from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2009, Issue No. 71
September 1, 2009

Secrecy News Blog:


There are more Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan today than there are uniformed 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 DODís 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 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:


Some other new reports from the Congressional Research Service that have not previously been posted online include the following.

"United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Background and Policy Issues," July 30, 2009:

"Detection of Nuclear Weapons and Materials: Science, Technologies, Observations," August 4, 2009:

"The Global Economic Crisis: Impact on Sub-Saharan Africa and Global Policy Responses," August 25, 2009:

"Filling U.S. Senate Vacancies: Perspectives and Contemporary Developments," August 21, 2009:

"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell:' The Law and Military Policy on Same-Sex Behavior," August 14, 2009:

"Competition in Federal Contracting: An Overview of the Legal Requirements," August 20, 2009:

"Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Global Health Programs: FY2001-FY2010," August 21, 2009:

"The Unified Agenda: Implications for Rulemaking Transparency and Participation," July 20, 2009:


Robert Steele, the longtime proponent of a robust open source intelligence program, has a new web site which notably includes an archive of intelligence-policy related documents, several of which I had missed. The collection is accompanied by his own occasionally tart commentary:

The Open Society Institute (which supports the FAS Project on Government Secrecy) announces that it will host a Constitution Day event on September 15 in New York City featuring Daniel Ellsberg and John Dean who will discuss "the dangers of excessive government secrecy and the critical role played by whistleblowers in maintaining democratic values."

The U.S. Intelligence Community is still pondering its role in cybersecurity and the potential need for new legal authorities, DNI Dennis C. Blair told Congress in May. "We have more work to do in the Executive Branch before I can give you a good answer," he wrote in a newly released letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee.


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

See also "Reducing Government Secrecy: Finding What Works" by Steven Aftergood, Yale Law and Policy Review, vol. 27, no. 2, Spring 2009:

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