A Call to Revitalize the Engines of Government

by Bernard D. Rostker

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As part of a broad loss of confidence in government dating back to the 1970s, federal officials have faced increasing pressure to reduce the size of the federal government and to privatize the provision of services traditionally provided by government. As a result, government agencies have come to rely extensively on contractors. This paper argues that such reliance has harmed the federal government's ability to carry out the nations' business in a variety of ways, the most important of which is that the interests of contractors are ultimately private gain and do not necessarily align with those of the government. Use of contractors increased under the administration of George W. Bush and may increase much more as large numbers of federal workers reach retirement age. Rostker maintains that, to provide appropriate oversight of contractors and ensure that inherently governmental work is done by federal civilian employees, the government must increase the size of its in-house workforce, eliminate “personnel ceilings” and other restrictions that arbitrarily limit the number of people that government agencies may employ, and reevaluate when it is and is not appropriate and cost-effective to use contractors to help carry out the business of government.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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