An extensive, generally responsible (if somewhat unselective) dossier on federal contracting abuses--aimed at securing...



An extensive, generally responsible (if somewhat unselective) dossier on federal contracting abuses--aimed at securing reforms but also, and no less, at reversing the trend toward contracting-out, Hanrahan, co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska (1977)--and also, he relates here, of a 1978 report on government contracting for the Military Audit Project, a Washington watchdog--does tick off ""questionable or illegal practices"" brought to light by congressional, journalistic, or private investigations: from noncompetitive contracts to cost-plus arrangements to revolving-door employment (in the public and private sectors) to outright corruption or, at the other end of the scale, insider knowledge. He illustrates these practices in a plethora of instances, with particular reference to the Defense Department (where, however, they have already been well-documented) and the Energy Department, which does almost nothing but contract-out. He has separate chapters, too, on Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge (TRW), as a firm spawned and nurtured by government contracts, and on Interior Secretary Watt, as a prime contractor-outer (and much untoward else). The book can be faulted, on the one hand, for throwing in everything about which ""questions have been raised""; its index, on the other hand, should be invaluable to researchers. Hanrahan's significant contribution, though, may be his attack on the ""shibboleth"" that ""private industry can do it better."" In one after another context, he raises this issue. ""As long as federal bureaucracy is made the scapegoat for government waste and efficiency, the contractors--which are the source of a significant proportion of needless government spending--will continue to get a free ride."" ""When layoffs occur in the federal government, or personnel ceilings are imposed on agencies, contractors thrive. . . [with a negative effect] on minorities, women, veterans, the handicapped and other groups that have traditionally been discriminated against in private job markets."" Another adverse effect is the loss of in-house expertise--needed to monitor the contracts. Hanrahan works every vein, on every level--but he does strike pay dirt.

Pub Date: June 20, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983