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Oct 18, 2007

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J Johnson

Good article, but as a retired federal government employee, I have to say you are waaaaaaay off base on your basic premise. Just a couple of examplets. You write:
"By relying too heavily on contractors, agencies like the DHS run the risk of eroding institutional knowledge. The government also risks paying too much for services or not receiving the best possible services for the money. More importantly, the government loses control over its own decision making. Service to the public and not to private interests should always be the goal."
Government employees cost the taxpayer far more than the equivalent contractor. Proof? The U of Maryland (Competitive Sourcing: What Happens to Federal Employees?), is the most comprehensive report ever done on the A-76 process. It concludes that the govt saves 40% of its operating budget by conducting a study (these savings result because the govt is, on average, overstaffed by 40%. Even the govt orgs, when they win (which is in nearly 90% of the competitions), do so by cutting 40% of their staff) and the report states that the quality of service either remains the same or actually goes up after a competition. I can vouch for the poor quality of service in many govt orgs prior to a competition. It isn't that govt people are unable to deliver top-flight srevice, it is simply that nothing happens to them if they deliver poor quality...and it is easier to deliver poor quality than good quality.
You feel that govt loses control over its own decision making if a contractor does work for them. How on earth would that happen? Every contract I ever managed (I retired from the USAF Space Shuttle program) we hired contractors to simply develop information, to help us make a decision. If I didn't want a contractor to give a recommendation, I just said so and they remained silent, allowing me to come to my own "government" decision.
Competitive Sourcing is the only way to get government under control. We tried many times to "streamline" government orgs I was in. Nothing ever worked, for the simple reason that no government employee benefited from cutting 1) the size of their organization, or 2) their budget. We just ignored requests to streamline (or made up something that seemed to indicate we did streamline.) With A-76, the penalty for not truly streamlining is that all of the govt positions "go away."

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