Feinstein, Petraeus Say Wartime Contractors Must Go

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After the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the intelligence community, consisting of everything from the CIA to the Homeland Security Department, is outsourcing too much of its work to private contractors and is breaking a pledge to reduce the number of private contractors hired to help conduct, collect and analyze information.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the Intelligence Committee, pointed out the broken promise at a hearing Tuesday, noting that the intelligence community is not living up to a commitment to reduce private contractors by 5 percent a year.

“We had an agreement in 2009 to reduce [intelligence community] contractor numbers by 5 percent a year, but it’s clear that progress has not been maintained and sufficient cuts are not being made,” Feinstein told a joint-hearing of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to assess progress in U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis over the last ten years.The Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported that “core contractors,” meaning those who directly augment the government’s intelligence staffs, accounted for 23 percent of the total intelligence community workforce, down only 1 percent from the year before, Feinstein pointed out.

“The overall number of contractors is in the tens of thousands – and the number across intelligence, defense, and homeland security is in the hundreds of thousands,” she said.

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the intelligence community hired thousands of contractors as a matter of convenience and expediency. However, contractor abuses, typified by Blackwater’s infamous actions in Iraq, demonstrated just how dangerous it can be to outsource military and intelligence-gathering functions, especially capturing and interrogating detainees.

Feinstein argued that the crucial parts of intelligence operations – the collection, exploitation and analysis of information – are “inherently governmental functions that should be done by government employees at one-third less the cost per employee.”

One week into his new role as CIA director, David Petraeus testified Thursday that contractors are at the top of his list of potential cuts in the new era of belt-tightening.

“Contractors – we’re looking very hard at that as one of the areas we can achieve some savings,” Petraeus said, recognizing the fact that many contractors have been devoted partners and have died in service to their country.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan in late August issued a report recommending that the Pentagon phase out its use of private security contractors or find a way to ensure that their presence on the battlefield does not put soldiers in harm’s way.

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