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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