Apparently it has escaped the notice of politicians and bureaucrats that the interests of contractors are not the same as the interests of their customers. The contractor wants to make lots and lots of money. The contractor wants to make the customer happy, so it tells the customer whatever it wants to hear: oh sure, we can do that; or oh sure, that’s a great idea, you must be very smart to have thought of it; or I’m sure you’ve heard about the steps being taken by your competition, but fortunately we can stop them. The contractor has no interest whatsoever in completing the work, because that stops the money flows.
The contractor benefits from sleazy practices: hiring high-ranking government people to lobby their friendly former employers, or promising, wink wink to hire them in the future; hiring lower-level government employees who actually know how to do the work, leaving the government less able to do the work; paying off politicians with massive campaign contributions and in-kind goodies and trips and payments for speaking at corporate events; and lots more.
We know this because we can read the paper, because pretty much all of this is standard practice, and none of it is illegal. And we can see the results: massive boondoggles in every sphere of government, software that doesn’t work, hardware that doesn’t work, combinations that don’t work, purchases of unnecessary and useless hardware, and money pouring into the private sector, at least to the people at the top of the private sector.
Which government official thought this wasn’t applicable to spying? According to the Defense Department, General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, chief of the Central Security Service, and commander of the US Cyber Command testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee that
The IT infrastructure was outsourced about 14 years ago, which provided more federal work in that area to contractors, Alexander noted. “As a consequence,” he added, “many in government — not just us — have system administrators who are contractors working and running our networks.”
The New York Times has a slightly different take:
Since 9/11, the vast majority [of] I.T. experts in the intelligence world have worked for private contractors, and the Snowden case has set off a new debate about whether the government could have more control of the workers if they were direct employees.
Fourteen years ago would have been 1999. The NYT’s implication that this has something to do with 9/11 seems really wrong.
Systems administrators for all intelligence operations working for contractors? These people have access to pretty much everything on the system. They could look at the private emails of General Alexander, other government workers, senators, representatives, staffs, administrative agencies, purchasing officers, planners, pretty much anyone, and pretty much everything they see or do on the internets. And if they did, they could tell their bosses what those government workers thought about things. Who would know? How would they know?
What could possibly go wrong with that in a system already rotting from crony capitalism?