Huge size of DHS contractor workforce leaves senators 'astonished'

200,000 contract workers outnumber DHS civilian workforce

Two key Senate lawmakers are accusing the Homeland Security Department of having an “unacceptable” level of contractor employees in the wake of a report showing that contract workers outnumber federal civilian employees in the department.

Sens. Joseph Lieberman (Ind.-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Me.) who are the chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Wednesday they were “astonished” at the high estimate of contract workers, which they judged to be “unacceptable, untenable and unsustainable.”

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently estimated the DHS contractor workforce at 200,000, which exceeds the department’s civilian workforce of 188,000, which does not include Coast Guard uniformed employees, the senators said.

Collins and Lieberman wrote to Napolitano on Feb. 24 asking for details on the estimates, including a breakdown of contract employees in each of the department’s 22 agencies and an explanation of how the estimates were calculated. They senators also want Napolitano to describe how she is ensuring that the contract employees are not performing inherently governmental functions.

“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 in the letter.

“The oversight challenges of having so many contractors severely strain the transformation of DHS into “One DHS” with strong, central management. As a result, we believe that the current balance between federal employees and contractors at DHS is unacceptable, untenable and unsustainable,” the senators wrote.

The senators also noted in the letter that Napolitano has “recently begun an effort to reach a more appropriate balance between federal employees and contractor employees, and to this end, are requiring DHS components to reevaluate their human capital plans. We applaud and encourage this effort. “

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Mon, Mar 8, 2010

The first person commenting needs grammar lessons.

Mon, Mar 8, 2010 oh21

OMB Circular A-76 -- outsource everything that is not "inherently governmental". How is an "inherently governmental" core-org/ops identified? Like business "inherently ..." is any job that ain't mine, and promotes me. "Inherently Governmental" employees are doomed to fall in a slot that can be contracted out, if it makes it easier for duds to move up.

Mon, Mar 8, 2010 oh21 NJ

More contractors is always good. Management has enough problems getting promoted without personnel/HR responsibilities. Contractor personnel are never a management problem, require no individual employee annual ratings, awards, career mentoring, or disciplinary actions. It takes the same amount of high level management slots (SES, GM-15...) to manage 100K contractor personnel as would be used for 100K government personnel. Training and maintaining contractors is easier then getting every civil-servant certified for something. Anyway, hire more contractors and hire more government management for better paying government jobs with less HR/personnel responsibility. While you're at it move more of those high-pay government management job to the Wash-DC area for hiring more corporately and politically connected family members. It works for the Red-Cross it can work for DoD/Gov. Just kidding, it is funny %~P

Wed, Mar 3, 2010 NUWC Division, Newport

There are good and bad in both having government employees and contractors. Some of the contractor workers serve a function and bring to the table a service others are merly employed due to once being in a government management position and passing on contracts to specific contractors as a means to get a no show type job working for this contractor in order to make a high salary and get their quarters or points into social security due to being in the CSRS System vice the FERS system. These type of contractors give contractors a bad name and lead to coruptness in the way contractors get work. This game has been going on for so long that it is just considered business as usual. Mean while this type of way of doing business also gives the Government employees a bad name to the tax payers that are paying for this way of doing business that also includes getting freinds and relatives positions before those that are more deserving. As for Government employees most just want to do their job and are some what cowards to speak out about the corrupt ways that go on in the Government. If you ask some one about this most will just say that it's worse in private industry and that your lucky to have this job. If these ex-government officials were of so much value that they where need to come back as high paid contractors then why didn't some new Government employee learn what they new before they journeyed on to becomming a contractor working for the Government. At what cost are these individuals costing the tax payers for their initial and continued service?

Wed, Mar 3, 2010 Mike Cleveland, OH

I work with contractors in our IT department. Contrary to popular belief they must be managed and directed just like any government employee. They did not start working and become super stars from the beginning. We have let many go and we have great ones on staff. We manage that workforce just as me manage our government employees. To the person who said you can't fire government employees that is utter nonsense. We have fired 7 non-performing gov employees. It can be done ... good managers know how and will do it. It's not the goal to fire people but to help them become better employees. If that can't be done then they go, however long that takes. We like our contractors and consider them to be part of the team. I am not of the mind set to contract out government work, but in most cases it's needed to fill billet shortfalls. Fix the billet shortfalls and most of our top notch contractor employees would be considered and selected to fill those positions if appropriate.

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