As the government budget deficits grow and tax revenues continue to fall, a number of governments (city, state and even the federal government) are desperately looking for ways to cut the costs associated with day to day operation. Some will cut back on the number of people that they hire. Some will have layoffs. Some will cut benefits. Some will reduce the number of hours that employees work. Some will simply reduce spending on projects. However, it is becoming more and more attractive for governments to avoid many of the long-term costs associated with hiring workers by outsourcing labor to contractors that specialize in government contracts. By outsourcing to a contractor, governments can avoid the high costs of working with public sector unions, and save money in the long term, because they are not responsible for the contract employee’s benefits or pension. Instead, contract employees work for a contractor – a private company or publicly traded firm – who pays their salary and benefits and pension. The contractor is given a lump-sum payment for completion of certain services, reducing the administrative overhead that occurs within the public agency that employs the contractor’s services. In the end, contract employees often work “for” a government department or agency, but are paid by their own private employer.
Why Government Agencies Need Contract Workers?
For instance: say that a city needs to employ people to work in a new 911 call center. The city might opt to work with a contractor firm, Widgets Inc. The city and Widgets Inc. negotiate to determine what call center employees will need to do, who they will answer to, and how much the contractor will be compensated for providing the labor. Then, the contractor will handle the responsibilities associated with hiring the staff necessary to work in the call center. Employees of Widgets Inc. that work in the call center might answer to a boss that is an employee of the city, and function exactly as if they worked for the city. The only difference is that the city has, in this instance, decided to outsource all of the administrative duties, paperwork, and other tasks associated with personnel management – hiring, firing, training, etc. – to Widgets Inc. Because Widgets Inc. competes against a number of other contractors, there is a strong incentive for the company to ensure that its employees perform well in the city call center, because they know that if Widgets Inc. lets the city down, then the city will simply arrange a contract with a new contractor, and kick Widgets Inc. to the curb. As a result, contractors often provide employees that, when compared against employees that work directly for a government department or agency, provide higher levels of performance on the job. This is because competition in the marketplace drives contractors to pay special attention to the quality of the employees they choose to provide to the government agency.
Which Agencies use Contract Staff?
Today, it is difficult to find a government agency that doesn’t use contract employees. In addition to saving money on the costs of providing employees with benefits and pension plans, the government department or agency can also save money on training. If a government can use a contractor to secure a ready supply of trained, qualified workers, then there is no need for a government to waste its time or money establishing, maintaining, and staffing training and qualification programs. This absolves governments from spending money on anything but what really counts – getting things done. Hence, most government agencies use contract employees to one degree or another. For instance, when a Department of Agriculture laboratory needs a guard to let vehicles enter and exit – chances are, that guard is going to be provided by a contractor. After all – it’s absurd for the Department of Agriculture to have a training program that ensures the guards it employees are trained to react to situations in the same ways – that’s simply not what the Department of Agriculture is meant to deal with. Instead, contracting with a private security firm allows the Department of Agriculture to confidently post guards at the entrance to its facility without worrying about training. Instead, the contractor that employs the guards makes a contractual guarantee to the Department of Agriculture that the guards that will be posted at the facility have been trained, and meet a certain standard of professionalism and expertise that the Department of Agriculture requires.
Government Contract Jobs Abroad
Government contract jobs are widely available, and are found in a number of places that individuals rarely expect. For instance, most of the logistics and day-to-day affairs of American military bases in Afghanistan and Iraq have been handled by US contractors. Again, this is a matter of efficiency – it simply makes more sense for the armed services to train and deploy warriors, engineers and other folks necessary for combat readiness. It is far more efficient to leave the cooking, the laundry services, the installation of plumbing and other base infrastructure to contractors that are probably better-trained at carrying out these tasks. The aerospace industry is also a very popular field for government contract jobs. If the contract employees that work for various civilian airports around the country decided to suddenly walk off the job, few, if any airports around the country would remain functional. Everyone from the workers in the restaurants to the air traffic controllers are usually provided by contractors. Even NASA makes extensive use of contractors to provide the necessary labor and expertise to run the space program. Many of the people you see sitting in Mission Control work for aerospace and technology contractors like Cimarron or Lockheed Martin. Engineers that design spacecrafts, and the technicians that build them, are just as likely to receive their paycheck from NASA as they are Boeing.
Government contract jobs offer a great amount of opportunity, and the privilege to work on important city, state, and national government projects without the risks associated with being a government employee. It isolates workers from the internal politics of government departments and agencies, all while ensuring that the government uses employees that are better than what they could probably acquire on their own.