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Whoops: Estimate on number of DHS contract employees off by 100,000 or so

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Like a lot of reporters, I can’t claim arithmetic as one of my stronger skill sets. But I feel a bit better about my math chops after reading that the Department of Homeland Security recently had to correct a six-figure goof related to the number of DHS contract employees.

The admission comes in a questionnaire from Rafael Borras, nominated to become the department’s under secretary for management, to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In January, DHS quietly informed Congress that the original estimate for the size of its contract staff—developed, of course, by a contractor—was overstated by at least 100,000. So, instead of 210,000, the true figure is presumably 110,000 or less.

In the questionnaire, Borras attributed the mistake to a faulty algorithm used by Virginia-based consulting firm LMI that was later uncovered by a departmental working group.

No word yet, though, on exactly what the right figure is. Under instructions issued last fall by the Office of Management and Budget, service contractors are eventually supposed to say how many workers they’re actually employing, Borras wrote.

“We expect to obtain a viable number for contractor work-year equivalents when the OMB process  .  .  . is fully in place later in 2011.”

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