Bills would increase monitoring of contractors

Leaders in the intelligence community would have to keep closer tabs on what contractors are doing in their agencies under bills pending in Congress.

Some members of Congress have proposed one-time, comprehensive reports on contractors under the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2009 Intelligence Authorization Act, H.R. 5959 and S. 2996.

The intent of the reports would be to help both the intelligence community and the intelligence committees conduct oversight and devise appropriate policy solutions, they said.

According to a report accompanying the House's legislation, the director of national intelligence would have to provide a one-time report that described the personnel services contractors perform throughout the intelligence community, the effects of contractors on the intelligence community and how contractors are held accountable.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence also wrote that it designed the reporting requirements to address three primary concerns:
  • That leaders in the intelligence community do not have sufficient factual documentation about the size and use of its large contractor workforce.
  • That the intelligence community lacks a clear definition of the work that contractors may perform, and as a result whether contractors and government employees are duplicating their work.
  • And, that the intelligence community has no procedures for overseeing contractors and recognizing criminal violations or getting back funds for waste, fraud and abuse by contractors.

Under the House bill, the report would be due by November 1.

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence would require a similar one-time report. It would require the director of national intelligence to describe the activities that should be conducted only by government employees, but instead are being done by contractors.

That committee wants an estimate of the number of contractors performing each of those activities, according to a report accompanying the legislation.

That panel said it believes there are jobs that are more appropriate for contractors, such as installing and maintenance of information technology systems.

"The committee also believes, however, that there are tasks that are 'inherently governmental' ... that should be done solely by governmental employees," the report states.

The legislation would leave it to the intelligence director's discretion to determine those inherently governmental functions, but the committee wrote that it "believes that determining analytic judgments, collecting human intelligence, conducting covert action activities, performing interrogations and managing personnel are among them."

The committee said it hopes the report would lead to proposals that would transition work performed by contractors to government employees.

The House is debating the legislation today. The Senate intelligence committee approved the bill in May, but the full Senate hasn't acted on its version.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration opposes the reports, saying their provisions would violate long standing arrangements regarding the release of classified information about highly sensitive national security matters. The reports would also be a lot of work, without meaningful results, the administration said in a statement. Senior advisers would strongly recommend that the president veto the House's bill.

In another area regarding contractors, the House intelligence panel wrote it would like to have the intelligence director issue a formal policy to allow the intelligence community to withhold contract-related incentives from companies with poor contract performance.

"Such a policy would forcefully demonstrate the expectations for contractor performance," the panel wrote.

Matthew Weigelt writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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