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Government waste and inefficiency that the Left actually cares about?

By See-Dubya  •  May 28, 2008 10:45 AM

The defense and intelligence sections of our government rely on the assistance of private contractors for a lot of their work. Part of this was explained to me by an acquaintance in the military as an artifact of the weird budgeting hoops these agencies constantly have to jump through. It’s cheaper for agencies to hire a contractor than a civil servant.

I suspect part of it is a market force as well–someone with a clearance and particular expertise can make more money doing basically the same work with an outside contractor than they can as a civil servant. When that’s the case, I don’t mind paying smart people what they’re worth to defend the country.

So that’s inefficient, but it’s also not exactly breaking news. But I saw where USA Today had reviewed a new book about this situation, which claims to “expose”

…how private corporations employ former high-ranking federal government and military officials to generate huge profits from secret contracts with the CIA, NSA and various baronies in the Defense Department.

In Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, Shorrock penetrates the covert world of corporations such as CACI International, ManTech International and Booz Allen Hamilton, while simultaneously penetrating the covert world of government agencies spending billions of taxpayer dollars unaccountably.

Could be a useful book if you like spy stuff, and I’m all for tightening up government money-leaks. But USA Today’s review of it sounds like a lefty whine-fest, revving up the old Blackwater cliches about private contractors:

Spies for Hire is a sterling example of why investigative journalists are valuable during an era of deep, broad and unconscionable government secrecy.

“Unconscionable” secrecy? Intelligence agencies being a bit circumspect about sensitive national security matters? That’s never happened before. There’s also Cheney-bashing (his friend worked for a defense contractor!) and a reworking of the old bumper-sticker line about how great it will be when the schools have all the money they need and the Defense Department needs to hold a bake sale:

[Contractor]SAIC has received millions of dollars (that arguably could be used instead to improve public schools or feed the hungry) that paid for failed systems. Shorrock relates the saga of Project Trailblazer, “designed to capture communications traveling on cellphones, fiber optics and across the Internet.”

Groan. Or we could just put the whole wad into carbon offsets and fight the real threat facing our country!

Silly stuff, but a great example of media bias. Hey, I’d like to see tax dollars used efficiently–but it doesn’t follow that we need to take money out of defense and put it into giveaway programs.

P.S. One interesting thing I picked up from this review: some of the contractors I saw mentioned (CACI, SAIC, Booz-Allen) looked familiar to me. The reason is that they used to show up in the sitemeters of some of the smaller blogs I’ve guest-blogged for. Intel contractors would occasionally cruise by, looking at entries about foreign-policy or terrorism analysis. (Michelle’s traffic is high enough that I can’t track visitors as easily.)

Now, there’s absolutely no reason to think that those posts were the slightest bit influential. All the same, blogs may have a greater reach than we give them credit for.

Why not start one? You never know who’ll end up reading you…

P.P.S. There’s more to this story–the Center for Constitutional Rights (that is, the Gitmo Lawyer agency) is suing one of these contractors over abuses at Abu Ghraib. The company’s defense is here.