By Dan Guttman
While succeeding generations of members of Congress and presidents have vowed in the name of efficiency to shrink Big Government, the size of the federal civil service work force has remained fairly constant for decades.1 Beyond the symbolic politics surrounding philosophical differences over the appropriate size of government are the often less discussed, but fundamental issues raised by the “fourth branch” or “shadow government” which has expanded in scope and function in recent decades.2 This refers to the vast array of private contractors who work in every area of government from building weapons to writing regulations. While data on the number of civil servants is available, there is no comparable data on the number of government contractors and their employees who perform work of the kind that citizens might think of as the work of the government.3 For decades, this had been Washington’s “best kept secret” according to the late Harold Seidman, a distinguished scholar of public administration who advised both President Dwight Eisenhower and President John Kennedy when their administrations struggled with the governing implications of the growing number of government contractors.4 The most troubling aspect of the blended public-private work force resulting from “government by contract” is the challenge for accountability.
Mr. Guttman is a highly-regarded expert on third-party governance. The Shadow Government (1976) which he co-authored is recognized as a seminal study in modern government contracting. In 1978 he authored perhaps the first law journal article (in the Harvard Journal on Legislation) on modern contractor conflict-of-interest laws. He was special counsel to US Senator David Pryor in Senate investigations of the Federal government’s use of contractors to do its basic work. He has written extensively on contracting and testified many times before Congress and other public bodies on this topic. He shared in an investigative journalism award for a 2004 study of $900 billion in Defense Department contracting. As a private lawyer, Mr. Guttman’s practice has involved a broad range of areas of law.
Mr. Guttman wishes to thank the numerous scholars, students, citizens, and government and contractor employees who have helped further his understanding that led to this paper. In particular, he is greatly indebted to the late Harold Seidman, scholar and public servant, who provided seminal understanding of the evolution, and importance of, the dual sets of rules governing civil servants (and political appointees) and private citizens who perform the work of government under contract. The contents and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author who is solely responsible for any
errors or omissions.
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