Military contractors are such an integral part of U.S. military forces that “most military operations will include contracted support,” a newly updated Pentagon manual explains.
In fact, “While some limited-duration operations, such as noncombatant evacuation operations, may use limited contracted support, all major operations will involve significant contracted support.”
Aside from their prominent role in logistics, contractors also provide linguist, signal and security services.
In some circumstances, contractors may even substitute for US military forces. “The use of contracted support as an alternative to deploying US forces may have other benefits, including minimizing the military footprint in the operational area, reducing force operational tempo, and improving domestic US political support or buy-in,” the manual said.
Contractors are considered indispensable, and they can sometimes be used to circumvent policy restrictions on military deployments. “The continual introduction of high-tech equipment, coupled with force structure and manning reductions, mission-specific force cap restrictions, and high operating tempo, means contracted support will augment military forces in most operations.”
Among the various types of military contractors are armed private security contractors (PSCs) that are used to guard personnel and facilities. “PSC-provided services, more than any other contracted service, can have a direct impact (sometimes a very negative impact) on civil-military aspects of the operation,” the Pentagon manual cautioned.
As a general matter, vigilant oversight is needed to ensure the integrity of the contracting process, since “the procurement of supplies and services in support of military operations can be prone to fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA), even more so in a foreign contingency where there are many contracts with local firms.” See Operational Contract Support, Joint Publication 4-10, March 4, 2019.