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The Day After The Next 9/11: How Outsourcing Is Helping Al Qaeda

by J. Michael Brower

Outrage over offshoring has many state officials scouring public contracts for evidence of companies sending jobs overseas chasing cheap labor. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, already about 10 million jobs have already been offshored since 2001. The economic damage to working Americans in the form of fewer better-paying jobs is supposedly offset by the financial advantages streaming back to the consumer in the form of cheaper goods. But when better paying jobs dry up and consumers are forced to use credit, the end result is economic anemia. When the pursuit of cheap labor enters the public sector in the form of privatization, the impact can be even more destructive.

America has been self-flagellating its manufacturing base away for years. Recently the National Foundation for American Policy registered the public's reaction when it noted over 35 state legislatures proposed more than 100 anti-outsourcing bills. Offshoring's front page rating is due to the targeting up of the better-off--when the jobs were of the sort that "Americans don't want to do," attention was nil. According to the June issue of CFO magazine, white-collar jobs are on the chopping block-47% of survey financial officer respondents said jobs sent overseas payed $50,000 or more before offshoring. Almost everything done by wire is subject to sending out, inaugurating a brutal competition for the economic ladder's lowest rung. Once the good jobs are gone, who will afford the overflowing inventories produced by our hyper-efficient multinationals? Important as the question is, more vital is the impact that contracting-out is having on national security--the most extreme example of outsourcing assisting the terrorists in the privatization of immigration officers and other key law enforcement-related positions in the Department of Homeland Security.

The insane de-federalization of hundreds of law enforcement officers follows a similar interest in re-privatizing airport screeners--an invitation to al Qaeda. With over 1,300 immigration information officers (IIOs) and more than 100 investigative assistants slated for a gladiatorial contest to fight for their own jobs, DHS officials determined to privatize no matter the risks to public security have pitted law enforcement workers against contractors at the worst possible moment--when al Qaeda is claiming it is nearly prepared to launch another strike on the homeland. There are no more knowledgeable, harder-working, or less-appreciated officers helping to fight foreign terrorism today than the IIOs and the investigative assistants. Without the latter, the search for fraud in immigration benefits and for embedded terrorists would virtually come to a stand-still. In advancing the administration's goal of giving inherently governmental work to big political campaign donors, key DHS managers have forwarded their candidatures to play the quisling to Osama bin Laden.

Make no mistake-government couldn't function without its outstanding, and indispensable, contracting partners. But contracting-out the inherently governmental, core function of law enforcement to the private sector only sets up companies for fall guy roles as seen at Abu Ghraib prison, and noted in the Army report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba and in the reporting of The New Yorker's Seymour M. Hersh. In the case of the IIOs, terrorists will directly benefit by de-federalization as they have during the demoralization of officers threatened by job loss.

The day after the Next 9/11, congressional investigators might listen to the line employee accounts of intimidating visits by a diabolical headquarters staff hell-bent on contracting-out to "save money" and "reduce backlogs" no matter the resultant benefits to al Qaeda.

In a GAO report from July 2003, "INS Contracting Weaknesses Need Attention from the Department of Homeland Security" the continuous stream of phrases like, "procurement managers have little oversight and control over procurement activities," "procurement managers lack leverage to ensure that employees comply with procurement policies," and "In fiscal year 2002, INS had 60 unauthorized commitments valued at more than $700,000," are numerous enough to provide no confidence that, a mere year later, America is going to be well-served by contracting-out of hundreds of law enforcement officers. DHS has used a contractor to help organize its competitive sourcing project, in keeping with its strategy of building a bicycle while riding it.

Damage to officer morale defies quantitative analysis. Damage to immigration services has already been registered by NGOs and the immigrant community. Neither of these groups are looking forward to working with contractors performing these inherently governmental functions because they know that training and experience will be sacrificed on the alter of private profit. Suffice it to say that the estimated costs for September 11th were in the neighborhood of $100 billion-some estimates are much higher.

Terrorists know that de-federalization moves them closer to their goal-the next, far more deadly 9/11. Similarly, the administration is rewarded by another 9/11, as William Safire predicted in his New York Times column on December 31, 2003, and as Norman Mailer has written in his book Why We Are At War (2003). Now everyone is predicting a pre-election move by terrorists, which will strengthen the hand of the privatizers and their supporters on the far right. As we watch the ramifications of '19 Chumps Who Changed the World,' and the arrests of suspected al Qaeda operatives, US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice quipped about the imminence of attack on April 19th that, "it seems like it would be too good to pass up for them, and so we are actively looking at that possibility, actively trying to make certain that we are responding appropriately."

Those who believe that continuing the effort to privatization of immigration officers, particularly at a time like this, are possessed by the demons of irrationality. For instance, the November 28th arrest of a Somali charged with plotting to bomb an Ohio shopping mall by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents is the kind of front-line heroism saving American lives. If FBI suspicions that al Qaeda might begin targeting less-guarded facilities like nuclear power plants, it is the common citizenry, (as was the case with October 2002 "Beltway sniper" John Allen Muhammad) that will nab the terrorists.

The Office of Management and Budget blithely declares in its May 2004 report on competitive sourcing, "The Department of Homeland Security expects better customer service at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to result from its competition involving well over 1,000 positions performing immigration information services." The day after the next 9/11, these words from Robert F. Diegelman, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Administration who wrote to a Vermont Service Center employee supporting NYC's immigration officers on March 27, 2002, that the terrorist-detecting jobs of the immigration officers are "not so intimately related to the public interest as to mandate performance by government employees." Has the recent contractor gouging during the global war on terrorism by Halliburton and its subsidiary Brown and Root-not to mention related greed displayed by WorldCom, Enron, Adelphia, Tyco and others-taught us nothing? Profit at the price of national security just isn't worth the cost.

The Immigration officers and others in terrorist-prevention roles now targeted for privatization, are performing core, law enforcement functions. Anyone familiar with the history of the last 9/11 knows that holes in our Immigration safety net allowed terrorists to accomplish their foul ends. Privatization will only widen those holes, which have never been properly sealed. Taking the badges from these unappreciated heroes will neither save money nor make America safer-it will do the opposite on both counts. The day after 9/11 Redux, the Patriot Act will look like liberal excess. America will have the inverse reaction to that of Spain after that country's tragic al Qaeda attack on March 11, 2004. While Americans are picking up the pieces the day after the next 9/11, chump Al Qaeda operatives will be busy sending thank-you cards to the privatizers and their DHS toadies.

About The Author

J. Michael Brower is an officer in the Vermont Air Guard, an immigration officer in the DHS' Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and a union steward. The views represented in this article are his own.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.