Does outsourcing save or waste tax dollars?
Unintelligence in Federal Intelligence Agencies
War is welfare but worse, since such spending not only enriches insiders but also requires ever new enemies, keeping us in constant danger. Better than perpetual sabre-rattling, one way to deal with foreign aggressors is to strengthen the rational voices in those countries. We can achieve that via geonomics, by modeling better behavior at home, in order to export economic justice, and by opening the world to true free trade, so that backward places can prosper, too, thereby putting their material security at odds with aggression. All of which means we could find some better uses for our billions of public dollars.
by Joel S. HirschhornThe Bush administration has found yet another way to waste taxpayer money while providing huge sums to private contractors. According to a survey of activities in 2007 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, about a third of the federal professional intelligence workforce now consists of contractors, mostly in the Washington, DC area.
Out of a total workforce of about 100,000 people some 37,000 are private employees whose individual salaries cost the government (we taxpayers) about $207,000 annually, compared with about $125,000 for civilian federal employee’s salaries and benefits.
By offering higher salaries and benefits, contractors have lured people with important skills and have also siphoned off federal employees. With this outsourcing, taxpayers are the losers.
What does this $82,000 worker cost gap amount to yearly? About $3 billion annually is being provided to private contractor businesses that could be avoided by government hiring its own employees. This fiscal policy of the Bush administration may outrage taxpayers, but it is totally consistent with how Republicans changed their views on the federal government.
In the past, Republicans used to focus on shrinking the federal government and its spending. But then it shifted because they saw how increased federal spending could be used to increase revenues to the corporate sector, even though this requires incredible deficit spending, borrowing and costly debt. What has happened in the intelligence sector has also happened in the defense area. In other words, huge numbers of contractors perform in Iraq in addition to our military personnel.
To be clear, all these figures do not include workers such as food-service employees or contract guards, but only those actually performing or assisting intelligence functions. Here is the breakdown for the latter: about 27 percent do intelligence collection and operations, just under 25 percent are involved in information technology services, about 20 percent are in analysis and production, and 20 percent work in administration and support functions.
Tim Shorrock, author of Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, noted that the new data “shows that private contractors are operating in the most sensitive areas of intelligence” (the implication being that, as individuals who are not members of the government, their loyalty to the government might be less reliable). He has also noted that “an astounding 70 percent of the US intelligence budget is spent on private contracts. With the post-September 11 hikes in intelligence spending, spying for hire has become an industry worth nearly $50 billion a year.”
IntelligenceCareers.com is a recruitment firm headed by William D. Golden, a former Army intelligence officer. Golden says his company can hardly keep up with the demand for intelligence contractors. “The government has become addicted to the use of private industry in the world of intelligence,” he said.
If John McCain, a backer of Bush policies, becomes president, we can expect more of the same. If Barack Obama wins the election and actually tries to undo most of the awful things done by the Bush administration, then he should mount an effort to de-privatize and in-source federal agencies, starting with the intelligence sector. To the extent that so much spying is actually needed, hiring our own people loyal to the nation more so than to a corporation would save us many billions of dollars annually.
[Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through www.delusionaldemocracy.com.]
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