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Excessive outsourcing caused Snowden, ObamaCare fiasco

Posted May. 10, 2014 08:29,   


The two most representative events that put the U.S. federal government into major predicaments were former National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden`s exposure of the spy agency`s illegal eavesdropping and the ObamaCare website`s malfunction that disrupted the enrollment process of mandatory health insurance. Experts say that both incidents were caused by the federal government`s excessive outsourcing of its major functions to the private sector.

In January this year, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit against USIS, a private security firm that had conducted background checks of potential U.S. government hires for 10 years, for having submitted 660,000 incomplete checks. Federal government organizations such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security outsourced contractors to the company for background checks. However, about 40 percent of the background checks submitted between 2008 and 2012 were incomplete. It was discovered that USIS vetted the whistleblower and Aaron Alexis, a defense contractor who shot and killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in September 2013 under hallucinations.

Since the Bill Clinton administration began to outsource background checks of national security-related hires in 1996, the industry has enjoyed a rapid growth. USIS, which won 90 percent of its contracts from the U.S. government, took advantage of its close connections with federal officials and loosely conducted background checks. The company also hid such practices from the Office of Personnel Management.

ObamaCare, which U.S. President Barack Obama pushed to implement with great ambition following his re-election, was disrupted by access malfunction on the healthcare program`s website. When the website opened on October 1, 2013, more than 3 million U.S. citizens accessed it for enrollment but only six people were successfully enrolled on the first day. The website issue lasted for a month, resulting in significant setbacks in Obama`s approval rating and public confidence in the U.S. government policy. U.S. Congress held hearings to investigate the issue and concluded that the CGI Group, a private company that developed the website, hired many unqualified people. The Washington Post reported that the CGI Group had contracts worth 2.3 billion U.S. dollars with at least 25 federal agencies over the last two years after taking over AMS, an information technology company in 2004 but had similar problems on other projects.

The Washington Post quoted Daniel Gordon, an associate dean of George Washington University Law School who headed the Office of Procurement Policy in the first Obama term, as saying that the policy of government downsizing accelerated the tendency to outsource even major government projects and that up to half of government work has left the hand of public officials. He stressed that government employees should take back important work projects.