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Did you see the article over on Government Executive which suggests DoD is capping civilians and keeping contractors? Here are some quick excerpts:

  • "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..."
  • 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...”
  • They go on to say: “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..."
What do you think about this issue?

Do you think it's a trend that is going to (or has already) become more widespread beyond DoD?

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Always been this way and IMO will always be this way...

Much easier to downsize civilian employees instead of downsizing contracts and is probably cheaper when one takes into consideration the cost of cancelling a contract.

Yes, as in the past, the contracts/contractors will be downsized, although the "USUAL" justification has been we have got to hire more contractors because we let go of too many federal employees.

Interesting dilemma. I wonder if there's cases where people have been cut from government only to be picked up at a contracting company and placed in the same office that they were at in the first place.

Use to be done alot of the time, at least in the DOD group that I was in. Especially when we were talking about project managers and below.  I don't believe that they have ever been under the restrictions faced by political people, where there is a set period of time before they can go to work for the contractor/lobbying entities...

Being fair there has always been alot of movement the other way(contractor to Federal employee) as well especially when times are good...

Yes, this happens frequently.

Corey:  Yes, it happens.  Let's cut to the chase here.  Inadequate long-term human capital planning has also added to this situation.  Here we go again.

Peter, I agree about the "here we go again", and the issue of long term planning, as more fed layoffs announced in Canada this week. But I'm wondering if it's even possible to do proper medium to long term human capital planning in today's economic and political climate.

Do you think that IS still possible?

Hi Robert.  I agree that it extremely difficult to conduct longer term planning in a fluid political and fiscal climate. On the other hand, executives should have a very good idea of what skills must be retained (either organically or outsourced) in order for their organizations to remain viable.  The task of distinguishing the "must haves" from the "nice to haves" is difficult at best with all the conflicting voices that must be heard in any organization or enterprise.  It probably comes down to "really" understanding what the goal or mission of the enterprise is, identifying and fighting for those "must haves" and being willing to give up the "nice to haves."  Obviously, all this is much easier said than done since it involves people's lives, careers and jobs.  Cheers.

Yes! This is a nationwide problem beyond DoD/Fed Gov. You see this also with city and state functions like social services, education, sanitation, even public safety and corrections. Beyond accountability and the potential cost/benefit fallacy, there is the issue of market failure. In theory, an underperforming/overcharging contractor can be replaced through competitive bidding. But what happens when the market for a particular service or product is not competitive enough for government to choose from a number of different bidders? Or what happens when, in the interest of hiring the lowest bidder, a more expensive but higher quality contractor is displaced and agency effectiveness suffers? Finally, I am reading about companies like the Corrections Corporation of America, which has litigated or lobbied in favor of building more immigration detention jails (to be run by them of course), not just running existing ones. This type of self-dealing or agency capture should be troubling from any public policy perspective.

So in this instance, the Corrections Corporation of America will be essentially privatizing the prison system?

A lot of what I've read supports this notion. Of course I'm of the opinion that there are certain core functions of government, such as the ability to incarcerate someone and deprive them of liberty, that should not be outsourced, largely for accountability reasons. Instead of reducing bureaucracy, certain types of outsourcing only add to the opaqueness of government. Think Blackwater.

I tend to agree with you. It's very dangerous. I also do not think that prisons should be a business.

It is an interesting dilemma. I’m not sure if it is easier (administratively) to downsize civilian employees instead of downsizing contracts. My understanding is that it’s harder to “terminate” federal employees. I’m also not sure if it is cheaper than the terminating a contract. As far as contractors “picking up” recently terminated/downsized government employees, it’s probably a good thing – if they don’t produce or add value to the contractor then they will be seeking employment elsewhere. In the long run, this may be a more finically attractive model for the government.




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