Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Project on Government Oversight — Contracting Out Services Cost More, Not Less

POGO’s study analyzed the total compensation paid to federal and private sector employees, and annual billing rates for contractor employees across 35 occupational classifications covering over 550 service activities. Our findings were shocking—POGO estimates the government pays billions more annually in taxpayer dollars to hire contractors than it would to hire federal employees to perform comparable services. Specifically, POGO’s study shows that the federal government approves service contract billing rates—deemed fair and reasonable—that pay contractors 1.83 times more than the government pays federal employees in total compensation, and more than 2 times the total compensation paid in the private sector for comparable services.

Additional key findings include:

• Federal government employees were less expensive than contractors in 33 of the 35occupational classifications POGO reviewed.
• In one instance, contractor billing rates were nearly 5 times more than the full compensation paid to federal employees performing comparable services.
• Private sector compensation was lower than contractor billing rates in all 35 occupational classifications we reviewed.
• The federal government has failed to determine how much money it saves or wastes by outsourcing, insourcing, or retaining services, and has no system for doing so.

POGO’s investigation highlights two basic facts about outsourcing government work to contractors. First, comparing federal to private sector compensation reveals nothing about what it actually costs the government to outsource services. The only analysis that will shed light on the true costs of government is that of contractor billing rates and the full cost of employing federal employees to perform comparable work. The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan recently completed a fundamental study of costs, and found that, in certain contingency operations, although savings resulted from hiring local or third-country nationals, military and civilian employees cost less than hiring American contractors.

Second, the federal government is not doing a good job of obtaining genuine market prices, and therefore the savings often promised in connection with outsourcing services are not being realized. The argument for outsourcing services is that, by outsourcing services on which the government holds a monopoly, free market competition will result in efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars. But our study showed that using contractors to perform services may actually increase rather than decrease costs to the taxpayers.

(h/t Mark Thoma)

1 comment:

Mario said...

fascinating stuff Tom.

You'll appreciate this...I shared this article with a buddy of mine who is a bit more on the Austrian, Lib. line of "thinking" but he's always open to thinking and considering MMT and discussing such issues. He's a good buddy of mine. I wrote this note below to him after sending him the link to this article. I think you'll get a kick out of it:

Caution: the facts in this article may not fit into pre-conceived notions once considered truth and therefore a strong tendency may arise to unjustly ban said facts from the process of rational thinking. You have been warned. You live at your own risk. There is no lifeguard on duty here.