Just as Congress is attempting to get a clearer picture of the extent of outsourcing in the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense is doing its part to keep this information from the light of public scrutiny.
The Undersecretary of Defense has granted waivers to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) and the National Geospacial Agency (NGA) to withhold unclassified contracting data from a government website designed to give greater transparency to government spending. The Undersecretary wrote, "I appreciate your concerns that reporting these actions to the publicly accessible website could provide unacceptable risk of insight to your individual missions and budgets." The database only includes unclassified actions on contracts.
As someone who actually mines these databases and other databases for useful information on intel contracting, I'm very familiar with the insights that can be gained to their "individual missions and budgets." There are no insights into their missions here.
The data is coded in such general ways, one can only discern they are for intel services when they are coded as such. There are no detailed descriptions, only vague, general categories. And keep in mind this only captures unclassified contracts.
DIA and NGA did contribute information to the database in prior fiscal years, although CIFA did not. This, of course, raises the question of why is this suddenly a concern since it was not one in FY 05 and FY 06? The only thing I know that has changed is perhaps the political environment. Congress is finally waking up. The New York Times is still asleep, but the Washington Post does clue in to intel outsourcing issues from time to time. And, of course, there's The Spy Who Billed Me.
Since data is available from the last two fiscal years, I thought I'd poke around and see exactly what they would like to hide.
But no secrets.
No missions were reverse engineered. No secret budgets uncovered.
So what makes them so uncomfortable?
For example, according to the database in FY 06 the DIA's largest contract was with BearingPoint for "Professional, admin, and management support services." Check out the entry and see if you can figure out how Osama could possibly use that one against us. That's about all that can be gleaned, save for the fact that the $49 million contract was non-bid, follow-on contract--a sole source contract. Perhaps this is what the agencies meant by "unacceptable risk of insight to your individual...budget." It could lead the public to question why a contract for $49 million of "Professional, admin, and management support services" did not need to go through a competitive procurement process.
Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR) Part 6.302 do allow for such sole source contracting, but under tightly prescribed circumstances. In theory, sole source follow on contracts are supposed to be let only when there truly is only one source for the service, i.e., like to Boeing for providing spare parts for Boeing-manufactured aircraft. It’s hard to see how you could sole source a follow on contract for "Professional, admin, and management support services” unless there were specific individuals or groups of individuals with unique skills or knowledge employed by certain contractors. An example of this in the intelligence business might be several case officers handling active, sensitive cases where you can’t afford to lose the services of the case officer due to contract action. It is highly unlikely that this is the case with BearingPoint and the DIA.
The next largest unclassified DIA contract in FY 06 was for $19 million with BAE Systems. It's also tagged as a non-competed because follow-on contract. The pattern continues with subsequently smaller multi-million dollar contracts.
It seems that fair and open completions for multi-million dollar intelligence contracts are rare in the DIA.
The data becomes much more interesting when examined in aggregate. Here we learn that only 22% of the $537 million of unclassified DIA contracts were subject to "full and open competition." 30.6% of their unclassified contracts had only one bidder (as in other companies knew it would be a waste of time to respond since there was a clear choice for a provider.)
In FY 06, the top 10 DIA contractors were more or less the usual suspects:
|NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORP.||$54,948,915|
|BOOZ ALLEN HAMILTON INC.||$32,581,215|
|L-3 COMMUNICATIONS HOLDINGS||$24,333,898|
|MANTECH INTERNATIONAL CORP||$22,334,194|
|SM CONSULTING INC||$21,315,730|
|SCIENCE APPLICATIONS INTL CORP||$18,306,646|
|VERITAS CAPITAL INC||$16,326,355|
Unclassified contracting at the DIA grew 19% FY05 to FY06.
The situation at the NGA is similar, although their $6 billion of contracting dwarfs the DIA.
CIFA, whose workforce is over 70% contractors, did not provide data. Wonder why?
NSA veterans of the 1970s will recall the “embarrassing personal question” (EPQs)—an NSA polygraph technique in which questions that were assumed to be thoroughly disgusting to the subject (such as “have you had sex with an animal since your last polygraph”) were posed unexpectedly in order to elicit an involuntary non-baseline response. EPQs were always something extreme in order to get a strong physical reaction from the guy strapped to the box. The CIA never went this low-brow and the NSA eventually stopped doing it. However, it seems time to start bringing up a version of this back into play in the Intel Community. It's time to start asking ECQs: Embarrassing Contractor Questions. Clearly, it's the ECQs that the DoD is hiding from.
Again, I challenge anyone to show me how this data could help the enemy. It can't. Unless, of course, in this case the enemy is the American taxpayer.