Contractors Outnumber Employees at Department of Homeland Security

Friday, February 26, 2010

More than half of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is made up of private contractors, a revelation that produced shock among the Senate committee that oversees the agency. Of the 388,000 people working for DHS, over 200,000 are private workers and only 188,000 are public employees.

Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he found it “shocking and unacceptable” that so much of DHS’ work was in the hands of non-governmental employees. He and ranking Republican member Senator Susan Collins of Maine characterized the situation as “unacceptable, untenable and unsustainable.”
The two senators sent a letter to Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano asking “whether DHS itself is in charge of its programs and policies, or whether it inappropriately has ceded core decisions to contractors.”
Lieberman and Collins want Napolitano to provide a unit-by-unit breakdown of where contractors are working in DHS to find out if they are performing “inherently governmental work.”
Napolitano appeared before the committee on Thursday. When Lieberman confronted her with the figures, she said she and her department were working to reduce the ratio of private contractors, but one problem that persisted was the long process that is necessary to hire a federal employee. Neither Lieberman nor Collins pursued the matter.
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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