Reduce contractor use, cut federal managers to lower costs, readers advise

Our readers, responding to recent articles, suggest hiring fewer contractors, improving IT systems or raising the supervisor to employee ratio.

In the last Workforce Wonk entry, I posed the question of whether a targeted increase in the number of federal employees could more effectively reduce the deficit than across-the-board workforce cuts. A number of Federal Computer Week readers responded with their thoughts about how to drive down government spending, generally disregarding the notion of slashing the number of feds as a “highly symbolic” and “wrong-headed” gesture.

Reader suggestions included hiring fewer contractors, improving IT systems or changing the supervisor to employee ratio. 

“As someone who has been both a government employee, and, as the result of an outsourcing effort, a contractor, I can definitely state that it is costing the government more to have me working for them now than it did when I was an employee,” one wrote.

Another added, “I’ve said it many times, contractors are ideal for short-term fixed contracts that have an end state. Long-term indefinite projects require civilians that have the experience and knowledge to do the job and train the younger folks. Few contractors can fit this bill and the ones that can, should be hired as 'civilian' employees."

"For 35 years it seems that for every 'worker bee' that is contracted out, three contractors are hired at twice the pay each to do their work," wrote a reader identifed as Daryl. "If you are determined to reduce the number of government employees try setting your sites higher -- middle management or executive levels, GS-14 and above. Increas[ing] the supervisor to worker ratio would get more bang for the buck."

Others noted that investing in IT systems could further streamline government operations.

“I happen to believe that IT solutions could automate about two-thirds of civil agency operations and shake loose as many salary-benefit packages,” another wrote.

However, a few readers don’t seem to think that simply hiring more feds is the solution. “Hiring more people to cut costs is insane,” one reader concluded.

It looks like the government will have to survey its workforce options, possibly cutting here and adding there, until it finds the right balance in today’s belt-tightening environment.

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