Reliable Security Information

Contractors in Combat

Both the president and the Secretary of Defense have argued the Pentagon uses too many contractors--and promised they can save money by cutting down on reliance on the private sector. Recently, Congress passed and the president signed the McCain-Levin Bill which promises to overhaul how the military hands out contracts. Its sponsors claim this new law will save money and improve efficiency. Defense analysts at The Heritage Foundation argue--maybe not. One commentary, "Contracting for the Common Defense," suggests that the recent initiatives by Washington are motivated more by politics than any hope of achieving real cost and efficiency savings. A detailed study on claims of fraud, waste, and abuse in defense contracting found,

"Eliminating misspent defense dollars is frequently cited as a remedy for reducing military spending. Such proposals ignore the fact that eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse has historically proven to be a rel­atively modest source of savings compared to the overall defense budget. In addition, substantial pro­grams already exist to root out unnecessary spending. While government should, of course, take every responsible measure to ensure it is a good steward of our tax dollars and provide the best support for our men and women in uniform, procedures to guard against waste should not be so restrictive that they undermine efforts to innovate and adapt to national security challenges." In contrast, scholars at the Foundation have offered a number of practical recommendations for improving contractor performance. In another research paper, Heritage analyst Ted R. Bromund, contrasted US practices with British defense contracting efforts. He concluded, "[c]ontracting out is an important instrument, both in Great Britain and in the United States, but it needs to be employed effectively." He also found, however, that "[o]ne of the shortcomings of Britain's contracting-out program is a shortage of government personnel competent to oversee the contracts."

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