WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Tuesday expressed shock that the Department of Homeland Security has more contractor employees than civilian employees.
In a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, the Senators asked for a unit-by-unit breakdown within the Department and assurances that contractors are not performing “inherently governmental work” and other core functions.
“…The sheer number of DHS contractors currently on board again raises the question of whether DHS itself is in charge of its programs and policies, or whether it inappropriately has ceded core decisions to contractors,” the Senators wrote. “The oversight challenges of having so many contractors severely strain the transformation of DHS into ‘One DHS’ with strong, central management. As a result, we believe that the current balance between federal employees and contractors at DHS is unacceptable, untenable and unsustainable.”
The Senators noted the Department has recognized the problem and begun to take steps to balance its workforce. Secretary Napolitano will testify before the Committee on Wednesday on the Department’s FY 2011 budget.
Below is a full text of the letter:
February 23, 2010
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20258
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
We have long been concerned about the extensive reliance of the Department of Homeland Security on contractors to carry out the Department’s critical missions. We have repeatedly asked the Department to quantify that reliance. We thank you for your recent effort to do so – but we were astounded to read your estimate. According to that estimate, there are over 200,000 DHS contractor employees – an astonishing level that exceeds the civilian workforce of the Department (i.e., excluding uniformed members of the Coast Guard), which is approximately 188,000 federal employees.
When appropriately used, contractors can bring a variety of needed assets and skills to federal agencies, ranging from cutting-edge technologies to specialized expertise. However, the sheer number of DHS contractors currently on board again raises the question of whether DHS itself is in charge of its programs and policies, or whether it inappropriately has ceded core decisions to contractors. The oversight challenges of having so many contractors severely strain the transformation of DHS into “One DHS” with strong, central management. As a result, we believe that the current balance between federal employees and contractors at DHS is unacceptable, untenable and unsustainable.
We also note that DHS’s FY 2011 budget request reflects several instances of cost savings resulting from the conversion of contractor positions to federal employees. While the fundamental question in deciding whether a federal employee should perform a task, or whether the task may appropriately be assigned to a contractor, should not simply be which option is cheapest but rather whether or not the government’s interests are best served by having the work performed by federal employees, nonetheless it is notable that the shift to a more appropriate employee-to-contractor ratio may well also save the Department and the taxpayers money.
We understand that you have recently begun an effort to reach a more appropriate balance between federal employees and contractor employees, and to this end, are requiring DHS components to reevaluate their human capital plans. We applaud and encourage this effort. In order to more fully understand how the Department will move forward with the reassessment of its workforce, we would appreciate it if you would provide the following information:
• How many contractor employees and how many federal civilian employees are in each of the Department’s units? How have you calculated these numbers and what steps do you intend to take to determine whether the estimates for each component and unit are fully accurate?
• What actions are you taking to ensure that contractors do not perform inherently governmental functions or other core services that undermine the Department’s own ability to control its missions? When will this review be completed?
• What analysis are you conducting to assess the long-term budget implications of the effort to rebalance the workforce?
We look forward to discussing this important issue more fully with you at our hearing tomorrow on the FY11 DHS budget request.
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Chairman
Senator Susan M. Collins, Ranking Member