I Heard Contractors Are Not Respected Or Valued

Nearly everyone has heard the phrase, “good enough for government work.” I’ve jokingly used it many times. Heck, it’s even the title of my forthcoming book! However, it really is just a joke. Work performed by contractors is almost always performed at least as well as, if not better than, work performed by Federal Government employees. Here’s one of the reasons why.

If a contractor is not meeting a standard, then they are immediately replaced, or the contract is terminated and re-competed to find a better company. It is truly that easy to resolve contractor performance issues. I’ve replaced poorly performing employees on a contract within seconds after a single phone call from a customer.

Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. If a government employee is not meeting a standard, then the government supervisor had better start the several year-long paperwork trail to fire them. To illustrate my point, here are a few, brief snippets from the Office of Personnel Management’s instruction regarding poorly performing government employees.

  • “There are two formal procedures a supervisor may use in resolving unacceptable performance: Chapter 43 and Chapter 75 of Title 5 of the U.S. Code…”
  • “The Employee Relations staff will also guide the supervisor on the specific regulatory requirements…”
  • “Action must be supported by a preponderance of evidence…”

And, I haven’t even mentioned federal employee unions. The process to fire a poorly performing government employee rivals the complexity of the US Tax Code! I’m not stating that federal employees are all “un-fire-able” dirt-bags. In fact, I feel sorry for the vast majority of great federal employees who have their hands tied, trying to rid their organizations of bad apples. Can you imagine how frustrating that must be?

Simply stated, the ability to replace poorly performing contractors tends to provide a better, more reliable talent pool, providing tremendous benefit to taxpayers! However, contractors provide so much more value that just the ability to quickly remove substandard performers. In fact, I believe Federal Government contractors are pillars of our national strength. A pillar of national strength? Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m now waxing poetic about the virtues of government contracting. Allow me to explain before you start laughing too loudly. The strength of our nation is the American Will. It’s in its people, ingenuity, and industry—not its government. Our government’s value is that it does not oppress its people or suppress their potential. Most of the time, our government enables its people to do great things.

Just think about World War II. When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, the US Navy had a total of 350 ships and many of those were completely obsolete. On V-J Day in 1945, the US Navy had 6,788 ships. Let’s put this into perspective. Over 70% of the combatant ships in the world were flying the American Flag at the end of World War II.

On the high seas, the US Navy had a 2-to-1 advantage over the rest of the entire world, combined! It is simply irrefutable that our nation’s industrial might built the strongest navy the world has ever seen. Government employees did not build those ships. Contractors did. The same thing is true for our tanks and aircraft.

Without taking anything away from the courageous service men and women who bravely sacrifice so much to fight tyranny in our world, they cannot be successful without having the right resources, tools, and support. Rosie-the-Riveter and other government contractors did their part in giving these brave men and women what they needed to win World War II. Almost a half-century later, contractors played an even larger role in winning the Cold War.

Today, contractors are still helping to defend and support our nation. And it’s not just National Security. As much as I complain about traffic and the condition of our roads, our highway system is second to none. Every time I drive in other countries, I renew my appreciation for President Eisenhower and the contractors who created our national highway system.