A recently-released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, titled Civilian Intelligence Community: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Reporting on and Planning for the Use of Contract Personnel, reviewed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI) annual inventory of contractors who perform what are called “core” functions — those who provide direct support to intelligence mission areas, such as collection, operations, analysis, management and research and development.
In its study, the GAO found that the annual inventory of core contractors, which includes critical data provided to Congress, lacks consistency across intelligence agencies and may, therefore, not be accurate.
The GAO concluded that ODNI’s inventory lacks the capacity to provide useful information on the intelligence community’s use of contactors and, particularly, the work done by contractors that could inappropriately influence policy decisions.
“The men and women who work at our nation’s intelligence agencies, whether federal employee or contractor, are entrusted with analyzing and protecting our most sensitive information,” said chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Tom Carper (D-DE). “Given the nature of their work and all that’s at stake, it’s critical that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is able to account for core intelligence contractors and provide that information to Congress so we know exactly who is managing our nation’s secrets and why.”
“I am troubled that today’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) report suggests that the reporting standards set by ODNI are not consistent across the intelligence community and are not effective at providing accurate information on the civilian intelligence community contractors,” said Carper, according to a news release he issued on Feb. 13. “ODNI needs to review its policies and make the necessary changes to ensure that it can account for its use of all contractors. I will work closely with my colleagues here in Congress and members of the intelligence community to ensure that these important reforms are made in a thoughtful and timely manner.”
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) added, “In the wake Edward Snowden’s damaging leaks of classified information, the intelligence community must demonstrate that it can rigorously vet, hire, manage, and oversee the contractor workforce it relies upon to help perform its mission.”
“Without reliable data on the number and type of contractors or the expenses associated with them, we cannot effectively determine the appropriate mix of government employees and contractors in the intelligence community, which is essential not only to protecting our national security, but also in ensuring the efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars,” Sen. Collins added.
“The lack of reliable data and long-term planning for core support contractors among our intelligence agencies has led to critical gaps in our capabilities and an over-reliance on these contractors,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairman of the subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight. “This is a likely waste of taxpayer dollars and may be detrimental to our national security.”
In its review of ODNI, GAO found a number of limitations to its annual inventory of core contractors that call into question the overall statistics that have been presented to Congress:
GAO found that the definition of “core” contractor changed over the years, and agencies used different methods of tracking numbers, costs, and functions of contractors resulting in data that was not comparable, accurate or consistent across the intelligence community.
GAO had trouble verifying facts to support much of the data. For example, for 37 percent of the records it reviewed, GAO did not find documentation to validate the number of contractor personnel reported. Also, 40 percent of the records reviewed did not contain evidence to support the reasons that agencies claimed for using contractors instead of federal employees.
GAO found that the intelligence community has made only limited progress in developing human capital strategies that address appropriate use of contractors.