Defense Agency Proposes Outsourcing More Spying
Sunday, August 19, 2007
The Defense Intelligence Agency is preparing to pay private contractors up to $1 billion to conduct core intelligence tasks of analysis and collection over the next five years, an amount that would set a record in the outsourcing of such functions by the Pentagon's top spying agency.
The proposed contracts, outlined in a recent early notice of the DIA's plans, reflect a continuing expansion of the Defense Department's intelligence-related work and fit a well-established pattern of Bush administration transfers of government work to private contractors.
Since 2000, the value of federal contracts signed by all agencies each year has more than doubled to reach $412 billion, with the largest growth at the Defense Department, according to a congressional tally in June. Outsourcing particularly accelerated among intelligence agencies after the 2001 terrorist attacks caught many of them unprepared to meet new demands with their existing workforce.
The DIA did not specify exactly what it wants the contractors to do but said it is seeking teams to fulfill "operational and mission requirements" that include intelligence "Gathering and Collection, Analysis, Utilization, and Strategy and Support." It holds out the possibility that five or more contractors may be hired and promised more details on Aug. 27.
The DIA's action comes a few months after CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, acting under pressure from Congress, announced a program to cut the agency's hiring of outside contractors by at least 10 percent. The CIA's effort was partly provoked by managers' frustration that officials with security clearances were frequently resigning to earn higher pay with government contractors while performing the same work -- a phenomenon that led lawmakers to complain that intelligence contract work was wasting money.
"Mind-blowing," was the reaction of Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, when she learned of the DIA proposal. In a telephone interview, she described it as "definitely something to be concerned about."
In its notice, published on a procurement Web site, the DIA said that "the total price of all work to be performed under the contract(s) will exceed $1 billion," adding that the tally "is only an estimate and there is no guarantee that any orders will be placed."
A DIA spokesman, Cmdr. Terrence Sutherland, said this week that "this is the first DIA contract of its type specifically intended for the procurement of intelligence analysis and related services." He said the primary purpose of the proposal is to ensure that adequate outside support is ready to assist the DIA, as well as Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force intelligence centers and the military's overseas command centers.
In May, Schakowsky and Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) sponsored an amendment to the 2008 intelligence bill that requires the Defense Department to compile a database of all its intelligence-related contracts. The aim, Schakowsky said, is to force a review "of what contractors are doing and, importantly, whether contractors are performing inherently governmental functions."
Some activities, she said, are so sensitive that "if and when they are done," it may not be appropriate for the government to "contract these activities out."
Price asked during the debate whether contractors should be involved in intelligence collection and analysis, interrogation, and covert operations, or whether those activities are so sensitive that "they should only be performed by highly trained intelligence community professionals."
In a statement Friday, Price questioned whether "a contract award of this scale is consistent with the DNI's commitment to reduce the alarming portion of the intelligence budget that goes to private contractors." (DNI refers to the director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell.)