Protections for federal employee whistleblowers and decisions regarding the mix of in-house versus contractor employees are among the areas most in need of changes in law, according to the Project on Government Oversight, a good-government group.

Prospects of increased contracting out have been raised by several recent developments, including the general hiring freeze and Trump administration plans to downsize and reorganize agencies, but a POGO report says that “proposals to reduce the federal workforce often forget to examine the costs of the ‘shadow workforce’ of contractors.

“While often justified as increasing efficiency and savings, shifting services from federal employees to contractors can significantly increase costs. Improved cost modeling and improved inventories of contracts for services will result in cost-saving budgetary and workforce decisions, ensure contractors are not performing inherently governmental functions, and improve military readiness and government operations,” it said.

It said that increased protections are needed for whistleblowers in positions designated as sensitive—even though they may not involve access to classified information—and for those in the intelligence community. A pilot program allowing whistleblowers to appeal MSPB decisions against them to any regional circuit court—rather than only to the Federal Circuit, which has issued a series of restrictive decisions over the years—should be made permanent, and the right to a jury trial in such cases should be guaranteed by law, it said.

Other recommendations included expanding the powers of agency IGs and the Office of Government Ethics.