Editorial: The real debate

In this place in our previous issue, we talked about the ethics frenzy that seems so pervasive. We want to reiterate that we do not discount the importance of ethics. But we are still concerned that the frothiness about ethical issues has detracted from a healthy debate about competitive sourcing.

As an example of this debate’s absurdity, we turn to the New York Times’ June 25 column by Frank Rich, titled “The Road From K Street to Yusufiya.” In that column, Rich painted just about everyone with the broad brush of corruption and unethical behavior.

He argued that homeland security grant cuts for New York and Washington, D.C., were somehow tied to a contract that the Homeland Security Department has with Booz Allen Hamilton because, of course, the company “now just happens to employ Greg Rothwell, who was the department’s procurement chief until December.”

In fact, Rothwell does not work on DHS projects at Booz Allen. Furthermore, Rothwell is hardly the poster child for the revolving door. The government was not simply a pit stop on the way to a higher-paying job. He came to the company only after a long career as a fed.

Such broad accusations of corruption are unfair.

The rising fury of accusations coincides with the increase in outsourced government work. Combined with the ballooning number of federal employees who are eligible for retirement or are leaving government for salaries at market value, the climate is ripe for ethics accusations.

The primary concern, it seems, is the Bush administration’s competitive sourcing initiative, which Rich described as “a plan to outsource as much of government as possible by forcing federal agencies to compete with private contractors and their K Street lobbyists for huge and lucrative assignments.”

By Rich’s assessment, competitive sourcing has resulted in “low-quality services at high cost: the creation of a shadow government of private companies rife with both incompetence and corruption.”

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In reality, industry is doing more work because of the federal government’s workforce issues. And in most competitions between the K Street lobbyists and federal employees, the feds win. Competitive sourcing is worth debating. But the conversation should weigh facts rather than smear the people working to make a difference.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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