The U.S. has about the same number of private contractors in Iraq as uniformed service members, a new congressional report says — a history-making ratio that presents problems in keeping track of all the workers and highlights the difficulties of supporting extended military operations without a larger force.
The Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan analytical arm of Congress, issued a report Monday that provides the first detailed accounting of the number of civilian contractors working in the Iraq theater, often doing jobs that historically have been military responsibilities, such as administration and logistics.
“The extent of DoD’s contracting is particularly evident during prolonged, large-scale operations — like those in Iraq — where there may not be enough military personnel available to provide logistics support,” says the report, “Contractors’ Support of U.S. Operations In Iraq.”
Most of the attention and controversy has centered on the estimated 30,000 people hired by the State Department to provide private security — a mission traditionally the responsibility of U.S. military forces in combat zones.
“Providing security for all personnel, including contractors, is an inescapable aspect of U.S. operations in Iraq because of the instability and violence in that country,” the report says.
Under current policy, the military provides security for contractors deploying with a combat force or directly supporting the military’s mission, but nonmilitary agencies of the U.S. government and other contractors, like those involved in reconstruction, use private security.
The presence of private security companies has caused some consternation in military circles because some private guards are earning up to $1,222 a day, compared to $160 to $190 earned in pay and benefits by a midgrade military member with similar skills.
However, the report says private security is not necessarily more expensive because the guards don’t have to be paid when they are not being used, which would not be case if 30,000 more service members were to replace the security contractors in the Iraq theater.
The military also would be expected to have enough troops so that they could rotate personnel in and out of the war zone. Private security companies often do pay employees between deployments, the report says.
Using contractors to support military operations is not new, the report says, although the current one-to-one ratio that has 190,000 private contractors in the Iraq theater “is at least 2.5 times higher than ... any other major U.S. conflict.”
However, the ratio is similar to the heavy use of contractors during U.S. military operations in the Balkans in the 1990s, the report says.