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.
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:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

    Download
  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

    Download
  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

    Download
  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

    Download
  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security

    Download

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