Senators press for broader definition of 'inherently governmental' jobs

A contingent of 11 Democratic senators urged the Office of Management and Budget to more broadly define what constitutes inherently governmental job categories that can be performed only by federal civil servants.

In a March 18 letter, the senators urged OMB Director Peter Orszag to define “inherently governmental” work in expansive terms “to cover all sensitive functions so managers won’t need designations like ‘core,’ ‘critical’ and ‘mission-essential’ to shield jobs they know are best performed by federal workers.”

The letter is part of the larger effort launched last year by President Obama to rein in the number of jobs that are contracted out to the private sector. Outsourcing of federal government work went too far in the previous administration, said the letter, which suggested that Orszag issue restrictions to more tightly constrain the type of work that subcontractors can perform.

“We can’t continue to allow federal agencies to lose control of mission-relevant functions by giving contractors a decisive role in how they are executed,” the letter said.

Lawmakers also urged Orszag to set deadlines for each agency to identify and in-source any such work that was contracted out. OMB is expected to publish the new guidelines next month. Among those signing the letter were Sens. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Robert Byrd of West Virginia.

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Reader comments

Tue, Apr 20, 2010 Philadelphia, PA

My experience with contractors is that those working most directly with them have little control since the COTR and Task Manager are usually in Washington. Contracts are worded as "not personal service" so there is a conflict between what the person directing them from Washington tells them to do and the needs of the office in which they actually work. And as far as cost -- contractors have benefits, too. Who do you think pays for them as well as the profit for the contracting company? The government AKA your tax dollars!

Tue, Mar 30, 2010 jlm656 Fairfax, VA


What is the real concern here? Federal agencies "losing control", or expanding the size of government manager's rice bowls?

Federal managers arguably have a great deal more control over contractors, since they own the contracts and can fire contractors at will. Government employees are more difficult to discipline, cost more over time (please note, Senators Byrd and Milkuski, benefits, retirement - they don't come free), and are incentivized differently.

People I know who were told to convert to government or hit the road conscientiously do their work, but no longer work overtime, nor cancel their vacations to satisfy client needs, nor lean forward in the saddle to provide innovative solutions to solve government's challenges. They work an 8-hour day and not a minute more, jealously guard their perks, demand training at every opportunity, and are constantly on the look-out for higher-paying positions outside their agencies. Who can blame them? The system rewards this behavior.

In-sourcing is a false economy - it serves only to contribute to Federal bloat.


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