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The Fourth Branch of Government

Guest rjwhite

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Guest rjwhite

I joined Booz Allen Hamilton in 1966, so I've had quite a bit of time to form fatherly and usually neglected opinions. In 1966 the Booz Allen office on I Street in Washington, D.C., employed about 60 people, and there were a few hundred in a research unit in Bethesda, Maryland. How times have changed. Today Booz Allen employs around 12,000 to 13,000 government sector employees. When I started at Booz Allen, we were only a fly speck on the wall of government. Today the federal contracting industry is sometimes called the "Fourth Branch of Government."


Calling contractors the Fourth Branch makes some federal contracting industry people shudder because they think the connotation is negative. There may be some truth in that, but from a contractor's point of view, it's a wonderful thing. As much as the press and others excoriate contractors as Beltway bandits, the government can't get along without us. Federal agencies can't cut back on the use of contractor employees because there's no way the government would or could hire enough federal employees to carry out federal mandates. Who is going to operate the Department of Energy Laboratories, defense supply operations, medical labs, and the information technology infrastructure? The use of contractors to support and conduct federal programs is an entrenched way of doing business now.

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