Homeland Security contractors outnumber civilian employees

DHS chief Janet Napolitano sent numbers to the Hill in response to a request. DHS chief Janet Napolitano sent numbers to the Hill in response to a request. Jose Luis Magana/AP
Leaders of a Senate government oversight committee on Wednesday said they were "astounded" to learn that contractors outnumber civilian employees at the Homeland Security Department, and expressed concern that contractors could be performing inherently governmental work.

Sens. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, thanked DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano for responding to requests that the department quantify its reliance on contractors. But they said they were disturbed to learn DHS employs more than 200,000 contractors, compared with just 188,000 federal employees, excluding uniformed members of the Coast Guard.

"The sheer number of DHS contractors currently on board again raises the question of whether DHS itself is in charge of its programs and policies, or whether it inappropriately has ceded core decisions to contractors," Lieberman and Collins said in a letter to Napolitano.

The senators asked for a unit-by-unit breakdown of contractors within the department, but warned that regardless of that breakdown, the challenge of overseeing so many contractors is likely to strain the ongoing transformation of DHS into an agency with strong, central management.

"We believe that the current balance between federal employees and contractors at DHS is unacceptable, untenable and unsustainable," they wrote.

DHS officials are aware of the problem and are taking steps to properly balance the department's workforce, the senators noted. Homeland Security's fiscal 2011 budget reflects cost savings from the conversion of contractor positions to federal jobs. Lieberman and Collins said that while cost should not be the only factor in determining who should perform work, savings are beneficial.

"The fundamental question in deciding whether a federal employee should perform a task, or whether the task may appropriately be assigned to a contractor, should not simply be which option is cheapest, but rather whether or not the government's interests are best served by having the work performed by federal employees," the senators said. "Nonetheless it is notable that the shift to a more appropriate employee-to-contractor ratio may well also save the department and the taxpayers money."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.