Peters seems a bit too high on his high horse here.
It’s fundamentally wrong to let contractors go head-hunting among our troops in wartime. Those in government who’ve elevated outsourcing to a state religion pretend it helps our war effort – with the whopper that outsourcing military functions saves taxpayer dollars.
Exactly how does that one work? You get stuck with the training and security-clearance costs; the soldier lured to the private sector gets his salary doubled or tripled – then the contractor adds in a markup for his multiple layers of overhead costs and a generous profit margin, and bills the taxpayers. How is that cheaper than having soldiers do the job?
The scam-artists tell us that using contractors saves money in the long run, since their employees don’t get military health care and retirement benefits. But the numbers just don’t add up.
Contractors are looting our military – while wrapping themselves in the flag.
I understand some of Peters’s frustration, but he doesn’t figure in the following mitigating factors:
- DOPMA, the federal regulation that fires you without retirement if you fail to select for LCDR in time and sends you home after a certain period of time (20 years for LCDR, etc).
- The insanely low retention rates for special operators, and the sure knowledge given by the submariners’ nuke bonus that people are influenced by gobs of cash, particularly when there are relaxations on General Order One when doing it and the chance to pull chocks and do one last thing before you go to work for Wal-Mart or whatever
- The inability to reenter service when you leave
- The interagency distaste for DoD protection, which is driving most of the personal security detailing in Baghdad and for which Blackwater is in the press this week (because it’s an effective way of keeping those other agencies from going out and about).
- Unlike garrison forces, expeditionary forces are not far from their wartime posture all the time. The Navy isn’t much different from what it was in 2000, and the stresses are slightly different but not by that much. Contractor force levels are determined more by who’s downsizing in OPNAV by 10% that year (and also by the sordid little fact that nobody can count how many contractors the Navy has!).
I understand Peters’ issue. It’s equally there, however, at all sorts of contractors. Who is on Northrop-Grumman’s board? Who gets hired at (list large number of companies with DoD contracts) partially based on the strength of their rolodex? Who gets a contracting job because nobody else in the world has been working issue x for twenty years and a government position isn’t feasible for bureaucratic reasons, forcing middle management to hire the retiring guy as a contractor to do the same job with a tie on and a bigger salary at higher government cost? So while I would agree that good reform of the revolving door practice for contracting needs to be done, I’d also be careful of that baby versus bathwater thing. Take the emotion out of it and look at national interest.