Sens. Sherrod Brown and Kirsten Gillibrand.
By MELANIE KAUFMAN
Today, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) led 24 other Senators in sending a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressing concern about the Department of Defense’s (DoD) decision to cut back the civilian workforce to fiscal year 2010 levels, without making a comparable reduction of the contractor workforce. The Senators’ letter states that such downsizing may incentivize DoD to use contractors instead of civilian employees, even in cases where contractors cost more money. POGO found last fall that on average, service contractors cost taxpayers nearly twice as much as in-house employees for comparable work.
To avoid wasting taxpayers’ dollars, the Senators urged Secretary Panetta to make decisions about insourcing and outsourcing job functions on the basis of the “law, cost, policy, and risk, and not because DoD managers simply have fewer civilian employee slots.”
The Senators’ letter is a timely reinforcement of a similar letter Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and 130 other House Members sent to Secretary Panetta last month, and follows a recent Senate Subcommittee hearing on the cost of service contracting.
The Senators’ recommendations mirror those proposed in Rep. Hinchey’s letter (which POGO detailed here) and are as follows:
- Eliminate the cap on the civilian workforce or provide a waiver to allow certain functions to be performed in house.
- Embrace a holistic approach to managing the Pentagon workforce.
- Cap spending on service contracts.
- Conduct cost comparisons when making outsourcing decisions.
- Implement an inventory of contract services.
- Prohibit outsourcing of work that is inherently governmental (core government activities that only government employees can perform).
Support from both Houses of Congress in the area of contract oversight effectively conveys the message POGO has long been advocating: slashing the civilian workforce while ramping up the use of contractors can lead to waste and mismanagement. We applaud Sen. Brown, Sen. Gillibrand, and the other Senators who demanded that the DoD take responsibility and accomplish budget adjustments within relevant sourcing and workforce management laws. Their recommendations, along with POGO’s, are critical to ensuring that taxpayers’ money is well spent. Blindly determining workforce issues without genuine data on the actual number of service contractors and their cost is both irresponsible and wasteful.
In addition to Sens. Brown and Gillibrand, the following Senators signed the letter: Sens. Mikulski, Leahy, Murray, Harkin, Tester, Durbin, McCaskill, Blumenthal, Menendez, Conrad, Shaheen, Merkley, Franken, Klobuchar, Schumer, Stabenow, Sanders, Akaka, Begich, Coons, Casey, Boxer, Wyden, and Lautenberg.
Melanie Kaufman is a POGO intern.