce whether an outside firm or current employees will provide real estate...

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