Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY AP photo

Lawmakers challenge the Pentagon’s reliance on service contractors

Senators and House members urge the Defense secretary to rethink cuts to civilian workforce.

Cost-cutting moves by the Defense Department that include capping the number of civilian employees at 2010 levels have prompted protests from House and Senate lawmakers who say the Pentagon is spending too much on contractors to provide services.

On Wednesday, 26 Democratic senators led by Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York sent Defense Secretary Leon Panetta a letter saying they are “concerned that while the size of the civilian workforce is proposed to be cut back to fiscal 2010 levels, no comparable constraints were imposed on workforce hired through contractors. We are concerned that this would incentivize managers to use contracting firms rather than civilian employees, even when the latter costs less. We also believe that there are a number of sensitive roles that should be performed by direct employees.”

The letter, which renews an ongoing debate over the Obama administration’s insourcing initiative, follows a similar one sent to Panetta in March by 130 House members led by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y. The House letter called the caps on civilian employees "gimmicks” that are “causing mass layoffs” of civilians but aren’t generating savings. “Because of the arbitrary standards set by the Pentagon, civilian employees are being fired, and private contractors that charge more for the exact same service and are less accountable to the public are being hired,” the letter said. “This shift away from a civilian workforce isn't just inefficient -- it's also a violation of long-standing workforce management rules."

The senators’ letter calls on the Pentagon to eliminate the cap on the civilian workforce or provide a waiver; “embrace” the total force management approach, which looks at the military, civilian and contractor workforces holistically; cap spending on service contracts; conduct cost comparisons when making outsourcing decisions; implement an inventory of contract services; and prohibit outsourcing of inherently governmental work.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said Panetta is on travel in South America and will respond appropriately to the letter later.

The letters were welcomed by the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, which has long argued the government wastes money relying on too many private contractors. Scott Amey, POGO’s general counsel, told a March 29 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Contracting Oversight Subcommittee that “except in very limited circumstances, the federal government does not have accurate data about service contracts and the contractors performing those services. Moreover, the government does not have a governmentwide cost modeling system that compares the life-cycle cost of in-house and contractor personnel. As a result, the government often turns to service contractors under the misguided assumption that market economies enable contractors to be more cost-efficient than the government.”

The contracting community appears less enthusiastic. “The senators’ letter demonstrates an unfortunate lack of awareness of what is actually taking place in the Defense Department,” Stan Soloway, president and chief executive officer of the Professional Services Counsel, said in an email to Government Executive. “Unlike federal jobs, contractor positions disappear when the work is done or no longer needed or funded. In fact, over just the last couple of years, defense spending on contract services has been reduced nearly $20 billion, which translates into tens of thousands of jobs already lost.”

Soloway said his group has “long opposed arbitrary personnel or funding cuts for either contractors or federal employees and supported allowing agencies the flexibility they need to appropriately manage their combined workforces based on their mission needs and resources. But to suggest that contractors have in any way been ‘spared’ by the current fiscal environment is simply wrong and misleading.”

Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for national security and procurement policy at TechAmerica, said the letter “seems to throw out the lessons” of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who “abruptly and publicly terminated the insourcing program because it did not produce the intended savings.”

He said his trade association agrees with the Office of Management and Budget principle of seeking “an appropriate balance between what can and should be performed by civilian employees, but that the remaining activities,” ranging from trash removal to lawn care to information technology, “can be handled, as agencies look at their missions, in ways that maximize value for the taxpayers.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.