A New York Times article recently revealed that private contractors are being used by the C.I.A. not just for logistical support but as de facto agents, participating in clandestine raids and the transporting of detainees.
Defending such use of contractors, a C.I.A. spokesman quoted in the article said, "Contractors give you flexibility in shaping and managing your talent mix--especially in the short term." He is, of course, right. Any experienced talent manager would say the same. Indeed, that quote could have been (and for all I know it may have been) lifted from CWS Magazine.
It's no wonder then that contractors are seen in more and more unexpected roles, and each time the reaction is the same: shock, denial, and acceptance--in that order.
To be sure, there is a legitimate argument that contractors should not be in some sensitive roles, say for instance police. Well, OK, private security guards with the authority to arrest are already in common use; and then there are private bounty hunters; and armed private detectives; and private prisons in some states.
Is there any evidence that such people are, on the whole, less effective or more susceptible to corruption than full-timers? At least contractors can be fired without an argument--there is something to be said for that when you're talking about a person with a gun.
But the advantage of easy termination depends on the will do so. And now we come to the part where the C.I.A. can actually be faulted. Contractors, yes, but the New York Times article also revealed their choice of contractor agency--Blackwater Worldwide. Weren't private security guards from Blackwater Worldwide in the paper for something recently?
Of course it would be easy to criticize, but truthfully these things can be confusing at times (are you sure Blackwater Worldwide isn't on your supplier list?). That's why it's so important for contingent managers to get good advice; happily we offer advice to buyers through our CWS Council. C.I.A. operatives and others can learn more about this contingent management advisory service here.
Late update: Again per the New York Times, "All Charges in Blackwater Case Are Dismissed." Well now that makes me wonder how much of the hoopla on this charge was anti-contractor bias in the first place..