Back to the Future

History does repeat itself, and in this latest installment of Contractors Sing the Blues, it seems there is a movement afoot in DoD and other government agencies to replace the contractor with a government civilian. That’s right. Civil servants. The venerable GS.

This reversal of fortune comes as the services work to save money, which is why agencies went to contractors in the first place — or so they have said. It seems all that money the government was going to save by replacing government civilians with contractors (“Oh, we’ll save so much money in health care and other benefits!”) is not what the number crunchers had calculated. A standard multiple used by Beltway Bandits, for example, is on average 2.4 — the government pays the contract company 2.4 times the base salary for the contractor. So for a salary of $50,000, the contract company receives $120,000. If the salary is $100,000, the government’s cost is roughly $240,000. One source notes that about 90 of the 140 contract positions his company provides the Department of the Army are becoming GS positions, and the contractors holding those jobs will be able to compete to keep them as civil servants.

Pushing risk to the future is OK if you can monetarily afford it. The government’s new mantra as expressed by one official is, “Government should perform inherently government functions.” While contracting makes sense in a lot of cases, one official notes the practice has gotten a bit out of hand. It looks like “Back to the Future,” at least for now.

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