How Smart Is Government's Decision to Outsource Intelligence?

Ann All

While security is always a key consideration in outsourcing efforts, it takes on added importance in the Defense Intelligence Agency's decision to hire private contractors to perform up to $1 billion's worth of intelligence chores such as data collection and analysis.


As might be expected, reports the Washington Post, the move is generating controversy.


Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, calls it "mind-blowing" and "definitely something to be concerned about." Her concern, says Schakowsky, is that these duties may be too sensitive to be performed by non-governmental personnel.


Earlier this year, Schakowsky co-sponsored an amendment to the 2008 intelligence bill that would require the Defense Department to compile and maintain a database of its intelligence-related contracts. (This seems like a good move, in light of the government's generally poor track record of data management.)


The DIA's decision follows the CIA's recent announcement, fueled by Congressional concerns, that it would reduce the number of private contractors it used. The CIA appears to be willing to try some pretty unusual ideas to cut down on contractors, including creating a social networking site for intelligence experts, reports vnunet.com.


The government appears to be gaining at least one key benefit of outsourcing, access to specialized expertise, with its intelligence outsourcing efforts. As the Post reports, it has struggled to keep up with demand for intelligence efforts during the war in Iraq.


It isn't, however, saving any money. The government's increasing willingness to use private contractors is leading staffers to leave the government's employ for the higher pay they can earn working for private firms. An estimate from an unnamed source, cited in the Post, is that it costs nearly twice as much a year to employ a private contractor ($250,000 ) vs. a government civilian worker ($126,500).


Abraxas, a company run by a former CIA case officer, has hired more than 100 former government intelligence employees over the last six years -- many of whom then were put to work as contractors on government accounts.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 25, 2007 5:48 PM anonymous anonymous  says:
outsourcing intelligence is insane, and so is outsourcing military operations to lawless for-profit private mercenary companies like blackwater. Reply
Aug 27, 2007 7:00 PM Acontractor Acontractor  says:
Most ppl are unsurprisingly misinformed on this subject. The fact that you and the Post are unable to cite "facts" is alarming.Congressional studies on this subject abound and the pay scales are tipped in the favor of federal employees. Perhaps one of the most erudite studies on this subject is http://www.publicpurpose.com/pp-fdpay.htm.As for the inasanity of outsourcing intelligence, well I imagine America would be safer if we simply lowered the bar for qualifying for these positions and allowing feckless neophytes and/or nitwits to give it a go... heck what's the worse that could happen??? Reply

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