Should government employees “cool-off” before entering the contracting world?

A senate hearing earlier this week focused on Intelligence Community contracting presented several interesting thoughts. Most notably, a bi-partisan panel agreed with a CIA policy which prevents government employees from leaving the agency and immediately accepting contract work. Retirees are exempted.

The whole idea is to prevent the “poaching” of the CIA’s top talent, who may be lured by more flexibility and higher pay. Many are advocating that the policy be enacted across the IC. If successful, it could soon be making its way to more government offices.

We’ve been discussing the “contractor vs government employee” debate for awhile at As someone who’s worked both sides, I really can appreciate both perspectives, and I think it’s worth considering how congress and agency heads are looking to address a workforce that no longer sees spending 30 years in the same office as a good thing.

So, calling all government and contract professionals – what would you think of a one-year “cooling-off” before going from government to contract work?

And read the full article here.

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Susan Thomas

A year is a reasonable period. Contracting in the federal government is out of control and must be reined in. We should not hire contractors do jobs at twice the cost of a federal FTE. Contracting has become a crutch in some agencies and those who overuse it do not seem ashamed of the waste.

Carol Davison

I think that it is the Federal government’s resonsibility to treat employees so well that they are ambassadors for their work place and don’t leave. That requires equitible supervisors, career development (it doesn’t always cost money) including developmental assignments, etc. That way the Fed won’t need to contact out. It will have developed in house capability. Making rules prohibiting highly qualified Feds from contract work for a year is counter productive. If they leave on Friday they should be able to start as a contracter on Monday. The real problem is the amount agencies are willing to pay contractors who then poach their employees.

Peter Sperry

Ideally contractors would be used for special limited time projects and FTEs would be used for long term ongoing work. This would tend to discourage people from jumping from FTE to contractor because they would not know if they would have a job when the project was over. It would also discourage managers from staffing up with FTE for short term needs that will go away in 3-5 years leaving them with excess PC&B expenses. Unfortunately, entirely too many governement agencies are reversing this concept. They use contractors to fill ongoing workload needs and staff up with FTEs for projects that have a shelf life of no more than 5 years. A lot of the imbalance is driven by the fact that it is easier to write a labor/hour contract than hire an FTE and easier to hire an FTE than get funding approval for a multiyear development project, particularly if it is not firm/fixed/price.

As for a cooling off period; that could prevent an agency from obtaining the services of the most knowledgable experts if the contract is a short term project and merely delay the inevitable if they are using contractors where they should be using FTE.