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