Barbara Shelly

Edward Snowden’s pay gap and why it matters

Updated: 2013-06-12T22:15:06Z

By Barbara Shelly

The Kansas City Star

Edward Snowden, the tipster who leaked the big news about government surveillance to journalists, said he put everything on the line, including a $200,000 salary with the Booz Allen contracting firm.

But Booz Allen, in announcing it was firing its rogue employee, said Snowden had only made $122,000.

Well, really, what difference does $78,000 make? Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been breaking most of the stories with Snowden’s help, said he didn’t think Snowden’s salary was “a central part of the story.”

But it matters in at least two major ways.

First, a discrepancy like that casts a shadow of doubt. If a source exaggerates his pay, what else might he be embellishing?

Then there’s the matter of the salary itself. Even the lower number, $122,000, is a fine salary for a 29-year-old high school dropout without a college degree.

While Snowden appears to be light in credentials for his position, his pay isn’t unusual in the intelligence contracting industry.

The Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, has told the Senate Committee on Homeland Security that contractors get paid 1.83 times what federal employees receive for the same work. Somebody with a federal contract can count on receiving twice as much as what somebody in the private sector would earn for basically the same skills and work.

Writer Hayes Brown addressed this topic recently on ThinkProgress.org:

“Many former government employees make the switch into private contracting, which can serve to drive up the amount they wind up costing the American taxpayer. A 2007 report to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that the average government employee working as an intelligence analyst cost $126,500, while the same work performed by a contractor would cost the government an average $250,000 including overhead.”

This is a point much overlooked in all of the carping about the government’s “bloated bureacracy and those “unelected bureaucrats.”

Downsizing government and holding back on decent pay for public employees doesn’t really save taxpayer money. In fact, it costs the taxpayers dearly.

And you’d better believe that the same people who are agitating to “shrink government” and promote free enterprise are working hand-in-hand with those who stand to profit mightily from government outsourcing.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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