Pentagon faulted for private contractors

A satellite image of the Pentagon building.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: It's often cheaper, as we've all heard, to outsource. Hire contractors to cut costs. Companies do it. Governments do it. The Pentagon too, in Iraq especially. But this week federal auditors said the Defense Department counts on those contractors too much right here at home. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer has more.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: The GAO report focused on an Army office that's in charge of procurement for 125 divisions of the Pentagon. It's called the Contracting Center of Excellence. But the GAO findings weren't all that excellent. The report says 42 percent of the center's procurement specialists are contractors. Now, that's important because procurement specialists help decide which companies get government contracts.

WINDSLOW WHEELER: It's a good example of the fox being in charge of the chicken coop and keeping charge of how many chickens are in there and what they get to do.

That's Windslow Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information. He says a company called CACI International is at the top of the pecking order. It' s one of the biggest government contracting firms around. And almost all of the procurement contractors the GAO found worked for that company. The report says CACI contractors are almost 27 percent more expensive than government employees. And they're sitting right next to federal workers. They just wear a different colored badge. John Hutton wrote the report.

JOHN HUTTON: We found that when contractors at times worked on documents, it wasn't clear that it was prepared by a contractor.

CACI declined our interview request but did state that it provides the Pentagon with "good value." Hutton says Congress should look into that. Windslow Wheeler says Congress will hold hearings all right.

WHEELER: And they'll all tut-tut and pooh-pooh and they'll write press releases and they'll proceed to do nothing meaningful about it.

The Pentagon says it recognizes there's a problem with hiring contractors. But it says there aren't enough qualified government workers to go around.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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