Support contractors and ilsm

by ilsm

Ilsm writes another post on whittling the beak:

The next few weeks I am going through GAO 08-621T and 08-572T. The T is for testimony..

In the Testimony: a survey of “52 of DoD’s Major Weapon Systems” revealed an “average of 45% of the staff are individuals outside of DoD” or contractors.

The briefer said that there needs to be greater attention to areas that should be contracted out.

My experience is that it is far easier to “hire” a contractor and the contractor doesn’t get in the way of delivering shoddy work than getting a civil servant or a soldier. The testimony affirms the contractors are more expensive as well.

I have a lot of experience in DoD major weapon system acquisition and observed the abuse of support contractors by program offices. Also, there have been widespread negative impacts on federal employees as the program management offices eliminated civilian employees and hired support contractors who often gave “better” estimates and rosier assessments of risks than federal employees who are protected against retaliation and discharge by the Pendleton Act.

They can fire an uncooperative contractor with a few words.

The workload done by support contractors in program offices was not contracted out under a public private competition using OMB Circular A-76. A competition using the circular requires identifying and classifying the “functions” being performed by government employees commercial activities, the identified activity has to be determined to be not “inherently governmental” defined here. Note that providing advice to government decision makers is not inherently governmental. Certain activities in a program management office are commercial in nature, however, I disagree that much of the analysis work is of an advisory nature. Establishing analytical tools, selecting models, determining assumptions, developing conclusions and interpreting risks concerning technology which involve huge future obligations are all significant to the public interest and should be inherently governmental activities.

Unfortunately, neither a view of the activity inventory nor use of A-76 competitions contributed this heavy reliance on support contractors in program management offices. In the testimony the risk of contractors actually controlling governmental functions is identified. As in many GAO articles recommendations are made with no plan for action.

Later, in the testimony costs for support contractor labor are compared with government labor rates and the contractors are more expensive. This is contrary to the A-76 competition where the low bidder would win.

Program management offices “hire” the support contractors under FAR Part 37 as Advisory and Assistance Services contractors in part to get around A-76 competitions and in part because it is easy. These contractors are not authorized to perform personal services or act as employees however; if you walk through a program management office you would see no difference between a contractor and a government employee. Which means the contractors are being used outside the scope of the FAR and are performing voluntary services under the guise of a FAR contract?

The testimony says that most of the cost estimators are support contractors. These contractors took jobs away from government employees and ruined the career paths for many employees. And none of the decisions to use contractors are supported by analyses of whether the work is inherently governmental or whether the contractor employees are faster better or cheaper.

And the contractors never tell the program management officer his ideas and estimates are ridiculous. So much for wondering why systems acquisitions always cost too much take too long and are broken when they finally arrive.

Using contractor support makes as much sense as whittling beaks with your money.
by ilsm