Friday, February 24, 2006


Outsourcing our national security: Kennedy is shocked by old news

Posturing yesterday over the administration's approval of a deal transferring management of six major US ports to a Dubai-based company, Senator Edward Kennedy condemned the White House for "outsourcing our national security." ("Ports and a Storm," Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, 24 February 2006.)

I'm not sure I disagree with Kennedy, though I was somewhat persuaded by a Post editorial, "Port Security Humbug," on the subject on 22 February. But this is a case of outrage over old news. For example, while this may not be the case at the State Department or the Pentagon, security at every Federal agency office I've visited in recent years has been exercised by officers bearing shoulder patches from private contracting operations.

A few weeks ago I was asked to be interviewed by a Federal security investigator in connection with a clearance being sought for an associate of mine. I assumed the investigator was a Federal employee, and was a bit startled to learn that he was a contractor. I wondered, without reaching any conclusion, whether it was a good idea for the government to rely on the private sector to determine who's safe and who isn't. I also question the wisdom of allowing a private concern to have access to the kind of information about potential Federal employees and contractors alike that comes into their possession in the course of these investigations.

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