Outsourcing no place for politics

The Defense Science Board's recent report on outsourcing takes a no-nonsense approach to moving many Defense Department support activities to the private sector. This recommendation has a familiar ring to it for this is not the first time it has been suggested that good business practice mandated moving the operation of data centers and other support facilities to the commercial world.

However even though Congress tells DOD - and the rest of the government - that it wants agencies to act like commercial businesses it prevents them from doing so by attaching strings to appropriations. We have had a number of examples of language inserted into spending bills that prohibits DOD agencies from using their best business judgment. In many cases the moves are designed to protect jobs in a member's district.Now once again just as there is strong bipartisan support for outsourcing some DOD activities Congress has cut off the money needed to make it happen. Perhaps it is too much to expect the Hill to permit jobs to go to the private sector in an election year. No one wants federal employees to lose their jobs but the citizens have sent a strong message in recent elections that they want a smaller government that works more efficiently.

Some observers have suggested that outsourcing will happen only through a panel similar to the base closing commission that would not permit pork-barrel politics to override good business decisions. In this case we already have the Defense Science Board and an outside study citing potential savings of 30 to 40 percent. No agencies have that kind of money to spare in these days of declining budgets. It's time for Congress to realize that and let DOD make the best business decisions.

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