Diana Farrell, who was Obama’s deputy economic policy adviser for two years, promoted the benefits of offshoring while she worked at the McKinsey Global Research Institute. Farrell was the primary author of a 2003 report called “Offshoring: Is it a Win-Win Game?,” which concluded that the benefits to the United States of offshoring exceed the costs.
Farrell did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Critics also point to the president’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council, which was assembled in 2011 to advise the White House on how to boost employment. The council is composed mostly of top executives at companies that have large foreign operations and is led by Jeff Immelt, chief executive of General Electric, which was at the forefront of offshoring in the 1980s.
A GE spokesman said that the company’s hiring reflects its global presence and that it has continued to hire thousands of workers in the United States.
Among engineers and others in the high-tech labor force, the migration of work to places such as India has become a primary concern. They say U.S. visa rules foster the outsourcing of technology jobs to other countries. Many engineers criticize Obama, in particular, for not overhauling the H-1B program that allows foreigners with technical skills to come to the United States for work. The concern is that these foreigners get trained in the United States and then set up competing enterprises once they go home.
“The H-1B program is obviously speeding up the offshoring of jobs,” said Ron Hira, a professor who studies outsourcing at the Rochester Institute of Technology. “Yet the Obama administration has failed to ask for legislative reforms or even make administrative changes clearly within its purview.”
White House officials officials say they have taken a tougher stance toward H-1B visas than the Bush administration did. For instance, Obama officials say they have denied more applications and have demanded more evidence from employers about their need to hire foreign workers.
According to some critics, a galling example of the Obama administration fostering overseas work came as part the 2009 stimulus program. They point to millions of dollars meant to develop a domestic clean-energy industry that instead landed in the hands of foreign businesses. An April 2010 study by the Energy Department found that 60 percent of the 40 largest wind farms then financed by the stimulus relied on foreign manufacturers for their central components, including turbines.
White House officials say foreign components were necessary in 2009 to support the program because there were not enough U.S. manufacturers of the parts. But now U.S. production has expanded as a result of the stimulus and is supplying the components, officials say.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.