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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Contractor controversy: An illegal relationship or good business?

In the Washington Post’s story today about a relationship between a contractor employee and a government official, two things went through my mind.

First, the story does a good job of describing the complexity and potential dangers of relationships between public officials and the contractors who serve them.

And secondly, I have to tip my hat to George “Chip” Raymond, who as one half of the relationship in question, offered the Washington Post a rare inside look at the workings of government contracting.

The Post story chronicles Raymond’s friendship with Catherine “Katy” Campbell while he was a director of a technology program at the Army’s Communications and Electronics Command, and she worked for a contractor serving that command.

Raymond has since retired from government and works for Computer Sciences Corp. CSC said in a statement: “Other than inquiries by the Washington Post reporter, we have not seen, heard nor been made aware of any of the allegations in the article. Mr. Raymond was hired last year in accordance with all of CSC and government policies that govern individuals leaving government service.”

I’m not going to pass any judgment on whether Raymond and Campbell did anything wrong, but I think their story shows how fuzzy the lines have become. Look at how the market has changed.  

Over the last 10 years, you have the government shedding skills and people and hiring contractors in their place. The government also has been trying to be more commercial in its operations. Talk about partnership and public/private collaboration has been the rage for at least a decade.

At the same time, there has been a technology revolution going on that makes it paramount that industry and government communicate and share information on technology and best practices.

The so-called blended workforce with government employees and contractor employees being virtually indistinguishable complicates the picture even further.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Some will say tougher rules, but there could be unintended consequences of cutting the links between the public and private sectors. Government needs flexibility because you can't proscribe every situation an agency will face. If you want your government to run efficiently and effectively, don't you need a close relationship been contractor and customer?
The other part of the Post story that I find remarkable is Raymond himself.

He easily could have put up a wall of no comments to the Washington Post. Many probably read the story and think that is what he should have done.

But it takes guts to talk to a reporter, especially when they have e-mail messages and other documents tracking your actions.

Readers can decide for themselves whether they buy all of his explanations, but he would have looked far worse if he had said nothing.

More contractors need Raymond’s bravery to speak and explain what they do and why they do it.

The industry is not full of crooks and cheats, but if you don’t speak you have no influence on how the public perceives you.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Aug 07, 2009 at 9:53 AM

Reader Comments

Fri, Aug 14, 2009 Washington, DC

By chance, does the company that Mr. Raymond work for now, have a contract, whether prime or as a sub, with the Army organization where he previously worked at? You need to keep digging and report more of the story to your readers.

Wed, Aug 12, 2009

Someone was grinding an axe and found the right reporter. This is muck-racking pure and simple. I wonder what got left out of the story more then what was in it.

Tue, Aug 11, 2009 KBJ

I applaud Prof. Chip and the reporter for their bravery to have a candid dialogue (and actually run it on front page) on such a feely touchy discussion such as contractor/Govt business culture. We all know this goes on everyday. I challenge anyone who says it doesn’t.

This issue has many sides to it and warrants an honest look and perhaps a more transparent oversight process.

My initial reaction is one of mixed emotions; sadness, anger, pity, and hurt;
First, I am truly sad that this kind of story is causing me to question my view of this person’s character. I sat in his class for months, 4hrs every Sat and hung on to his every word on IT Strategic Planning. I would say he was one of the better professors with real world experiences. Chip was my professor in the GMU 2009 Technology Management program.

Second, I am angry at the lives and careers that are destroyed, either due to “real” or perceived wrong doing” of people in positions of authority who should have known better and perhaps seek professional or outside counseling. Instead, they looked the other way. Again, we all know that its easier to go along and just “fit in” . We have seen or maybe heard of those individuals who spoke out and as a result their “careers were limited” and/or they buckled under pressure, like the attorney who didn’t look the other way. I am angry that this woman mental state was altered- negatively somehow- in all of this.

Thirdly, I pity the women who find them selves in this position (often the victim). If I could ask Princess just one question it would be “are the short term gains worth the long term damaging effects of your reputation and self respect?”. One should note that in most of these cases the man usually walks away unscathed, pension in tact, and home recovering with the wife, family and friends. Is it worth it?

Unfortunately, this kind of behavior goes on all the time. I am deeply hurt for all the women who are working to earn an honest living, trying to hold it down, balancing career, family and aging parents, and not to mention trying to raise " productive citizens with moral character".

Lastly, let's look at the implications for the companies who hire retired Govt officials all the time, looked the other way as long as the BD goals are being acheived (by any means necessary). Come on, don't all you critics sit out there and pretend that this doesn't happen everyday. Prof. Chip simply discussed the unspoken culture. I remember hearing Prof Chip say " don't look where you fell, look where you slipped". I suggest we all may heed the signs and start looking deeper . The choice is up to each one of us

Mon, Aug 10, 2009

I woory about being the "whistleblower" but on contract with one agency - I worked with contractor from another firm. He made sexist and racial comments in a meeting that had an A-A government employee. Everyone else ignored this. I mentioned it the the govt mgr - who ignored my report. Later learned that the mgr's spouse was a mgr for the company that the (bigot) contractor worked for. My contract "ended", his still going strong.

Mon, Aug 10, 2009 Fred Rall

"Chip" Raymond send this contractor "friend" an independent goverment cost estimate, a document that is source selection sensitive. That's in violation of procurement ethics. You have to question what else he shared with his friend: competitive information, money, and to put this politely - his personal genetic information. Who know's as he put himself in a comprised situation. He was wrong. A reasonable person will certainly think twice about working with a company that would hire such an individual.

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