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Occupational Education #7: The Cost of Contractor General Attorney Services

Looking for billions of dollars' worth of savings for taxpayers? Look no further than government service contracting. Last September, POGO released a report that found service contractors cost taxpayers nearly twice as much as federal employees who do the same work. With the final discussion of the mammoth defense budget bill looming in Congress and with the nation’s deficit crisis largely unresolved, we figured there’s no better time to take another look at data from the report.

Our report examined 35 different occupations. This series offers a fresh look at ten of those occupations. Today’s occupation is general attorney. Let's check out the numbers!

General Attorney - employee vs. contractor

Our report found that the annual contractor billing rate for a general attorney was $554,923—far and away the highest billing rate for any of the 35 occupations we examined. That billing rate is more than three times the annual full compensation of a federal employee doing the same work—who we found earns $175,081 including benefits. These attorneys often perform work involving resolution, management, or disposition of assets held by the federal government.

General attorneys, of course, are only one exhibit in the case of service contracting. The federal government has outsourced a wide variety of services—everything from accounting to cemetery administration—to such a degree that contractors outnumber feds nearly four to one. These services cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars each year, with the Pentagon alone spending $198.6 billion on contract services in fiscal year 2011, according to In total, the federal government spent $325.3 billion on service contracts that year.

As we’ve noted before, the key takeaway here is that the government needs to conduct meaningful comparisons of the relative costs of the service contractor and federal employee workforce. There isn’t a whole lot of evidence to make the case that we should continue to abide by the conventional wisdom that outsourcing services saves taxpayer dollars.

Want to learn more? Check out our Bad Business report for additional data, analysis, and policy recommendations.

By: Bryan Rahija
Blog Editor, POGO

bryan rahija At the time of publication, Bryan Rahija was the blog editor for the Project On Government Oversight. In addition to those duties he also focused on open government issues.

Topics: Contract Oversight

Related Content: Occupational Education

Authors: Bryan Rahija

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