Following a review of the article by Kelman entitled “Too Many Contractors?” an opinion will be provided regarding my perspective of the issue being discussed, specifically whether or not there are currently too many IT contractors within government offices and whether or not it will be possible for the federal government to hire enough qualified staff to replace them, especially considering the tight budgets. In addition, it will discuss whether or not the federal government will be able to “grow” their own in-house IT professionals.
In 2007, Steve Kelman attempted to address the question of whether or not the government was relying too heavily on contractors. A review of the at the time current state of affairs regarding the contracting out of IT work indicated that the high end professional jobs that the government was contracting out were not those that would typically be contracted out in any other type of agency in the private sector (Kelman, 2007). As a result of the polls that were taken regarding the matter, additional investigations were completed in order to attempt to determine why the government would contract out such work when no one else would; the primary resulting answer was the salaries that the government was able to pay out; quite simply, it was cheaper to contract out the work than it was to hire qualified professionals for those positions (Kelman, 2007).
Other reasons included the ability to more easily remove a poorly performing contractor than it would be to remove a paid governmental employee, and the difficulties associated with creating the appropriate performance based work statistics and metrics for employees in those positions, making it difficult to effectively address the situation (Kelman, 2007). Furthermore, it was identified that due to budgetary constraints, the hiring of a qualified professional for the position at the salary that could be offered was difficult at best (Kelman, 2007). The question was posed as to whether or not it would be possible to cultivate these IT professionals from in-house staff as an alternative means of reducing IT contractors in the government field, but the matter was not taken into consideration beyond the posing of this particular solution (Kelman, 2007).
It is my belief that, especially in light of the economic downturn that took hold of the country in 2007, that in spite of the decreased offers in pay, the government should still be able to replace many of their contractors with IT professionals, as individuals during this time were more concerned with having a job than they were with their salary, and there were many who were willing to take cuts in pay in order to ensure that they had a guaranteed job during this time; it was seen as the better choice to cut salaries than it was to loose one’s job (McGregor, 2009). As such, the government should not have had an issue in working to reduce the overall number of contractors that they had working for them, especially in the IT sector, in favor of individuals who were not only highly qualified, but who were willing to accept the base salaries that the government could offer.
The question of whether to use in-house IT professionals or to outsource using contractors is one that has been around for many years, but as time goes on and as the economy slowly starts to recover, the fact of the matter is, especially where IT is concerned, that the time has come to reduce the number of contractors used and to go back to in-house staff (Baldwin, 2013). The plain fact of the matter is that in-house IT staff makes more sense from not only a fiscal perspective but a security perspective as well. The larger the company or organization, the greater the number of IT staff that should be working within that organization; given the fact that governmental organizations are some of the larger organizations, the amount of individuals will be greater than that of most traditional companies (Edge Solutions, 2012). As the IT staff has access to the totality of the network of the organization for which they are responsible, it makes more sense from a security standpoint to ensure that the individuals working for the company are loyal to the company, as opposed to contracted staff that may be dismissed at any time.
The question next becomes whether or not there is the potential for the government to “grow” their own in-house IT professionals. The fact of the matter is that in order to be able to accomplish such a task, the organization would need to have dedicated, full time IT staff already, and it would be these full time staffers who would be responsible for teaching others within the organization the appropriate tactics and skills needed in order to be an effective IT professional within the confines of the particular governmental organization. The amount of time, the cost, and the effort that is needed to do so is simply not cost efficient in light of the fact that the budgets are already tight enough as it is. Based on the situation discussed in Kelman’s article, and the time at which Kelman’s article was written, the most effective course of action that could be taken by the government in order to address the IT contractor situation would be to open up those positions for full time staff members at slightly lower than industry standard rates of pay.
These jobs would be snatched up by the individuals within the IT field given the fact that though the rate of pay may be lower than what was industry standard prior to the economic downturn, a governmental job offers a sense of job security that is not often seen in private sector jobs, resulting in an increased likelihood of getting those positions filled not only by qualified individuals, but by individuals who would not need to be trained in basic IT practices and who would not be contracted workers. It is the opinion of this individual that, as with many issues, the government was overthinking the matter, concerning itself with what might be instead of attempting to resolve the issue, when simply opening up the job postings for applicants would have indicated that there was no actual issue present at all.