Thursday 3 September 2009

Contractors and the shape of modern warfare

The Congressional Research Service report on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan , published this week by Steve Aftergood of Secrecy News, provides some fascinating material on the shape of modern warfare.
According to the report, as of March 2009, there were 68,197 Department of Defense (DOD) contractors in Afghanistan,compared to 52,300 uniformed personnel. Contractors therefore made up 57% of DOD’s workforce in Afghanistan. This apparently represents the highest recorded percentage of contractors used by DOD in any conflict in the history of the United States.
For Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 and the first half of FY2008, DOD obligated over $5 billion for contractors in Afghanistan. Whether or not these contractors represent value for money is unclear as it was not until the end of 2007 that DOD even began to collect data on contractors.
The report says that some analysts and DOD officials believe that the higher percentage of contractors in Afghanistan (compared, say, to Iraq, where the figure is around 47 per cent) is partially a result of contractors providing some services to the more than 30,000 international forces that are part of the International Security Assistance Force, and DOD’s expansion of facilities to support the anticipated military surge in Afghanistan.
The DOD does not give a breakdown of services that contractors provide in Afghanistan, with the exception of data on private security contractors. Nevertheless, the types of services are similar to those conducted in Iraq including: logistics, construction, linguist services, and transportation.
However, the percentage of contractors providing each service are different. For example, in March 2009, 16% of contractors in Afghanistan provide security compared to 10% of contractors in Iraq. DOD officials say they will start providing data regarding the breakdown of services in Afghanistan in the next quarterly census.
As of March 2009, of the approximately 68,000 contractors in Afghanistan, 9,378 are US
citizens, 7,043 are third-country nationals, and 51,776 are Afghans. Afghans therefore make up more than 75% of contractor personnel.This also means that there are almost half as many Afghans working as contractors for the US Army as there are in the Afghan army itself.

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