Governance

Outsourcing

We believe that "outsourcing" of Federal functions should be an option, not a goal.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, on the Labor Day weekend of 2005, we were presented with compelling evidence of widespread government incompetence. This has been attributed to "the hollowing-out of FEMA" as well as to the appointment of an inexperienced administrator whose incompetence proved disastrous.

"Hollowing-out" of a Federal agency can be the result of overzealousness in pursuit of an ideological goal of reducing the size of the Federal government.

When there is no particular load on an agency, it may make sense to outsource the functions of that agency. If load is heavy, but constant, it may make sense to outsource the functions of that agency. If the load is seasonable but very predictable, it may make sense to outsource the functions of that agency. But if the function of that agency is to stand nearly idle, but very ready to respond to events or situations of scales that cannot be readily predicted, outsourcing may be the best way to cripple that agency, especially if rapid response times are a core of the mission.

A hypothetical example of hollowing-out follows. Imagine an administrator of a division of a Federal agency, for example the Department of Distribution of Widgets. At most times, and in most places, everyone already has enough widgets, but it is the responsibility of the administrator of the "DDW" to make sure that everyone who needs a widget has one, as soon as they need it or not much later than that. Under an "in-house provisioning" system, he is aware of how many widgets he has on hand, how long it takes to procure widgets, how one proceeds to distribute widgets, and what widgets must be in order to be useful, and in which situations one uses widgets.

Further, probably most of his staffers are career widgeteers. Widgets are their reason for getting paid. All they know are widgets, and all they do everyday is about widgets.

Under outsourcing, he has a contractor who has the job of acquiring, storing, and distributing the widgets, or perhaps the contractor sub-contracts some or all of those functions.

Under outsourcing, the administrator who was once personally informed and involved with all things about widgets now has no personal knowledge of the actual availability, condition, or readiness of the widgets. Effectively he has become nothing more than a contract overseer. His expertise is wasted and to be as effective as he once was, he should be working at the contractor's facility, for the contractor. He'll probably get better pay there. So he leaves the government and works for the contractor.

A sudden need for widgets occurs, and the former administrator's successor tries to react. However, he is nothing but a contract overseer and knows very little about widgets, though he knows a lot about contract management. He requests too few widgets, requests them too late, and requests them to be sent to the wrong places at the wrong time. This is because his agency's core competency has no official who understands the core competency; all they understand is contract management. The former administrator could have handled this properly, but the government ignores him, he's just a contractor, after all. He's only there to do as he's told.

This is an example of a government that has been hollowed out. The experts are working elsewhere, and executive decisions approaching those of a military general officer are being handled by contract managers who know nothing about the operations they administer. As outsourcing increases, so increases the hollowing-out of the government's core competency. At the extreme end of the process, the government has no knowledge or authority other than as contract managers; they have no internal resources other than their checkbook. In desperate situations, all they can do is to hire back their expertise, but this sort of emergency contracting is likely to cost more than the outsourcing was intended to save. Furthermore, it wastes time and may prevent on-time deliveries of essentials such as food, water, rescue, and housing to victims of natural disasters. To compound the problem, hiring back the experts may do little more than deprive the contractors of their leadership and expertise, and the law rightly prohibits anyone from acting as both the contractor and Federal manager.

And now, our summation statement.

We take the position that outsourcing Federal functions should be an option, not a goal; that the core functions of any Federal agency should be 100-percent onboard dedicated Career Federal Civil Service employees who have demonstrated full competence and an active career characterized by successful innovation. This should prevent the much-feared and recently-seen "hollowing out" of Federal agencies, but in case of emergencies, dedicated career core personnel and management will have the option of rapidly ramping up outside manpower and resources in order to get the job done on time and as needed. Also, contractors that are hired on in emergencies by "jumping on the bandwagon" and which fail to deliver simply will not be paid. This idiocy of contractors thinking that they're entitled to be paid for doing a crappy job, because the Federal government doesn't have the core-competency staff on hand to do it, that's got to stop. It's Fascism and potentially Transnational Corporate Feudalism, and it isn't what the American people want, and it can't do anything but exploit the taxpayer and return shoddy product by throwing bad money after good, and only because the lobbyists line the pockets of corrupt politicians. Business As Usual isn't working for the citizens, and that is going to change, whether it's the Radical Center American Party that does it, or some other party, parties, or factions.