Homeland Security to bring 3,200 contractor positions in-house

The Homeland Security Department has identified about 3,200 contractor jobs that will be converted to federal positions, a senior acquisition official said on Monday.

Tom Mason, director of policy and acquisition workforce at DHS' Office of the Chief Procurement Officer, said officials pinpointed work that "should probably be done by government employees" through internal analyses. The jobs are spread across 20 offices within Homeland Security, and are in areas where the department relies on contractors for daily functions its employees should be able to perform, he told attendees of Government Executive's Excellence in Government conference.

Mason said he believes DHS is ahead of the curve in assessing its human capital needs and identifying positions that must be brought back in-house. The department currently has 1.1 to 1.2 service contractors for every federal employee, but according to Mason, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

"Most of the government people in DHS are front-line law enforcement officers -- the people you see at the airport, Customs and Border Protection people, the Coast Guardsmen out on the ships," Mason said. "This doesn't seem terribly out of line when you look at other places. But if we were to add on the number of contractors that we have providing goods -- not services -- it gets to be a pretty high number. The question is, are we at DHS properly staffed. We've come to the conclusion that we really aren't."

The ongoing process at DHS is one the Office of Management and Budget is encouraging all agencies to undertake. Matthew Blum, associate administrator at OMB's Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said officials too often begin workforce assessments with a particular outcome -- either insourcing or outsourcing -- in mind. In a July memorandum to agency heads, OMB Director Peter R. Orszag asked officials to manage multisector workforces based on strong, strategic human capital planning.

"Once you figure out what the people power is, you can then begin to look at sourcing considerations," Blum said. Agencies can then determine "which of the functions you need, which are the ones that are so intimately related to government, they should be performed by government employees, and which can be performed by either sector," he said

According to Mason, Homeland Security officials are going to begin the insourcing process by converting jobs that are "low-hanging fruit," meaning there are relatively few contractors performing the inherently governmental or mission-critical functions. But Mason and David Cade, deputy and acting general counsel at the Health and Human Services Department, urged officials to first consider the costs associated with conversion, including the expense of finding office space for new federal employees and contributing to their health care and retirement funds.

"That is a level of program management that doesn't happen regularly, because we're rushing so much to finish the job or do the job that we don't take the step back to understand the cost," Cade said.

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