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SAIC gets Vanity Fair-ed

It's not an easy time to be a government contractor these days.

I was traveling this weekend visiting my sister's one-month-old twins -- ah, a proud uncle -- and I got the new Vanity Fair. It is their 500-page Hollywood Oscar issue. Amidst the ton o' ads is this story:

Washington's $8 Billion Shadow [VF, March 2007]
Mega-contractors such as Halliburton and Bechtel supply the government with brawn. But the biggest, most powerful of the "body shops" — SAIC, which employs 44,000 people and took in $8 billion last year — sells brainpower, including a lot of the "expertise" behind the Iraq war.

The story is mostly about SAIC, of course, and there are some cracks on the government's procurement system.

It is a simple fact of life these days that, owing to a deliberate decision to downsize government, Washington can operate only by paying private companies to perform a wide range of functions. To get some idea of the scale: contractors absorb the taxes paid by everyone in America with incomes under $100,000. In other words, more than 90 percent of all taxpayers might as well remit everything they owe directly to SAIC or some other contractor rather than to the IRS. In Washington these companies go by the generic name "body shops" — they supply flesh-and-blood human beings to do the specialized work that government agencies no longer can. Often they do this work outside the public eye, and with little official oversight — even if it involves the most sensitive matters of national security. The Founding Fathers may have argued eloquently for a government of laws, not of men, but what we've got instead is a government of body shops.

Of course, the NYT looked at government contracting earlier this month.

Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Feb 13, 2007 at 12:16 PM


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