Has outsourcing gone too far?

The government is outsourcing an unprecedented amount of work, and the Obama administration wants more work in federal employees' hands, Gordon says

The government’s current outsourcing issues are not on a pendulum that has swung far to one side and is coming back, the president’s procurement policy administrator has said.

Never before have agencies outsourced as much of their work to the private sector as they are now, said Daniel Gordon, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, arguing that the current circumstances aren’t simply the far end of usual cycle.

Gordon told an industry group April 26 the federal government has reach an unprecedented level of outsourced work.

“You can’t say, ‘Boy, did we ever outsource in the 1930s,’ ” and then compare it to today, Gordon said. There’s no past comparison.

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He was responding to comments from some experts who say the Obama administration’s program to take work from contractors is a typical reaction to a continually swinging pendulum. The experts also have said another president may see the situation through a different set of lenses than President Barack Obama has and will react differently.

Gordon took questions for roughly an hour on April 26 afternoon about his March 31 policy proposal on defining inherently governmental functions and jobs associated with those special types of work. The event was hosted by the Professional Services Council and the American Bar Association’s Committee on Privatization, Outsourcing and Financing Transactions.

Gordon wants federal employees to handle more of their agencies' work, particularly jobs that are central to an agency accomplishing its duties. He also said simply questioning whether a job is or isn’t inherently government misses a larger point. He said the issue is more complicated than getting a yes-or-no answer.

Gordon also said his office’s No. 1 priority is building up the acquisition workforce, a field of work that often handles inherently governmental work. The acquisition workforce also does jobs that are closely associated with work for federal employees only.

Overall, Gordon is trying to “rebalance” the workforce so fewer contractors are working so closely to the intimate decision-making.

The inherently governmental function policy proposal is open for comments until June 1.

About the Author

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

Reader Comments

Thu, Apr 29, 2010 NT

I have a little "test" to see if our tax money should go to outsourcers (who really sub-contract IT work to India-- I know this because I WORK FOR THE GOVERNMENT, WE OUTSOURCE, AND OUR OUTSOURCER OFF-SHORES WORK TO INDIA!! GET REAL OK?). Here's the test. Ready. It's complicated. OK here it goes: when we have near 100% EMPLOYMENT-- not UNDEREMPLOYMENT, BUT ACTUAL COLA EMPLOYMENT, then you can BEGIN to think about outsourcing. NOT BEFORE!! And don't give me B.S. about a "skills shortage" because that's just a ruse to get H1B worker (i.e., SCAB LABOR) in the USA to bust unions and collective bargaining. Oh and BTW, as a research analyst, I did a little modeling using Max Ent derived heirarchical equilibria on market indexed GDP, and noticed that the key to our economy even managing the huge debt we built up lies in improving the production sector (i.e., jobs, wages, real tradable products). NOT THE FINANCIAL SECTOR!! The financial sector is supposed to LOAN capital,assess loan risk, and charge interest for its services. It is not the capital generating engine. The production sector is. Which we very happily have destroyed. We happily removed the engine, and are wondering why the car doesn't run only using the gas tank. NO OUTSOURCING until full employment. DUH!

Thu, Apr 29, 2010 The Curmudgeon

Good for Daniel Gordon. I use to buy that claptrap about private sector being more efficient that public. Not true really, unless you figure Goldman-Sachs was far more efficient in fleecing investors than any government agency would ever have been. But then, we have to abide by ethics ruiles too. The next time Senator Snort or Congressman Hogtrough starting flinging that bull about how much less it would cost to "privatize" some government function, pen them on the supposed savings. There usually aren't any. I don't disagree that we should limit government, but we should also be adults enough to fully fund those limited government services we agree we need. He's right - there's no pendulum, we've simply turned the public sector into Swiss cheese for the past 25 years and we're starting to see serious deterioration.

Wed, Apr 28, 2010

No, no, no, that's not the point, it never was and it shouldn't ever be. Forget figuring this out by who writes the check the employee receives. Rather, look at what the gov't needs to make sure its job gets done. In some cases it needs a very small cadre and in toher cases it may need to do it all. Counting heads by who pays the employee is only going to perpetuate the pendulum and ultimately undermine the capability of our government to lead domestically and internationally. I didn't hear Dan last week, but I'm hopeful he's interested in the same outcome. If do nothing else right, let's get this right, for all of our sakes.

Wed, Apr 28, 2010 Jorge Yinat Virginia

Excess in contracting should be the headliner. How many contractors are currently in positions they have occupied for years and are unaccounted for? At a higher cost than having a competent Government employee in the same position, contractors bring in some level of expertise not really quatifiable by any metrics. Contracting, should only be used for its intended purpose; deliver the service or product, for a short period of time. However, I agree, the Government would be well served to pull more private sector expertise to fill critical vacancies. Yes, NOW is the time.

Wed, Apr 28, 2010 s

Wow! It is about time to stop this swinging pendulum, or swinging glass door where retired officials leave or retire the various agencies, get hired by the big four or open their own gig and then their friends from the inside award multimillion dollar projects that over run, for years without adding any value &after a new administration get elected the old crew is replaced by the followers of the new administration this abuse of power & incest behavior between the retired official, the decision makers within the government agencies, and the government contractors need to stop & all these parties need to be held accountable for the corruption activity that this process creates. This behavior is seen among retired members of congress, senate, retired agency and armed forces officials. Serving the country in different capacities does not mean stealing in broad day light from the hard working law abiding Americans. There is a guy who has contributed very generously to the Democratic party, he & his wife own a company & his brother owns a 8 (a) company, not on true qualifications but merely based on internal connections for years he was blindly awarded contracts by the CEO of CACI, & he brags about milking the government for ever and that is why it is so easy for him to line the pockets of the elected officials. Obviously a small minority female owned business does not stand a chance to survive in the unethical dealings environment. Thank you

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