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Letter to the Editor: March 5

Mar. 4, 2012 - 01:23PM   |  
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The outsourcing debate

In his Jan. 9 commentary "Give A-76 a second chance," Jacques Gansler made valid points related to the need for public-private competition. However, he failed to paint the full picture of the causes and impact of the government's inability to oversee the $540 billion spent on goods and services each year.

Furthermore, he did not propose improvements that will allow the Pentagon and other agencies to protect government and taxpayer interests.

Gansler cites the elimination of lead systems integrators, actions to insource work and the ban on public-private competitions under Circular A-76 as reasons why service contracts cannot be awarded and, therefore, that government missions will be jeopardized. He ignored the increase in contract spending (over 150 percent since 2000), a depleted federal workforce that fails to exercise adequate oversight, and numerous programs that are over budget and behind schedule as a result of over-reliance on contractors.

Consideration must also be given to budget cuts and federal employee ceilings passed by Congress that have reduced the size of the government workforce.

The reports and examples cited by Gansler highlight problems with the system, but he missed the forest for the trees. Reports by the Commission on Wartime Contracting and the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness highlight outsourcing examples that often lead to wasted spending and contractors performing work that, by law, must be performed by federal employees.

Until the government creates a system that allows for a genuine comparison of full life-cycle costs and the consideration of critical nonfinancial factors, any effort to improve procurement decisions is worthless. The debate about "unbiased competition for the most cost-effective provider" has been driven by political ideology and failure to speak the truth about federal spending.

Until the Project on Government Oversight's report, "Bad Business: Billions of Taxpayer Dollars Wasted on Hiring Contractors," the "outsourcing always saves money" myth had not been thoroughly scrutinized.

These debates will continue if policymakers don't create and require the use of cost models that provide empirical evidence for justifying policies and the spending of taxpayer dollars. POGO relied on currently available data and found that, on average, a federal contractor costs taxpayers nearly twice as much as a federal employee for the same services.

Scott Amey, general counsel, Project on Government Oversight, Washington

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