On March 10, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) publicly released Defense Contracting: Additional Personal Conflict of Interest Safeguards Needed for Certain DOD Contractor Employees. That report found that contractors have flooded the Defense Department, accounting for more than 50% of the combined DoD workforce in 15 offices.
Contractor employees are providing custodial and landscaping services as well as services related to preparing budgets, developing and interpreting regulations, creating contract requirements, advising or assisting on award decisions, and determining award fees—all permitted under FAR Subpart 7.503(d).
One problem that arises involves the lack of conflict of interest laws that apply to contractor employees. Although civil servants are governed by many laws and regulations preventing personal conflicts, very few of those restrictions apply to contractor employees.
I realize that some contractors have their own internal policies that might prevent and detect any possible conflicts, but is that enough? Some agencies are including contract clauses that prevent personal conflicts, but is that enough? Federal employees can do jail time for certain violations, while a contractor employee might be suspended or fired. Does the wide gap in both restrictions and penalties jeopardize the integrity of the contracting system—especially when contractor employees support and influence DoD decisions?
-- Scott Amey