Senate: DHS must sort workforce mix

The next administration has plenty of major challenges ahead, and one of them is figuring out how to manage an acquisition workforce in which government employees are intermingled with contractors.

“The blended workforce is here to stay,” said Robert Burton, deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, who is retiring this month. “The question is, what rules will govern that relationship.”
Along those lines, a Senate committee is urging the Homeland Security Department to devise a metric that shows officials the proper balance of contractors and federal employees.

In its report on the fiscal 2009 DHS Appropriations Act, the committee reiterates widespread concerns about contractors being too closely involved with inherently governmental functions.

“Without stronger oversight, the risk of government decisions being influenced by, rather than independent from, contractor judgments increases,” the committee wrote.

Based on DHS information, the committee determined that the department has more contractors than government employees.

Because DHS officials rely so heavily on contractors, the department lacks in-house expertise and institutional knowledge, the report states. Reducing the number of contractors would increase internal expertise, save money in certain sectors of DHS and lessen the risk of improper contractor influence, the committee wrote.

The committee proposed $39 million for DHS’ procurement operations and is urging the department to take advantage of new authorities in the proposed bill to use as much as 50 percent of the money left over from salaries and expenses in 2008 to hire new employees.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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