How outsourcing keeps America on top
- By Stanton Sloane
- Feb 24, 2011
Stanton Sloane is president and CEO of SRA International, an IT services and solutions provider to the government.
the increasingly chaotic stage of national politics, the government
contractor is becoming an easy target for crowd-pleasing cost-reduction
initiatives. The critical work accomplished by this segment of U.S.
industry is being portrayed as unnecessary spending — or worse.
truth is government contractors are indispensable and always have
been. They are the marketplace of innovative ideas that, in partnership
with government, has powered our nation ahead of all others.
means enlisting experts from the private sector to perform work the
government can’t do fast enough, lacks the resources to do properly or
simply cannot do at all.
Clearing away layers of misleading
rhetoric reveals outsourcing’s prized dividend for taxpayers: lower
costs and increased government productivity. That means more efficiency
and a better value for all citizens concerned about the government’s
bottom line. Unfortunately, those facts are being buried beneath
fictions as our federal agencies attempt to comply with guidelines that
are not always clear and therefore subject to misinterpretation.
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists who worked
alongside military officials, we would not have ARPAnet and its
progeny, the Internet. Without innovative Lockheed Martin engineers, we
would not have stealth technology. Without Ivan Getting and the
Aerospace Corp., we’d be without the Global Positioning System.
are keeping unmanned aerial patrol vehicles airborne in Afghanistan and
providing translation services for our troops. Contractor Jeff Hart,
who had been drilling water wells for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, was
hired by the Chilean government to drill the shaft that facilitated the
rescue of 33 miners who had been trapped underground for 69 days.
federal government hasn’t seen the savings it hoped for from
insourcing. For one, it often costs taxpayers more for the
government to hire a permanent employee than to choose a contractor
that can solve the problem in less time for a fraction of the price. A
major factor in those costs is employee benefits. As USA Today reported
last year, a full-time government worker receives benefits worth nearly
$28,000 annually compared to a private-sector employee who receives
slightly more than $16,000 a year in benefits.
compensation costs at all levels of government routinely outpace
comparable figures in the private sector. Data from the U.S. Bureau of
Economic Analysis has shown that pay rates in state and local
government are increasing much faster than those in the private sector.
2006, for the first time in generations, the California Department of
Personnel Administration conducted a government vs. private
compensation analysis and found that public-sector pay rates are far
higher in many areas, including for clerical, electrical, accounting
and analysis work. What’s more, figures show that a government “retiree
eligible for the full employer health contribution in retirement
secures an additional $494,000 in compensation over 20 years,”
according to the Total Compensation Survey.
The answer is
neither eliminating government’s industry partners nor relying entirely
on the private sector. Finding the right balance is the key.
job security in the private sector is more closely linked to
performance, contractors are fearsomely efficient. But their
contribution goes far beyond price. Contractor employees offer new
perspectives on seemingly intractable problems. They have often worked
in government and private industry and therefore bring a wealth of
experience. Contractors can provide wise and practiced assistance from
the experts who developed technology that is critical to government
functions. Contractors are the key to our nation's history of successfully competing through innovation.
A blind swing at our
contractors might satisfy the politics of some, but it will damage
those on whom we’ve long depended for our status as the world’s
Stanton Sloane is the president and chief executive officer of SRA International Inc.