Federal Diary: Outside Contractors Deliver an Expensive Lesson

By Joe Davidson
Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Federal Diary gets lots of mail, and some of it is even fit to print in our occasional "speak out" columns. Here are a few edited letters:

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Many readers seem to favor Obama administration policies that could reduce the number of government-hired outside contractors, but it's not unanimous.

I spent 40 years in the federal government -- most of it in financial management. All I can say about the Office of Management and Budget's move to go back to having federal employees doing the work of the federal government (what a concept) is -- duh! Most of my career was with the Air Force and the Army. Much to the protest of contracting and financial management staffs (military and civilian), we watched contractors low-ball bids to get their foot in the door. After the contractors were on board, government employees and equipment were disposed of and the contractors had the government exactly where they wanted it. Almost without fail, within a five-year period the cost of the contract was far more expensive than keeping federal employees on the payroll and maintaining government-owned equipment. It did not take a brain surgeon to figure out what was going to happen; however, it has taken well over 20 years to start reversing the stupid that was started in the mid-1980s!

I am so happy to be retired!

Linda K. Sullivan,

Bellevue, Neb.

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As part of my duties at the Joint Committee on Taxation, I followed the development and implementation of private debt-collection agencies by the Internal Revenue Service to collect certain delinquent tax debts. The program was developed because research showed that when taxpayers file returns admitting that they owe a small amount of tax, the IRS might not pursue that tax debt in collection for years. The IRS will never have adequate staff to contact these taxpayers on a timely basis, and correctly viewed this situation as poor tax administration.

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