Question: Is it true that employees of government contractors outnumber federal employees?
Answer: The government supplements its workforce through contracts for areas including information technology services as well as grounds maintenance. However, it mainly tracks spending on those contracts, not how many people work under them.
New York University professor Paul Light has done such counts, though. His latest report found that in 2015 there were 3.7 million employees of contractors — plus 1.6 million employees of nonprofits, universities and other grantees — who “make their living providing goods and services to the federal government,” Light said in an interview.
That compares with 2.1 million federal employees outside the self-funded U.S. Postal Service and the intelligence agencies.
He said the Defense Department accounts for the most contractor employees, 2.5 million. Of them, about 1 million provide direct services and the rest work for companies that provide weapons and other items. The department has about 730,000 civilian federal workers.
Next are the Departments of Energy (261,000), Health and Human Services (217,000) and Homeland Security (190,000), he said, and the Labor Department has a notably high ratio of contractors to federal employees, about 43,000 to about 15,000.