Third Party & Independents Archives

Unintelligence in Federal Intelligence Agencies

The Bush administration has found yet another way to waste taxpayer money while providing huge sums to private contractors. According to a survey of activities in 2007 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, about a third of the federal professional intelligence workforce now consists of contractors, mostly in the Washington, DC area.

Out of a total workforce of about 100,000 people some 37,000 are private employees that cost the government (we taxpayers) about $207,000 annually, compared with about $125,000 for civilian federal employee’s salaries and benefits.

Contractors have lured people with important skills with higher salaries and benefits and have also siphoned off federal employees. With this outsourcing, taxpayers are the losers.

What does this $82,000 worker cost gap amount to yearly? About $3 billion annually is being provided to private contractor businesses that could be avoided by hiring government employees. This is incredible Bush administration fiscal insanity, but totally consistent with how Republicans changed their views on the federal government.

In the past, Republicans used to focus on shrinking the federal government and its spending. But then it shifted because they saw how increased federal spending could be used to increase revenues to the corporate sector, even though this requires incredible deficit spending, borrowing and costly debt. What has happened in the intelligence sector has also happened in the defense area. In other words, huge numbers of contractors perform in Iraq in addition to our military personnel.

To be clear, all these figures do not include workers such as food-service employees or contract guards, but only those actually performing or assisting intelligence functions. Here is the breakdown for the latter: about 27 percent do intelligence collection and operations, just under 25 percent are involved in information technology services, about 20 percent are in analysis and production, and 20 percent work in administration and support functions.

Tim Shorrock, author of “Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing,” noted that the new data “shows that private contractors are operating in the most sensitive areas of intelligence.” He has also noted that “an astounding 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget is spent on private contracts. With the post-Sept. 11 hikes in intelligence spending, spying for hire has become an industry worth nearly $50 billion a year.”

IntelligenceCareers.com is a recruitment firm headed by William D. Golden, a former Army intelligence officer. Golden says his company can hardly keep up with the demand for intelligence contractors. “The government has become addicted to the use of private industry in the world of intelligence,” he said.

If Obama wins the election and actually tries to undo most of the awful and fiscally stupid things done by the Bush administration, then he should mount an effort to de-privatize and in-source federal agencies, starting with the intelligence sector, saving many billions of dollars annually.

Posted by Joel S. Hirschhorn at September 6, 2008 6:54 PM
Comments
Comment #261981

Wow, I was unaware of this stupidity. Thanks Joel.

Posted by: googlumpuugus at September 6, 2008 9:52 PM
Comment #261983

Joel:

Right you are!! Here is some more interesting information, from Business Week about the candidates and taxing and spending:

First Round To Obama

Posted by: womanmarine at September 6, 2008 10:43 PM
Comment #261986

Joel,

Can this be the sourse of so much BAD intelligence leading up to the Iraq stupidity? Was the reason for going to war with Saddam a result of depending on mercenary spies? Do you suppose we spent 50 billion dollars for bad information, to cost ourselves two trillion dollars conducting a dishonorable war?

Posted by: Marysdude at September 6, 2008 11:16 PM
Comment #261992

I’ve seen this discussion had in other places, and I agree that if there’s waste and inefficiency, something needs to be done ASAP. But the reasons for the problem are not as simple as presented here.

For one thing, you have to remember that under the first Bush and Clinton, our intelligence budgets and capabilities were cut to the bone because other priorities came to the fore after the Cold War. This isn’t a partisan observation—it’s just a fact. Presidents and congressmen from both parties caused this to happen. Nobody was expecting 9-11, even if they should have been.

After 9-11, we suddenly needed to gather intelligence at a rate which we simply weren’t equipped to handle. From everything to modern computer/telecommunications intercept capabilites, computer software, translators, satellite technology, we just didn’t have the capacity to do the job. Our intelligence agencies weren’t DOING that stuff anymore and weren’t able to just step in and do it overnight.

Hence we turned to the private sector and those who had the technology, ability, and training to “retrofit” what they were doing towards intelligence gathering.

I’m not saying that this was or is a good thing. But I think it’s a logical result of the situation we found ourselves in at the time, and that it’s unfair to simply say that this was Bush wasting money.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at September 7, 2008 12:41 AM
Comment #262015


Information retrieval is one of the fastest growing businesses in America. Twenty years from now, it will be one of the largest industries in America and one of the governments largest expenditures. The American people are going to pay dearly in both product price inflation and taxation for the privledge of being spied upon.

I would be totally shocked if the Democrats did anything at all to supress this trend, not only in information retrieval but other sectors as well.

Posted by: jlw at September 7, 2008 11:48 AM
Comment #262026

Joel,

“Out of a total workforce of about 100,000 people some 37,000 are private employees that cost the government (we taxpayers) about $207,000 annually, compared with about $125,000 for civilian federal employee’s salaries and benefits.”

Perhaps my math skills aren’t what they used to be, but either you’re missing some zeroes or the 37,000 contractors you quote are making about $5.60 an hour.

I hate to picky.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at September 7, 2008 3:41 PM
Comment #262043

It is not just the unintelligence that is the issue (although that is pretty bad), but we were all lied to with intentional misinformation in a jingoist’s attempt to exploit public emotion to perpetuate their nepotistic military spending.

But the wool is thick over millions of eyes.

Posted by: angrymob at September 7, 2008 6:15 PM
Comment #262053

LO are you saying that this privatization of government intelligence operations had nothing to do with any conservative/neoconservative philosophy say similar to Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security or all the No bid privatized functions that Dubal company, Halliburton performs for the military in Iraq?
If your explanation is correct then why has it gone on for 6+ years without any attempt to correction the wasteful spending under this administration?

Posted by: j2t2 at September 7, 2008 8:57 PM
Comment #262058

J2t2, we’d need a lot more information before we’d be able to answer the questions you’re asking. They’re good questions, but we don’t have the necessary info and I’m not sure where we could get it.

The first thing we’d need to establish is whether or not the spending IS in fact wasteful.

That the average private intelligence contractor makes more money than the average government intelligence officer doesn’t tell us much. We need details about what they actually do—otherwise it’s like saying that it’s wasteful and inefficient for a 747 pilot to be paid more than a school bus driver because they’re both in the “transportation business.”

We’d also need to see the direction in which this is trending. Is the percentage of private contractors expanding or decreasing? Also, I’m wondering what role Congress has in this—aren’t they the ones appropriating money? Do the Democrats have a position on this issue, and if so, what is it?

I’m not saying that I have the answers to these questions. Just that I don’t think a very clear picture of this situation has been provided for us to base our opinions on.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at September 7, 2008 9:40 PM
Comment #262071

Loy. Opp. said: “Presidents and congressmen from both parties caused this to happen. Nobody was expecting 9-11, even if they should have been.”

Very false. There is the report issued by the outgoing President Clinton to the incoming President Bush detailing the potential for a terrorist attack upon the U.S. using (drum roll, please) airplanes.

The report appears to have never been read by the incoming President who had no interest in anything coming from President Clinton. Didn’t Bush remark something about sanitizing the Oval Office (maybe that was someone else), but, the intelligence was there in black and white warning of 9/11, though not the date on which it might occur. Bush of course, was preoccupied with reading children’s books to demonstrate his reading level on that fateful morning.

Perhaps the intelligence report would have been read by Bush if it had used 3rd grade words.

Posted by: David R. Remer at September 7, 2008 10:59 PM
Comment #262074

David R,

Are we sure he was actually reading the book, or was he just pointing at the pictures?

Posted by: Marysdude at September 7, 2008 11:11 PM
Comment #262075

David, if Clinton knew about the threat, then it’s kind of a shame, don’t you think, that he gutted our intelligence services and our ability to do anything about it?

That you sneer at Bush for reading a children’s book—to a class full of school children—is plain silly. Should he have been reading them War and Peace or Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason? Such blatant partisan condescension serves no purpose except to discredit the arguments you make.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at September 7, 2008 11:17 PM
Comment #262166

LO are you sure it was Clinton’s fault? Here is some interesting reading regarding your claim of Clinton dismantling the Intelligence services.


http://www.watchblog.com/democrats/archives/001047.html

Posted by: j2t2 at September 8, 2008 2:03 PM
Comment #262168

>That you sneer at Bush for reading a children’s book—to a class full of school children—is plain silly. Should he have been reading them War and Peace or Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason? Such blatant partisan condescension serves no purpose except to discredit the arguments you make.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at September 7, 2008 11:17 PM

LO,

It wasn’t the reading to children that we find so appalling, it was the dumbfounded, deer in the headlights, seven second reaction by the president of the United States, when he heard that we were under attack. He did not know we were attacked by terrorists in airplanes, he should have but he didn’t, he did not know if we were under missile attack, he did not know if the Canadians had decided they hated us, he just sat there and fizzled. Kinda like a dud fire cracker…plenty of explosives but no ignition.

Posted by: Marysdude at September 8, 2008 2:12 PM
Comment #262200

There will probably be more private contractors in the future, not less. The people who work for the private contractors may also be private contractors in their own right, especially in “right to work” states where employers like to use this dodge to avoid paying into social security.

Posted by: ohrealy at September 8, 2008 5:49 PM
Comment #262353


The contractor hires a subcontractor who hires a crew, each one of which is a subcontractor.

Posted by: jlw at September 9, 2008 5:26 PM
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