The draft Executive Order mandating that federal contractors declare donations as part of the competitive process is being reviled as unfair, unnecessary, unconstitutional, likely to create a corrupt culture in procurement, etc. Others celebrate it as a necessary level of transparency, a step in the right direction, a necessary move to combat corruption. Both are true and false, but neither really addresses the real issue; as long as politicians can be bought through the donor process, there will be corruption in procurement. By “bought” I don’t mean payoffs; I mean the contribution of funds to ensure that a preferred candidate will be elected. For federal contractors, it is insane from a taxpayer’s perspective that one can influence the decision makers; businesses don’t get to choose a Board Member at WalMart before competing to be a supplier, nor should this be the case here.
A body politic free from outside influence and corruption, making decisions on behalf of the people, by the people, and for the people, was a wonderful aspiration, and for the Founding Fathers, one that they believed achievable. If only they could see Washington, DC today. That the system is what it is and can’t be changed is not an argument I subscribe to. Every four years, we hear about reducing the influence of special interests, but when it comes to procurement, there is certainly a way to begin. Companies that wish to do business with the Federal Government must not participate in influencing the composition of the Executive or Legislature to whom they wish to contract to in any way.
Those who believe this is misguided – who state it as unachievable – are those with vested interests. Those vested interests are those both dependent upon these donations for election campaigns and those who rely on being a participant in elevating people to power as a means of facilitating a particular direction by government.
Security Debrief’s readers are those interested in Homeland Security: risk managers and operators responsible for thinking the unthinkable to be able to anticipate and mitigate the effects of nature, terrorists, unusual demands on the organs of State, and those challenges we cannot even imagine but whose effects we can indeed predict. Thinking the unthinkable is what we do, and being able to identify a better path, one where political considerations come second to the national and operational need, is important. Procurement free from politics is a worthy goal but should only be a first step in a much wider agenda that addresses removing special interest play as much as possible, possibly by limiting donations to a centrally funded level for all who can reach a certain level of support demonstrated by signatures.
In some manners politics are no different than Homeland Security – one has to be prepared to examine the situation and accept it for what it is rather than what one hopes it to be, and then make decisive decisions about how to achieve the desired result.