In the recent past, there have been incidences such as leakage of top secret information by NSA that have elicited debates whether the federal government is overreliant on private contractors at the expense of its employees. A detailed analysis of this incident reveals that the menace has been unfolding for decades and such event was a manifestation of the true situation. The increased dependence on private contractors is despite the proof that the federal government pays contractors 1.83 times more than it pays its employees. In fact, in 30% of major occupations, the government pays twice more than it pays the federal employees for delivery of similar services.
The recent event whereby a private contractor (Snowden) leaked highly classified information left many wondering why an "outsider" had clearance to one of the most sensitive federal secrets. It is important to note that this was not the first incident of that kind as Bradley Manning had earlier leaked sensitive government secrets. These incidents not only indicate the overdependence of the government on private contractors but are also embarrasing to the authorities tasked with outsourcing. Importantly, they underscore the fact that too many contractors can have a detrimental effect.
typically, contractors are more skilled and smarter than federal employees that they substitute. Their unique set of skills and specialization enables them to complete a project at a faster rate than regular employees. This makes them absolutely fundamental but caution should be taken to control their limit. The need to regulate the magnitude of contractors stems from the observation that the best performing and most protected organizations tend to have a high proportion of full-time employees against contractors. Employees retain the history and experience of a team that is much needed by the government in the long-term. On the other hand, contractors are temporary and their teams are always replaced by a new contract. As a result, the experience and knowledge gained goes with them as they move to another department.
Given that the government understands the benefits of having long-term and full-time employees, it begs the question why hire contractors? The only logic to this issue is compensation. Unlike in the private sector, the government's salary stricture is egalitarian hence does not attract talented and highly qualified individuals to fill high-end jobs. As a result, federal agencies have difficulties in filling such positions which pressurizes them to outsource. On the contrary, low-end federal jobs are highly paid which retains the employees and creates little competition from contractors.
A keen analysis of the government contracts reveals that salary is not the only compelling reason. It is worth noting that many sectors have adopted performance-based contracting for contractors. However, it is unclear why the same has not been done for federal employees. Perhaps it is due to the fact that it is much easier to create and enforce performance standards for contractors than for employees. In addition, it is true that an employee of a contracting company who performs poorly is sacked immediately while it is difficult to sack a federal employee who performs poorly. The issue is further complicated by the antiquated government's hiring criteria thus making it hard to recruit talented federal employees. All these indicate that the current situation is a self-inflicted wound.
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