Two prominent scholars spoke at Penn Law recently about the federal government’s increasing reliance on private firms to carry out national defense functions.
Paul Verkuil, the Chair of the Administrative Conference of the U.S. (ACUS), and Professor Laura Dickinson of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law both raised cautions about outsourcing government responsibility for national security.
Chairman Verkuil, the former dean of two law schools and the co-author of a leading treatise on administrative law, focused on the significant number of often-unsupervised contractors fulfilling national security roles. He cited a recent Washington Post investigation reporting that Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not even know the number of contractors working for the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Professor Dickinson observed that significant numbers of outsourced personnel hold security clearances, arguing that this creates a large oversight gap. She recommended several concrete remedies, such as requiring military contractors to implement performance metrics and training programs. Dickinson also recommended reforms to the criminal justice system to make contractors more accountable for their actions in war zones.
The panel discussion centered around Dickinson’s 2011 book, Outsourcing War and Peace: Preserving Public Values in a World of Privatized Foreign Affairs, and Verkuil’s 2007 book, Outsourcing Sovereignty: Why Privatization of Government Functions Threatens Democracy and What We Can Do about It.