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Insourcing and the politics of government job security

One big difference between the government and contractor workforces, as one reader sees it, is that when agencies cut jobs, they typically reassign personnel to new positions, but when contractors cut jobs, they cut staff.

The net result is that federal employees are more likely to end up in jobs for which they have little training, says Bill Johnson, writing in response to a recent blog post (“Insourcing fad misses the point”). Contractor employees might lose jobs more often, but they usually find jobs in their areas of expertise.

That problem could be exacerbated if the Obama administration goes through with its insourcing strategy, cutting contractors and bringing their work back into the fold.

Another ramification: When cuts do come to government, senior staffers are more likely to keep their jobs, which “reduces the vitality of youth in government,” Johnson writes.

What do you think? Is Johnson on target? If not, why not? If so, how can federal agencies avoid such difficulties? Post a comment on this blog. We will publish a selection of the best comments in an upcoming issue of Federal Computer Week.

Also be sure to read the original insourcing blog post, “The seven deadly sins of insourcing?” Be sure to click on “View all comments.”

Here is the comment in full:

* I, too, have worked in all sides of the issue. The problem with insourcing has not gone away -- government rules for personnel usage ensure longevity, regardless of whether a job exists. Too many government workers get assigned to jobs they are not really trained to do when government cuts come. Also, senior workers get to keep their jobs at the expense of junior workers. This state of government law wastes money but buys votes, and reduces the vitality of youth in the government. Outsourcing eliminates most of that inefficiency: Contractors compete for the work with highly qualified and skilled people at a fair price; once the job or task is done, the contractor leaves and the government incurs no more costs. Longevity for the worker is based on future work and capability, not government or union rules. Contractors hire only people who are qualified to do the work; otherwise, their reputations for quality work are damaged and they get less work. Demonizing contractor[s] -- fashionable today in the Obama administration -- is just a precursor to eliminating contractors and creating back the very government jobs originally outsourced in the past two decades to streamline government. Apparently, logic is lost when it comes to votes.

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Aug 11, 2009 at 12:14 PM


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