A recent call made by 26 senators to keep the Defense Department’s contract spending in check has prompted the Professional Services Council trade association to “correct the record.”
Several Defense Department policies and spending cuts over the last few years have affected contractors, including a provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act capping Defense Department spending on services for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 at the level of the president’s 2010 budget request, PSC President Stan Soloway said in an April 30 letter to Sens. Sherrod Brown and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Brown and Gillibrand led 24 other senators on an April 25 letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta which urged him to carefully consider the workforce mix and to use civilian personnel where possible instead of awarding contracts.
“We understand that the defense budget must be adjusted to take into account new national security risks and budgetary realities. However, we are concerned that while the size of the civilian workforce is proposed to be cut back to FY 2010 levels, no comparable constraints were imposed on workforce hired through contractors,” the senators wrote. “We are concerned that this would incentivize managers to use contracting firms rather than civilian employees even when the latter costs less.”
PSC refuted the senators’ claim that federal employees cost less — a point that has been studied by several groups but has not yet resulted in a clear answer. But Soloway agreed with the senators in their support for allowing agencies the flexibility to manage their personnel as strategically as possible.
“In some functional areas, the government has a clear need to enhance its workforce capacity and capabilities,” he wrote. “Likewise, it may well be necessary to increase contractor support for the mission-critical, high-end skills that the government does not compete well for in the broader human capital marketplace. Unfortunately, your letter does not recognize this balance.”