The Role of Contractors in Military Operations, and More from CRS

The Pentagon’s reliance on contractors to support military operations has now become so extensive that some argue it should be… even more extensive!

These advocates “believe that DOD should be prepared to effectively award and manage contracts at a moment’s notice, anywhere in the world, in unknown environments, and on a scale that may exceed the total contract obligations of any other federal agency,” according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

As of March 2013, there were approximately 108,000 DoD contractor personnel in Afghanistan, CRS reports, representing 62% of the total force.

“Contractors provide a wide range of services, from transportation, construction, and base support, to intelligence analysis and private security,” CRS notes. “The benefits of using contractors include freeing up uniformed personnel to conduct combat operations; providing expertise in specialized fields, such as linguistics or weapon systems maintenance; and providing a surge capability, quickly delivering critical support capabilities tailored to specific military needs.”

But “Just as the effective use of contractors can augment military capabilities, the ineffective use of contractors can prevent troops from receiving what they need, when they need it, and can lead to the wasteful spending of billions of dollars. Contractors can also compromise the credibility and effectiveness of the U.S. military and undermine operations, as many analysts believe have occurred in recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The new CRS report sifts through the implications of this situation, and proposes an oversight agenda for Congressional consideration.  See Department of Defense’s Use of Contractors to Support Military Operations: Background, Analysis, and Issues for Congress, May 17, 2013.

Other new and updated CRS reports that Congress has directed CRS not to release to the public include the following.

Compounded Drugs, May 23, 2013

Financial Stability Oversight Council: A Framework to Mitigate Systemic Risk, May 21, 2013

Federal Research and Development Funding: FY2014, May 23, 2013

SBA Assistance to Small Business Startups: Client Experiences and Program Impact, May 22, 2013

501(c)(4)s and Campaign Activity: Analysis Under Tax and Campaign Finance Laws, May 17, 2013

Restrictions on Itemized Tax Deductions: Policy Options and Analysis, May 21, 2013

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Lessons Learned and Issues for Policymakers, May 21, 2013

Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy, May 24, 2013

Congressional Primer on Major Disasters and Emergencies, May 24, 2013

Severe Thunderstorms and Tornadoes in the United States, May 22, 2013

5 thoughts on “The Role of Contractors in Military Operations, and More from CRS

  1. In WW2, there was the C.B.’s who performed infrastructure operations, quite well as I understand. There was also a war profiteer committee or commission that worked as well. We should return to doing those same things, especially today, with the U.S. Military operations as far flung as they are.

  2. America is solidly invested in war vis vis contract for a long time to come and its capability to create new enemies is assured. America’s love and obsession for war guarantees World War III (and its attendant movies for the entertainment value) which is a war that will be fought over dwindling resources e.g. ecological limiting factors. Lost in the war mongering and the glow is the possibility of ‘World Peace I’ the precedents and practices of which reside in the UN’s Declaration of Universal Human Rights. Instead of creating enemies of which America excels, America’s foreign policy might consider the investment in partnerships with member nations to help realize that all human rights are entitlements and goals for everyone on the planet. When is America going to end the war rhetoric where it not relevant – the “fight” against poverty; the “combat” against climate change; the “war” against terrorism etc? The idea of ‘World Peace I’ is there for the building if America finally chooses to grow up and participate.

  3. When is America going to end the war rhetoric where it not relevant – the “fight” against poverty; the “combat” against climate change; the “war” against terrorism etc?

    We don’t fight the war on poverty anymore. Haven’t for years. Declared victory and went home. The country determined poverty was a matter of choice, lack of virtue and bad personal decisions. And there is no combat against climate change. About half the country knows climate change is a hoax, a scientific conspiracy to hinder profit and business. Plus, you know, it’s anti-freedom.

    Look, expanded military contracting is the result of at least two or more national trends/quasi-religious beliefs. First, everything must and should be privatized because the private sector always does it better. This is part of the market society where everything, and I do mean everything, is regarded as a commodity. Privatization makes government smaller and anything that makes public sector employment smaller is saintly. Second, it redirects more taxpayer money into private sector hands. It is a steady revenue stream, as the military and its operations are most diligently protected from having to take an economic haircut. It is having to suffer some sequestration effects now. You can also look at contracting for the military as Keynesian jobs programs, but good ones. Bad Keynsian job programs are those in which public spending employs people for anything and everything else except military support at the local and federal level.

    All this because … freedom! Freedom to shop for military services. Stop hating us for our freedoms or perhaps we will have to sell some to you.

  4. Here is a rather interesting way of saying things, from the CRS report on DoD contracting:

    The report went on to state that over time, virtually all leaders came to realize how different expeditionary operations are from business as usual in the United States.

  5. George Smith:

    Like I suggested above, America is at war with everything from terrorism to climate change to poverty to cancer i.e. America is a culture of war and the private sector responsible for America’s killing machine (killing both enemies and innocents) does nothing more than to profit off America’s creation of enemies because enemies have a tendency to strike back. War is a matter of choice and commitment (see End of War by John Horgan) and freedom is not just for Americans but everyone on the planet which was a notion to put forth by FDR and the United Nations after World War II. Again, America has never seriously chosen ‘World Peace I’ e.g. the private sector is based on profit motive and so the private sector is effective but limited i.e. war and fear sell. The public sector often works on solutions to problems that the private sector neglects because there are solutions to problems that do not generate profit. If America finally chooses ‘World Peace I’ it will definitely not originate with our government due, in part, to the obstruction of Republicans who are invested in war and who suggest that global peace building efforts are something that America needs to apologize for. If ‘World Peace I’ is going to take off and the Obama Administration buys in, it is going to take some funding; some investment. Eventually, I would see a 100,000 private and public sector contracts in Afghanistan which are doing such efforts as building energy efficient schools or possibly changing Afghanistan’s agriculture from poppies to cotton. America spends excessive amounts of money on war and security and when the enemies that America creates strike back then America goes nuts – more war; more fear; more money wasted on war and fear. ‘World Peace I’ based on the realization of human rights for everyone ends war and fear. I would say ‘World Peace I’ is a pipe dream but it is not due to the efforts of such NGOs as the Carter Center and the Clinton Global Initiative.

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