By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

IG's: Is the revolution eating its own children?

I got an email from a trade press reporter asking if I would comment about the number of investigations going on not by but of IG's -- apparently, at Commerce, NASA, and the Iraq special IG. I haven't been following these things closely while I've been out of the country doing research (and currently taking a few days' vacation), so I didn't even know about all of this and don't have the details. However, perhaps because I'm in Paris, I couldn't help but reacting to the email by thinking of the French Revolution. As history buffs may remember, the French Revolution started out fairly moderate, but became more and more extreme as time went on. After a while, one leader would denounce an earlier one, that leader would be beheaded, and then the new leader would in his turn be denounced and beheaded. Finally, the fever was staunched, and the excesses of the Revolution reversed. Analogously (for this is a general pattern in revolutions), during the l960's, when I went to college, a reasonable student movement gradually got replaced by a radical extremist one, student radical leaders started expelling and denouncing each other, and eventually the movement collapsed.

We may be entering a similar final stage in the current contracting environment, characterized by a fever of out-of-control suspicion and mistrust, of denunciations and campaigns, that reminds one of the later stages of the French Revolution and of 60's student radicalism. Perhaps the apparent investigations of IG's are a sign that the fever is spiking -- and maybe these terrible times too will come to an end, and we can get back to the boring business of working to get good value for the government from contracting.

Readers, any of you think this might be happening? Maybe I'm being too optimistic. And any ideas for how we can get out of this terrible period for contracting policy and into a more constructive one?

Posted by Steve Kelman on May 10, 2007 at 12:08 PM


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