I'm on vacation, but a report today in the Washington Post was enough to lure me away from my kneeboard and back to the keyboard:
The Defense Intelligence Agency is preparing to pay private contractors up to $1 billion to conduct core intelligence tasks of analysis and collection over the next five years, an amount that would set a record in the outsourcing of such functions by the Pentagon's top spying agency.
While it's a jaw-dropping figure, it's not surprising given the Director of National Intelligence's emphasis upon acquisitions. (See "The ODNI's Wal-Mart Approach to Intel.") But it does fly in the face of the DNI's public statements. For example, Ronald P. Sanders, Associate Director of National Intelligence wrote in response to my July Washington Post article:
Our workforce has recovered to the point that we can begin to shed some contract personnel or shift them away from core mission areas...
One billion plus dollars of intel contracting seems less like shedding and more like a Sumo wrestler gorging himself before a match.
I was unable to quickly find the DIA announcement of the contract (and would appreciate the link from readers who find it), however, the WaPo article gives a few clues about the contract:
The DIA did not specify exactly what it wants the contractors to do but said it is seeking teams to fulfill "operational and mission requirements" that include intelligence "Gathering and Collection, Analysis, Utilization, and Strategy and Support." It holds out the possibility that five or more contractors may be hired ...
Translated, this means broad, soup to nuts intel work, from running agents to creating those analytical products that get funneled into the President's Daily Brief--anything the DIA can conceive of.
On the upside, if they are able to pull in some of the contractors who are currently doing work for the CIA, the overall quality of Defense Intel could be improved.
Holding out the possibility that five or more contractors could be hired for such indefinite tasks strongly suggests this is some form of an IDIQ contact vehicle--Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity In all likelihood, it means the $1 billion plus of contracts is already targeted for the primes such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SAIC and probably Scitor, maybe also Raytheon. (Sorry Abraxas--just be grateful you can still hold your own at the NCS...)
The smaller firms will be forced to line up with one of the primes who will largely control their fate for the life of the contract. It also suggests there will be layered management structures, with contractors overseeing contractors from other firms with limited government oversight. But hey, it works for satellites and human intel gathering and analysis really aren't that different--just ask the DNI and D/CIA...
And at this point the DIA isn't sure what it wants to contract for, only that it intends to outsource a billion dollars of services and it has to go through the motions of an RFP to meet Federal Acquisition Rules (FAR) requirements to give the appearance of an open competition that is, in reality, anything but.
Even though it seems at this point the DIA doesn't entirely understand its needs, rest assured that soon after the award, the primes and subs will rush to their DIA contracts and show them exactly what it is that they have been looking for all along, how their firms can provide that precise service and just how easily it can be procured now that the "competitive" bidding is out of the way. This happens in part because the expertise to understand the intel services and even the intelligence needs has been lost to government as expertise has migrated to the private sector. And this loss is guaranteed to accelerate since so many green dollars are being thrown into the DIA which is already heavily outsourced.
So will the DIA get what it really needs through such a procurement system that gives contractors the power to define the Pentagon's intelligence needs? Unfortunately, the 800-pound gorilla of the Intel Community will never know because it's outsourced its brains.
Pass the bananas--or rather issue a task order to Halliburton for a bunch.