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ODNI Dispels Myths about Contractors, Intelligence Community

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intelligence-community-dotsIn response to yesterday’s first installment of The Washington Post’s “Top Secret America” series on the Intelligence Community, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a document dispelling some common myths surrounding the IC’s use of and relationship with contractors.

In the document, ODNI outlines some widely held misconceptions about the IC and contractors, including insufficient oversight of contractors, private contractors inappropriately performing “inherently governmental” functions and contractors costing more than their government counterparts.

Addressing the belief that there is a lack of proper oversight of contractors, ODNI wrote how the IC in 2006 instituted its first-ever, annual inventory of core contract personnel, resulting in an intelligence policy directive. With four specific objectives, the directive reinforces the prohibition on the use of contract personnel to conduct inherently governmental activities; prescribes the circumstances in which contract personnel may be used to support IC missions and functions; and beginning in 2011, requires IC elements to plan for and project the number of contract personnel they require.

On the myth about private contractors carrying out “inherently governmental” activities, ODNI said the IC neither condones or permits contract personnel to perform inherently governmental intelligence work. However, core contract personnel may perform certain activities, such as collection and analysis.

“[H]owever, it is what you do with that analysis, who makes that decision, and who oversees the work that constitute the “inherently governmental” functions,” ODNI stated. “Allocating funds, prioritizing workload, and making critical decisions remain strictly within the purview of government employees.”

Addressing the topic of cost, ODNI acknowledged that while contractors on average are more expensive than their government counterparts, there are certain occasions when hiring contractors is more economical.

“[I]n some cases, contractor personnel are less costly, especially if the work is short-term in nature, easily available commercially, or requires unique expertise for immediate needs,” ODNI wrote. “Overall, core contractors enable the Intelligence Community to rapidly expand to meet short-term mission needs or fulfill nonrecurring or temporary assignments, and then shrink or shift resources as the threat environment changes.”

In addition to publishing the myth-dispelling document, ODNI also released a Q&A-formatted pdf addressing the post-9/11 IC, which answers questions on whether there been a proliferation of new intelligence offices, why there still are numerous  problems related to information sharing, and what ODNI has accomplished so far.

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