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Lawmakers peeved contractors like Edward Snowden pulled in six-figure salary

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Lawmakers on Tuesday cited the National Security Agency contractor who leaked top secret information about the agency's telecommunications surveillance program as a consequence of a bloated, expensive contract workforce.

"The story that's told is that he was a high-school dropout, that he didn't finish his military obligation, though he attempted, and dropped out of community college. And it's also reported that he's being paid in the range of $200,000 a year as a contract employee," Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

Mr. Durbin was referring to Edward Snowden, a former information technician for contracting firm Booz Allen Hamilton who admitted leaking information about NSA's Prism program. The company announced Tuesday that it had fired Mr. Snowden, who is reported to be in Hong Kong, and said he actually earned about $122,000 a year.

"I continue to be concerned about the cost of the contractor workforce, not just in the NSA but in the Department of Defense," said Mr. Durbin, chairman of the panel's defense subcommittee.

"The average contract employee costs two to three times as much as the average DOD civilian employee for performing similar work. According to DOD information from FY '10, contract employees comprised 22 percent of your department's workforce but accounted for 50 percent of its cost, $254 billion," he said to Defense Department representatives.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified at the hearing on the White House's fiscal 2014 defense budget request, which would cut $34 billion in defense expenditures, instead of $52 billion under the spending reduction plan known as sequestration.

"We are currently reviewing all contractors, all the contracts we have. We have no choice, for all the obvious reasons," Mr. Hagel said. "There will come a time, and it is now, where we're going to have to make some hard choices in the review of those."

Pentagon Comptroller Robert F. Hale, who also testified, acknowledged that the average contractor makes two or three times as much as a Pentagon civilian employee, and said the majority of a $37 billion cut from the 2013 defense budget is going to come from contractors.

"We're going to see a drop in contractors. I don't know yet how much because the year isn't over. But I think that it will be a sharp drop," Mr. Hale said.

He said Pentagon officials do not know how many contract employees worked for the Defense Department, but said they are asking all contractors to specify how many people they employ for each contract. He estimated the Pentagon has about 700,000 contract workers.

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