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CIA Contractors: Shrinkage Proposed

CIA Director nominee Leon Panetta wants to shrink the agency's contractor workforce. This could be a good idea for a number of reasons:

  • For shops that have long used contractors to back-fill positions they could not fill with feds thanks to manpower caps, well, there you go.
  • Contractors are expensive if you use them in the fashion noted above, so blue-ing contractors may save money.
  • If you can afford to do it, blue-ing contractors can result in an influx of very talented and motivated people.

But the idea is not all sunshine and lollipops:

  • Some people won't want to go blue, so the idea that you're going to get the best candidate by filling out some paperwork and waving a wand is questionable.
  • Adding more feds to the payroll at grades and salaries that are even close to their current paychecks isn't going to be cheap. The normal path to filling out the roster (hiring more 7s, 9s and 11s) isn't going to work if the goal is bringing in top talent.
  • Contractors bring with them new ideas, innovations, and experiences; once they are blue they're going to have to deal with the codgers who are stifling ideas, slow-rolling innovation an dismissive of outside experience (pretty much the whole reason most feds left for contractors in the first place.

What I would much rather see along with or in addition to proposed changes:

  • A shifting of "lesser included" missions to reserve military intelligence units, universities, think tanks, and maybe even NGOs. These are things that are still worth doing, just not with the same urgency or priority as other missions.
  • A reduction of the option years associated with base+option year contracts. If you are just greening/yellowing formerly blue missions, five years is fine, but if the job is anything technical or innovative, two years is about the time it takes for a solution to become obsolete.
  • Taking the advice of Matt Burton and leveling the playing field for smaller shops. Big contractors end up behaving and thinking like the bureaucracies they serve. If it is innovative AND nimble AND cost-effective, your answer isn't a behemoth, but a start-up or a one-man shop.

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