Letter to the Editor

Outsourcing doesn't add up

I thoroughly enjoyed Milt Zall's column concerning outsourcing in the April 23 edition of the Federal Computer Week ["Keeping TRAC of jobs"].

Truth be told, outsourcing is simply a catchy phrase that bureaucrats — as well as CEOs of a multitude of companies — use in their attempt to look as if they are increasing productivity and trimming the bottom line all at the same time, all for the benefit of stockholders and voters.

But in my experience, the math simply does not add up. Many people will use the same reasons as before, such as contractors are cheaper when you add in the benefits, or that outsourcing is only used for short-term jobs. But I have yet to see any of those arguments backed up with math.

Of the same old retread reasons, the largest is also the oldest — greed! Contract companies are owned and operated by people who make money off other people's experience and knowledge. They will persuade a company or government agency to pay them $40 to $50 an hour per job slot and turn around and hire a person from $15 to $25 an hour. Even if you would add in a high number such as 50 percent of their salary for benefits, you could see the tremendous savings in permanent hiring rather than contracting.

In short, government agencies could and would be able to hire two workers for the price of one, but the problem still is how does one get past all the sound bites from congressmen who are more interested in getting re-elected than making good business sense.

As for the argument that contracting is used for short-term jobs, I have co-workers at my agency who have been contracting here for more than 15 years in the same position, but working for their sixth contracting company.

And that brings up another item that I have found aggravating: Contractors will come in and bid on the same contracts, and all they do is hire the same people who are doing the job. Talk about waste! All they want is to make money for doing nothing.

At this point, I don't really know what could be done. The math is there if anyone would care to look at it. It's not hard at all. But a bigger obstacle is how do persuade congressmen and bureaucrats to do the right thing and rock the boat.

Steven Ennis

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