Page 10 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

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10
APRIL 2013
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
activities in crisis countries? One can-
not argue that outsourcing is the “new
normal” if most of the increases related
to such activities.
Aside from such extraordinary and
time-limited programs, has USAID in fact
increased the funding allocated to con-
tracts and grants? If yes, then the author
can legitimately argue that a trend exists.
But, without such data, such an argument
becomes a matter of personal opinion
disguised as fact.
Second, underlying much of the
article is another critical assumption:
outsourcing is inherently bad. But is it?
Most government-funded activities tak-
ing place outside of government ofces
are already done by the private sector.
So why is the use of private sources in an
overseas context objectionable? And to
what extent
should
the federal govern-
ment perform functions and undertake
activities in house, and therefore in com-
petition with the private sector?
Many nongovernmental organizations
are already working overseas implement-
ing development and assistance activi-
ties, using private funds. When USAID
decides to undertake additional, similar
activities, should it establish overlapping
organizations to do the work with govern-
ment employees—or should it fund an
expansion of the existing private-sector
activities? Te author appears to prefer
the former, but provides no justifcation
for this preference.
Tird, Ms. Stanger assumes that
expanding the government work force in
these agencies (“insourcing”) will elimi-
nate the need for outsourcing. In other
words, expanded federal stafng will
result in a signifcant reduction in con-
tract and grant levels. While both State
and USAID have succeeded in expanding
their labor forces, it is not at all clear that
adding employees to their rolls means
that USAID will take over implementa-
tion of assistance activities: constructing
schools and roads, stafng schools and
clinics, etc.
What it
does
mean is that USAID will
improve its capacity to interact with host-
country governments on policy, to design
projects to address development needs,
to monitor the implementation activities
undertaken by its private-sector partners,
and to evaluate the efective and efcient
use of federal funding.
Staf expansion will allow USAID to
bring back in house some of the analyti-
cal, design and evaluation activities it was
forced to outsource, due to many years
of staf attrition without replenishment.
But I doubt that these actions afect more
than a very small proportion of the total
funds being allocated to contracts and
grants. After all, most such funds support
implementation rather than design and
oversight.
I certainly concur that the issue of
outsourcing is an important one for
both State and USAID. But Ms. Stanger’s
article leaves three very important ques-
tions unanswered:
1. Is the outsourcing “trend” described
in the article real, or is it an illusion that
instead refects the expansion of activi-
ties undertaken in connection with U.S.
government interventions in several
crisis countries?
2. If there is indeed a trend toward
expanding outsourcing, why is that a bad
thing?
3. If 1 and 2 are true, will an expansion
of State and USAID work forces actu-
ally produce a meaningful reduction in
outsourcing?
Linda Rae Gregory
FSO, retired
Chuluota, Fla.
n
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