CHUTZPAH-Definition: Nerve, Gall, Audacity. Private contractors doing government work are a lot of things. They are often more expensive than government, they are notorious for missing deadlines, and they have no shame about taking government work paid for by our country’s income tax collections and shipping some citizen’s income-producing job overseas. Yup! Contractors bring a lot of things to government, and another thing they bring is chutzpah. Despite shouting from the rooftops, soapboxes, and campaign contribution pedestals that they are cheaper than government, they just insisted on and got the right to increase what they charge the feds for the executives’ time from an annual rate of $693,951. To $763,029. That is almost four times what the top SES folks and cabinet officials earn a year to lead entire agencies.
President Obama has proposed limiting what contractor executives can charge government to the same annual salary levels for SES and cabinet folks, but he got steamrolled by the contractor’s lobby. Ironically, those lobbies are the same ones arguing that federal employee salaries are too high and which support the recent pay freezes so that there is more federal money around to pay their bills. And that is chutzpah. If you want to read a little more about this, check out this very good piece in “Politco”.
Here is another way of looking at it. General Shinseki is the Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs where he runs 153 hospitals, 956 outpatient clinics, 134 community living centers, 90 domiciliary residential rehab programs, 232 veteran centers, 57 regional offices and 131 national cemeteries. But the CEO of any of the hundreds of contractors that provide services to the VA can charges almost four times as much for his/her time as the Secretary gets paid. Share that story with your neighbors the next time you sense they somehow feel that the federal worker is not giving them a great deal for their tax money.
We do not mean to disparage all contractors. Many do fine work, but we would feel a better about a contractor if it voluntarily agreed never to bill the feds for time in excess of the hourly rate of an SES executive.