FBI headquarters at night. The FBI and some other agencies are under GAO criticism for failing to adequately track contractor use. (FBI)
The CIA, FBI and several other intelligence-related agencies are having trouble tracking and justifying their reliance on contractors to perform key jobs, the Government Accountability Office concluded in a newly released review.
While those agencies use “core” contract employees to provide human capital, information technology and program management services, the data contained in a central inventory was so unreliable that GAO reviewers couldn’t determine the extent to which agencies turned to private companies for specific services. Although agencies are supposed explain their reasons for hiring contractors, 40 percent of contracts sampled lacked evidence to back up those reasons, the report says.
In addition, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which maintains the contractor inventory, did not disclose the impact of such limitations when reporting the information to Congress, thus limiting “its transparency and usefulness,” the GAO found.
The overview, which focuses on fiscal years 2010 and 2011, is an unclassified version of a classified report release last September. In a written response, ODNI officials agreed to work on making the inventory more reliable, but maintained that the contractor data are already becoming more accurate.
Besides the FBI, CIA and ODNI, the inventory also covers intelligence branches within the Energy, Treasury, State and Homeland Security departments. Although precise numbers are secret, the intelligence community’s use of contract firms soared after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Following the end of the Cold War, “we put the brakes on, screech, and then we had to rejuvenate and re- expand the intelligence community,” James Clapper, the current director of national intelligence, said at his 2010 Senate confirmation hearing. “And of course, the obvious way to do that, to do it quickly was through contractors.”
In its response to the GAO report, Clapper’s office said that the number of core contract employees is coming down. “Continued improvements in data collection will enable us to substantiate that we continue to reduce and manage these functions carefully,” Deborah Barger, ODNI’s director of legislative affairs, wrote in the response.