April 7, 2009

Pentagon to pull back on contractors

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates' Pentagon budget includes a shift to pull contracted work in house, especially in the area of weapons acquisitions.

Contracted defense work has grown to 39 percent of the Pentagon's workforce, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Gates, however, said he is aiming to reduce that to 26 percent, approximately where it was before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

To cover work now under contract, the Pentagon would hire up to 39,000 full-time civil servants in the next five years, beginning with a hiring of 13,000 this year.

To companies that lean on the Pentagon for much of their work include CACI and SAIC, which do many administrative tasks, the move is earth-shattering, defense consultant Loren Thomson told the Post.

The reduction of nearly one-third of the contractor workforce at the Pentagon is going to be a mortal blow to companies that have built their businesses through outsourcing, Thomson said.

But, federal acquisition has atrophied, Stan Soloway, the president of the Professional Services Council, told the newspaper.

This is a targeted shifting, he said. The government does need to rebuild its position, so it has these critical, core skills of acquisition support, engineering and technical support.