There is broad public agreement that the government must take measures to respond to the explosive growth of contracting in the intelligence community during the past decade. The government tends to contract out services when it does not have employees with the skill set to perform a function (like building a surveillance drone), or when it needs to rapidly fill personnel gaps in a new program area. In the ten years that have lapsed since the September 11 attacks, however, contractors have gone from filling gaps in the intelligence community to being a large percentage of the people working on behalf of the country’s intelligence agencies.
The biggest problem facing the intelligence community is not that some contractors abuse the system, but that the government has designed a system that encourages abuse. Ultimately, the government is responsible for the conduct of the companies it contracts to perform functions; while violations of the rules in place merit investigation and prosecution, contractor behavior labeled as “misconduct” is often perfectly legal and within the bounds of the contract agreements companies sign with their government clients.
Inside the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, reports and data from many sources, including intelligence contractors, are reviewed and studied daily. Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
The current state of IC contracting is incoherent. There is broad confusion about the nature of appropriate government and contractor roles, along with inconsistent accountability and poor resourcing for accountability mechanisms. Contracts are often worded vaguely or incompletely, and ever-changing requirements, deliverables and performance metrics (all of which are supposed to catalogue and record how a company fulfills a contract) create an environment rife for exploitation by companies seeking to extract revenue from the process.
Continues at Need to Know | PBS