Are DHS contractors running amok?

Two heavyweights from the Senate want to know who is minding the shop at the Homeland Security Department. And whoever it is, the department's inspector general would like to speak with them.

Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano late last month to express concerns that the contractor workforce at DHS, estimated at 200,000, now outnumbers the federal civilian employees, which stands at 188,000, not including Coast Guard uniformed employees.

“The sheer number of DHS contractors currently on board again raises the question of whether DHS itself is in charge of its programs and policies, or whether it inappropriately has ceded core decisions to contractors,” Lieberman and Collins wrote Feb. 24.

On the same day, as chance would have it, DHS IG Richard Skinner released a report that questions the department’s willingness to suspend or debar poorly performing contractors.

In a recent audit, the IG identified 23 cases in which a contract was terminated for default or cause, but the contract was not subsequently reviewed to see whether a debarment or suspension was appropriate.

DHS "has suspension and debarment policies and procedures in place," Skinner wrote. "However, the department is reluctant to apply the policies and procedures against poorly performing contractors.”

The timing of the letter and the report appears to be coincidental, but no one could be blamed for seeing one as the cause and the other as the effect.

The two stories “may cause folks to wonder if any reluctance might be created from the department's ‘heavy reliance on contractors,’” wrote reader Peter G. Tuttle. "It's tough to debar your contractors if you are overly dependent upon them. It would be very interesting to see what percent of DHS' mission support effort is performed by the contractors in question who were not debarred or suspended.”

About the Author

John S. Monroe is the editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Wed, Apr 28, 2010 Nancy

Contractors are controlling the government and have runned amuke. Look at the U.S. State Department. They are costing the taxpayer more increases in taxes and running this country into the ground. Utter chaos.

Thu, Mar 18, 2010 John Albuquerque

Increasingly, the news from DC seems to be that 'the contractors are in control, and the only way to stop this is incresae the federal workforce.' The strength of the contractor/project model is that they are temporary endeavors and can/should be terminated if significant problesm develop. Further, the US Senate is the very last place I would look for management or fiscal discipline.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above