Mercury Rising 鳯女

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The DHS Henhouse

Posted by MEC on October 17, 2007

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The Department of Homeland Security has so many contractors that the contractors are even deciding which contractors to hire.

Across several of DHS’s most troubled projects, including delayed programs to replace the Coast Guard’s fleet and to issue secure credentials to port workers, contractors are so enmeshed in DHS’s work that they oversee other contractors. Some are assigned work that involves awarding future business, setting policy or drawing up plans and reorganizations, according to the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s audit arm.


In their study, GAO investigators found that of 117 contracts issued by three large DHS agencies, the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and the Office of Procurement Operations, more than half called for outside firms to support inherently governmental work.

This quotation from John Jaeger, president of Your Recruiting, one of the contract firms running the DHS, reveals the underlying problem:

Citing decisions since the 1990s to shrink the federal workforce, Jaeger said, “Don’t blame contractors for stepping in and filling a void that cannot be filled by government employees because there aren’t enough of them.”

The government didn’t shrink. There are obviously just as many jobs to do as ever, but government responsibilities have been shifted from the Civil Service to contractors.

Which is good for the contractors, not so good for the country. The purpose of government is to govern, not to generate profit. And when the contractors are deciding whether to hire contractors and which contracts to award, who’s going to prevent profiteering and corruption?

Contrary to claims of the privatization zealots, outsourcing government jobs does not lower the cost:

The average annual cost of a contract employee is $250,000, almost twice that of a federal employee, according to an estimate recently cited by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

As Paul Krugman tells us,

The Times reports that “fewer than half of all ‘contract actions’ — new contracts and payments against existing contracts — are now subject to full and open competition,” down from 79 percent in 2001. And many contractors are paid far more than it would cost to do the job with government employees: those CACI workers processing claims against other contractors cost the government $104 an hour.

And as our own Phoenix Woman has said elsewhere, “outsourcing and privatizing government functions actually leads to their being done worse, slower, and pricier than before, and makes them easy prey for corrupt persons.”

The real reasons for outsourcing are insidious: breaking the federal employee unions by replacing federal employees’ jobs with outsourced jobs, hiding the true cost of government, funneling money from the U.S. Treasury to political cronies. It’s long past time to get the profiteers out of our government.

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