ILSM: GAO on Defense Use of Contractors

This one is by ILSM.

Here is a link to some testimony from the GAO (hat-tip to rdan):

GAO has raised concerns about increasing [DoD] reliance on contractors to perform agency missions.

GAO states that agencies have been challenged, meaning they fail, at determining what work should be retained and which should be contracted. The GAO also noted issues with oversight “including addressing risks, ethics concerns, and surveillance needs”.

I have seen the risks listed by GAO, both as a government employee and as one of the contractors. Here are some risks: level of effort and best effort services contracts where the government “ordered” labor categories and full time equivalents instead of services and then never measured the deliveries. Substantiated receiving reports with weekly records of meetings attended, conflate attending meetings with productivity as Scott Admas has noted. Government pays a very high salaried labor rate for “work”, not performance, done at much less difficulty [pay a rocket scientist’s rate to do power point charts] and at full time hours when there is no service provided worth the time or rate. Ethics issues abound: hire friends, recently retired, for made up work, at excellent rates to do best effort. Be good to the contractors so when you retire you get in on the gravy train.

The sole determinant of the value of services delivered was the front line employee benefitting with no regard for what the mission got from the “support”.

Surveillance is not done, the contracting officer does not understand requirements and there is no checking to see what labor hours went to what billing and what results could be seen for the billed effort or hours or labor rate.

Then do the service make any sense? Like making sure that contractors supposedly doing non personal services but interchangeable with employees, avoid compromising privacy act information on presidential candidates.

GAO met with commanders deploying in 2006 who said their “pre-deployment training did not provide them with sufficient information on the extent of contractor support that they would be relying on.”

In other words the soldiers have to provide “force protection” for contractors, if the contractors were soldiers they would carry rifles and not burden the soldiers they are supposed to support. A steep price for not having soldiers doing support.

Shifting gears the report talks about depot maintenance. They comment on how much work “needs” to be done in-house [congressional depot caucus passed laws which require certain repair work, called “core” be done in government arsenals] and how much is contracted out. They conclude that “core maintenance capability has not always been developed”. This means the acquiring activity, like the program manager buying the Airbus refueler uses the money that should have been invested in setting up core maintenance for overruns somewhere else.

Finally, they state that the reasons such as savings and effective repairs with quick repair “turns” for using contracted maintenance are not realized and “it is uncertain to what extent cost savings have occurred or will occur.” GAO does not correlate this finding with past audits where they concluded that DoD use of logistics contracts never yielded required performance at the cost contracted.

This report understates the problems and inefficiencies of contracting to perform services for the federal government. It would be politically difficult to cut back on the service contractors, with PACs supported by the financial power of the contractors which have more than doubled in cost since 9/11.

Contractors have infiltrated to the point they make work for each other, find new opportunities for their level of effort services and cannot be distinguished from government folks.

Level of effort is synonym with make work.

And I do not think GAO has scratched the surface on advisory and assistance services contractors, who do services which are not “commercial services”. Where they often double up to make life easy and comfortable for the government workers, painting rocks and starching fatigues.

In the not too distant past, I got in “trouble” as a government employee for not going to unnecessary, make work training developed conducted by a contractor. Contractors more and more get involved in painting the rocks and helping with “breaking starch”.

National security has been a growth industry the past 7 years.

This one was by ILSM.