Report cites dramatic uptick in government spending on temps

Man picking a single green piece among white pieces 

Federal government spending on temporary employees has more than quadrupled in the last decade, with health care professions seeing the largest share of the increase, according to a new report.

The National Employment Law Project reports that federal dollars obligated for temporary help services exploded from $323 million in 2008 to $1.7 billion in 2018. The report places the blame on the Trump administration and its "war on federal workers." While government shutdowns, executive orders aimed at union activity and a push to revoke telework agreements and change labor agreements have been the public face of this push to remake the federal bureaucracy, a hidden aspect is the reliance on temporary staffing services to fill critical roles at agencies, particularly in health care.

"Although temporary staffing agencies have traditionally provided employers with flexibility during short-term or unexpected increases in labor demand, some employers -- including the federal government … are increasingly offloading permanent positions in their workforce to temporary staffing agencies," the report states.

Health care contracts for temp workers at Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense, the Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Prisons and the Federal Occupational Health Clinics accounted for 47% of all spending on temporary employment service contracts in 2018, according to the report.

A pair of Government Accountability Office reports that focused on health care at IHS and DOD cited the negative impact of using temporary staff both in terms of budget and quality of care.

J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement that "outsourcing that work to costly and unaccountable temp agencies" is part of the Trump administration's "insidious plan to privatize health care."

The report includes recommendations to improve accountability of outsourcing contracts to ensure that temps are compensated fairly and that contracts are reviewed annually to measure the cost benefit of outsourcing.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


  • Defense
    Essye Miller, Director at Defense Information Management, speaks during the Breaking the Gender Barrier panel at the Air Space, Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 19, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chad Trujillo)

    Essye Miller: The exit interview

    Essye Miller, DOD's outgoing principal deputy CIO, talks about COVID, the state of the tech workforce and the hard conversations DOD has to have to prepare personnel for the future.

  • innovation (Sergey Nivens/

    VA embraces procurement challenges at scale

    Steve Kelman applauds the Department of Veterans Affairs' ambitious attempt to move beyond one-off prize-based contests to combat veteran suicides more effectively.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.