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Vol. LXIV, No. 2
January 20, 2012

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Have a question about some aspect of working at NIH? You can ask anonymously at (click on the Feedback icon) and weíll try to provide answers.

Feedback: If NIH should suffer a power outage, will the security gates continue to function? Also, why were the gates not allowing people to enter/exit during the [Aug. 23, 2011] earthquake?

Response from the Office of Research Services: The security gates should continue to function since they are connected to buildings that have back-up emergency power.

Moments after the earthquake, it was a management decision to shut down access to campus and the perimeter was secured to prevent inbound visitors. Inbound exceptions to the campus were processed through the Commercial Vehicle Inspection Facility on a case-by-case basis. With the buildings being evacuated and checked for damage, there was no place for visitors to go. Vehicle exits and full-height revolving pedestrian gates remained available for egress. All badge readers were operational during the entire event.

Feedback: The new federal-wide ID card is accepted by other departments, but visitors to the NIH campus from other departments cannot use their card to enter without being screened like all other visitors. Why is that?

Response from ORS: The long-term plan for interoperability of federal ID badges has not been met by most federal agencies. For security reasons, agencies have visitor policies they utilize to determine how to process visitors, including those from other federal agencies. At NIH, our current policy is to recognize other HHS ID badges. Until the long-term interoperability of federal IDs is fully implemented, the recognition of other federal ID badges will vary from agency to agency.

Feedback: Why do contractors receive the same parking privileges as federal staff? Why do fed staff have to compete with contractors for the same parking space? I arrive very early. I have yet to be able to park remotely close to my building in general parking because contractors have taken over! I realize contractors are valued and are contributing to the NIH mission. However, they are not fed staff and should not receive the same benefits fed staff enjoy. Distinctions in parking should be made just like you do with carpool, red and handicap. Why not require contractors to park in Lot 41 (by NLM)? Granted there are some instances where contractors must park close to the building such as construction crews, contractors for Bldg. 1, contractors that work night shift perhaps. Maybe in these instances ICs could receive a small percentage of general parking stickers for contract staff that they can issue on a case-by-case basis. Remember, feds have been beaten up lately with having COLAs frozen and the many proposals to change retirement and health care benefits. Surely NIH could support its fed staff by prioritizing parking.

Response from ORS: First, itís important to distinguish between the various types of contractors that work on the NIH campus. There is one group of short-term contractors, such as construction workers that, as a general rule, are not issued parking permits. If they park on campus, they either park in the visitor lots, paying a daily fee, or park illegally and are subject to ticket and towing.

The second group are those individuals who are here on a longer-term basis and often provide the same type of work as their federal colleagues and have a permanent duty station on the NIH campus. These individuals are eligible to obtain a parking permit, pursuant to approval by the respective IC where they work. Off-campus contract employees are not eligible for on-campus parking permits.

NIH regularly considers numerous parking arrangements including setting aside blocks of space, but even these create a problem when trying to determine a fair percentage. As an example, would a smaller IC receive less than a larger IC? In addition, the more these special cases are approved, it only encourages more requests for additional special arrangements. Identifying the space and location becomes problematic as well. And, if the set-asides arenít utilized, the entire process becomes counterproductive as space sits idle while others driving by attempt to find a space.

Finally, itís important to remember that contractors are not allowed to participate in the NIH Transhare program or the NIH bicycle subsidy program due to federal regulations.

The overall parking policy at NIH is guided by Manual Issuance 1410 ( It is reviewed and updated periodically to satisfy the NIH mission and benefit the agency as a whole.

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