(Washington, D.C.)—“It was only a matter of time before the government’s uncontrolled contracting out mania resulted in taxpayers unwittingly funding terrorism and perhaps jeopardizing our national security,” said Bobby L. Harnage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees.
Harnage was reacting to the U.S. Customs’ midnight raid on the offices of a high tech contractor alleged to have ties to Osama bin Laden. Ptech, which is headquartered in Massachusetts, has provided millions of dollars in software and services to the White House, the House of Representatives, the FBI, NATO, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, the Naval Air Systems Command, the Air Force, the Forest Service, the IRS, the Education Department, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“What will it take to make this White House understand that contractors need real oversight?” Harnage asked. “This raid reveals the dangers inherent in privatizing government work. Instead of increasing oversight and guaranteeing safety, President Bush wants to speed up privatization. We need to protect American lives, not put them at risk.”
It has been reported that Ptech is owned by Yassin al Kadi whose assets were frozen by the U.S. government. Yassin al Kadi, A.K.A. Shaykh Yassin Abdullah Kadi, is a Saudi Arabian businessman who appears on a CIA watch list. Agents stormed Ptech’s offices to figure out why the company did not tell Treasury officials about the secret investor. The media reports that American investigators think al Kadi gave money to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.
Media reports further indicate that federal agencies have been searching their Ptech software for any hidden weaknesses or “back doors” that hackers could use to gain access to government computers.
“No one knows if the allegations against Ptech are true or false. We do know that federal contractors not only have access, but control over the government’s access to sensitive data affecting national security. They work with our intelligence networks, the Defense Department, and our Department of Homeland Security,” Harnage added.
“This Administration needs to rethink its rush to privatize 850,000 more jobs—virtually every major function performed by the federal government,” Harnage emphasized. “The old saying ‘haste makes waste’ is certainly true. Only in this case it’s more than the usual waste involved in contracting out, it very well may be damaging our homeland security efforts.”
Harnage is calling on Congress to quickly pass the Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting (TRAC) Act, which would establish a government wide system for tracking contractors, the cost of the government work they perform, and the size and cost of the contractor workforce, among other provisions.
“By emphasizing oversight and requiring proof of quality performance, TRAC will help protect American taxpayers from contractors that put our nation’s security at risk,” Harnage concluded.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.