Top Five Complaints about Federal Contractors and Consultants

There are a lot of federal government contractors/consultants in Washington, DC and throughout the country. And there are a lot of people who don’t like them. I’m one too, but don’t hold it against me. These are the top five complaints I hear a lot and a little background on each:

1. All they care about is billing hours. Another version of this is all they care about is money and profits. I think this one depends on whom you are talking about. The CEO of a big public company like CACI or BAH probably doesn’t care in the same way someone on the ground does. The CEO is really working for stockholders. The actual woman coming to your office to do work just has a job, and she is under pressure to make her numbers or she won’t have that job. So it’s true billing hours is important, and I bet that woman cares about the work she spends 8-12 hours a day doing. At least as much as all the other people care. Just make sure you’re getting the value from those hours to make it worth it.

2. That should have been a fed. Yep. This happens all the time because of the rules and politics around government hiring. There are a lot of positions out there that probably should be federal. I think that has distorted the whole consulting market for the government. Agencies tend to buy everything in professional services as if it were an outsourced federal position (aka a body) rather than based on value. Not a great way to bring in new ideas and skills sets.

3. They get paid too much/cost too much. This is right back to two. If you are simply hiring the same person you would have hired as a fed and parking them on a contract, then there really isn’t any added value in paying the overhead and profit for a contractor. The one factor that adds some value is that you can fire the contractor if you don’t need him or her. In other cases, you just can’t get the person you need because of hiring rules or the like.

4. They are running amok. I think this is a complaint to register against the entire consulting profession commercial and public sector. This can happen when the government doesn’t have enough qualified people to manage the contractors and keep them on task and in line. In other cases, I ‘ve seen federal managers use contractors to get things done that their staff won’t or can’t do. How amok they are can depend on where you sit.

5. They are everywhere. Very true. I walk into rooms on vendor outreach days for the government and think, how can there be all these companies that do the same stuff? It’s mind-boggling, but I’m still here.

Your turn. What are the complaints you hear about federal contractors and consultants?

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Chris Cairns

Sounds as if most of your issues with contractors/consultants are symptomatic of government mismanagement. So what are you doing to change that?

Alan Pentz

Thanks for the comment, Chris. I agree that government needs to improve management. That will probably always be true but contractors and consultants have an obligation to make it easier for them. One thing is to check themselves against these complaints. Are you there just to bill hours?