Tough Rules Urged For Contractors

Tough Rules Urged For Contractors
March 11th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Tough Rules Urged For Contractors

Tough Rules Urged For Contractors
Boston Globe
March 11, 2008 By Anne Flaherty, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The military hires so many private contractors that it should consider forcing them to disclose their financial interests to avoid any conflicts of interest, according to a congressional audit.
In a report released yesterday, the Government Accountability Office found that contractors outnumber Defense Department employees in many offices and perform such sensitive tasks as developing contract details and advising award fees. Yet unlike federal employees, contractors are not bound to most government ethics laws and regulations.
Defense officials agreed that tougher standards are probably needed and said they were looking into it. Some officials told GAO privately that they were concerned about the cost of enforcing new rules, an argument GAO rebuffed as dangerous.
The "costs of contractor employees constructing options for their personal gain - an outcome increasingly likely based on sheer numbers - would likely never be known, let alone calculable as long as there is no transparency," GAO stated.
While the Defense Department has not determined the total number of contractors, the numbers are substantial. There are more than 163,000 contractors working in Iraq and some 36,500 in Afghanistan - about the same number as troops in those regions, a senior defense official told Congress in testimony last month.
In its audit of 21 defense offices, GAO found that 15 of them had more contractors on staff than Defense Department employees. In several offices, including an Army human resources group and an engineering unit at the Missile Defense Agency, contractors comprised more than 80 percent of the workforce.
Under federal laws and regulations, contractors are prohibited specifically from accepting bribes or kickbacks, and companies working with the military must have written ethics policies. Also, several defense offices have instituted ethics safeguards on a voluntary basis. But there isn't a department-wide requirement that contractor employees be free from personal conflicts of interest.
GAO recommended that the Pentagon establish requirements for companies to identify and prevent conflicts of interest. Included should be a prohibition of employees accepting gifts such as cash, meals, or trips in connection to their jobs, GAO stated.

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