Homeland Security contractors outnumber civilian employees

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.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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