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

05.28.13 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

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