US Congress, Inc.
How Congress Fueled the Rise of Private Spies
By Michael Tanji
July 21, 2010
Despite what might you may read in the Washington Post this week, it ain’t exactly breaking news that contractors are performing more and more of America’s intelligence work. What’s interesting is how this came to be — and what to do about it.
Congress, for instance, played a bigger role than you’d think in the rise of intelligence contractors. Think using contractors for intelligence work is a bad thing? The easy solution is for Congress to allow intelligence agencies to hire actual employees. That’s not how the game works, though. Contractors are convenient and cost-effective if you know you can cut off their heads at a moments notice when the money runs out or the mission ends; but, of course, the money never runs out because missions never end. It’s a very tasty, if expensive, self-licking ice cream cone.
As the first installment of the series points out, there’s also a lot of redundancy in the system. But that’s not due to a flood of post-9/11 money, at least not directly. The root cause of redundancy is parochialism. You find me the agency in the U.S. intelligence community that is entirely unique and duplicates the work of no one else: I’ll be over here holding my breath. Consider: