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View Diary: Tammy Duckworth blasts federal contractor who got preferred status for prep-school football injury (144 comments)

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  •  Except businesses want profit (13+ / 0-)

    The government just needs to do the job.

    There is no logical way to claim contractors seeking a profit will do a comparable job cheaper. It defies logic.

    •  Sure there is (0+ / 0-)

      Through economies of scale. No use spending time and money reproducing a capability that some for-profit company does anyway.

      For example, should the government design its own computers, or just buy Dell computers or whatever running Windows? The choice is obvious, despite having contracted out to an external for-profit organization.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 05:36:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There are three possible situations (7+ / 0-)

      in which one might save money by hiring a contractor.

      a) You have a specific, short-term, relatively small project, and you won't have any use for the workers for a long time after it's done. The initial cost of setting up the infrastructure for the project (equipment, facilities, management) is high, you can't reuse the infrastructure, and the investment is not easily recoverable.

      In this situation, you'll probably save money by hiring a contractor who specializes in the particular sort of project you need done. But if you find that you keep hiring them over and over to do similar work (like most government contractors), you'd probably be better off just making the investment to do it in-house.

      b) You can hire someone who is able to pay substantially less than you would for the same caliber of worker. The difference is big enough to compensate for the contracting company's profit margin.

      This one generally requires you to have the option to hire overseas contractors. While American contractors might be able to pay a bit less than government positions for the same caliber of worker, the difference will be swallowed by typical profit margins. So government contractors typically can't give you this deal.

      c) You can hire someone who can provide you with higher-quality workers than you would be able to recruit on your own, without much increase in cost.

      This one's actually quite important to the federal government, especially for science/engineering agencies. Civil service positions are generally restricted to U.S. citizens. But many top candidates in certain fields of science/engineering (I know this is specifically true at NASA and NOAA) are permanent residents, not citizens. Contractors allow agencies to hire the candidates they really want.

      "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

      by kyril on Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 06:13:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The government has hired temp workers (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        YucatanMan, cordgrass, linkage

        since our founding.

        Supporting a system that is robbing the people in favor of these contractors is driving us down.

      •  I agree that "saving money" may be possible (3+ / 0-)

        at first look, after all the impacts are considered, it often costs the nation more, in various ways over the long run, than simply hiring workers directly into the government as often as possible.

        The contracting trend also has big dangers in accountability and responsibility.  Someone does something wrong and unless that specific thing is spelled out in the contract with measurements and penalties, there is little the government can do.  Someone who does something wrong in government employ can face direct sanctions and be held accountable.

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 06:41:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Re (0+ / 0-)
          The contracting trend also has big dangers in accountability and responsibility.  Someone does something wrong and unless that specific thing is spelled out in the contract with measurements and penalties, there is little the government can do
          So we should do everything in house... because the government is incompetent at writing good contracts?

          If the government is so bad at writing contracts, why should they be trusted to do anything else of value?

          (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
          Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

          by Sparhawk on Wed Jun 26, 2013 at 11:12:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  that's why we get (0+ / 0-)

            the hundred-dollar toilet seats: government has to spell out every detail in its bidding contracts, or the bidders will lowball it and then make their profit by using crappy materials. (Personal experience speaking herre.)
            I'd expect that government finds it easier to write all of their contracts to that level of detail.

            (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

            by PJEvans on Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 04:33:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We get hundred dollar toilet seats (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sparhawk

              Because they have to be specially fitted for aircraft carrier toilets. We get thousand dollar hammers because they have to be pneumatic hammers that work underwater for repairing Coast Guard cutters.

              As a matter of fact, the government is getting away from writing detailed requirements documents and has begun relying more on performance work statements. When you write a contract to an asinine level of detail written by a program manager that doesnt understand what his program actually needs, you end up a product that doesn't do what you need it to do. Its far more effective to let the contractor propose a solution than to tell them everything little thing you want.

              •  That's what I do when I subcontract work (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MRobDC

                "Listen, I need you to solve X problem for me. When you're done, I need to be able to do Y and Z reliably. Here is my general concept for the project in document A. I expect a document B returned to me with a detailed implementation plan that I will sign off before work begins."

                Used properly and selected properly, the contractor is there to help you solve problems. That's the whole point. If you need to write the contract in extreme specificity you might as well do it yourself.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Thu Jun 27, 2013 at 08:39:59 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  That is simply false (0+ / 0-)

          I work in federal contracting. We terminate contracts for default all the time for non-performing contractors. If a government employee is doing something wrong there is often little that can be done besides moving the employee around.

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