Bureaucratic Dark Energy is a paper released today from the Competitive Enterprise Institute revealing a growing concern over the federal government’s use of thousands of government contractors to grow the bureaucracy illegally.
“In trying to reduce bureaucracy, the president and Congress focus on things like hiring freezes at agencies, but agencies simply turn to contractors instead, growing the bureaucracy with neither approval nor oversight from Congress,” said Robert Hanrahan, author of Bureaucratic Dark Energy. “Without specific authorization from Congress, hiring contractors for their specific skills to fill ongoing federal jobs is a felony. But many agencies do it nonetheless, as these laws are nearly never enforced. The bureaucracy grows ever larger thanks to this bureaucratic ‘dark energy’—an invisible force that allows government to expand at the discretion of the bureaucracy alone.”
Bureaucratic Dark Energy suggests two solutions for the lack of accountability that has led federal agencies to misinterpret the “personal services” language in the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA), a series of laws prohibiting agencies from hiring contractors except as appropriated and authorized by Congress. First, Congress must insist on enforcement of the Anti-Deficiency Act and punish civil servants who outsource their own jobs. Secondly, Congress should establish a private civil cause of action for ADA violations. There may be hundreds of cases at dozens of agencies amounting to billions of dollars in misappropriation. A small fraction of these sums awarded to successful plaintiffs should be a powerful incentive for agencies to rein in their spending on contractors.