There are more Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan today than there are uniformed U.S. military personnel, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service. Not only that, the ratio of contractors to troops in Afghanistan is higher than in any prior military engagement in U.S. history.
“As of March 2009, there were 68,197 DOD contractors in Afghanistan, compared to 52,300 uniformed personnel. Contractors made up 57% of DOD’s workforce in Afghanistan. This apparently represented the highest recorded percentage of contractors used by DOD in any conflict in the history of the United States,” the CRS report (pdf) said. A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.
At a time when the deployment of U.S. forces in Afghanistan may be increased (or reduced), the CRS report casts a detailed and fairly nuanced spotlight on the role of defense contractors there. The report notes, for example, that more than 75% of the DoD contractor personnel in Afghanistan are local nationals. Only about 15% are U.S. citizens.
Contractors provide essential logistical, translation and other services, while offering increased flexibility. But they also pose management challenges in monitoring performance and preventing fraud. In the worst cases, “abuses and crimes committed by armed private security contractors and interrogators against local nationals may have undermined U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the CRS report noted. See “Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis,” August 13, 2009.