Private Contractors in Conflict Zones: The Good, the Bad, and the Strategic Impact

By Hammes, T. X. | Joint Force Quarterly, January 2011 | Go to article overview

Private Contractors in Conflict Zones: The Good, the Bad, and the Strategic Impact


Hammes, T. X., Joint Force Quarterly


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the use of contractors reached a level unprecedented in U.S. military operations. As of March 31, 2010, the United States deployed 175,000 troops and 207,000 contractors in the war zones. Contractors represented 50 percent of the Department of Defense (DOD) workforce in Iraq and 59 percent in Afghanistan. (1) These numbers include both armed and unarmed contractors. Thus, for the purposes of this article, the term contractor includes both armed and unarmed personnel unless otherwise specified. The presence of contractors on the battlefield is obviously not a new phenomenon but has dramatically increased from the ratio of 1 contractor to 55 military personnel in Vietnam to 1:1 in Iraq (2) and 1:43.1 in Afghanistan. (3)

This increase is the logical outcome of a series of decisions going back decades. Force structure reductions ranging from the post-Vietnam decisions that moved most Army logistics support elements to the Army Reserve and Guard (4) to the post-Cold War reduction that cut the Army from 18 to 10 divisions with corresponding cuts in support forces greatly reduced the Services' ability to support long-term operations. Next, a series of decisions in the 1990s led to the employment of contractors in the Balkans for tasks from traditional camp-building to the new concept of "force development" that saw MPRI training the Croatian army. Finally, the decision to invade Iraq with minimum forces left the United States with too few troops in-theater to deal with the disorder that resulted from the removal of Saddam. Thus, it is understandable that the immediate, unanticipated need for large numbers of logistics and security personnel, the shortage of such troops on Active duty, and the precedent for using contractors in the Balkans caused the Pentagon to turn to contractors to fill the immediate operational needs. However, the subsequent failure to conduct a careful analysis of the wisdom of using contractors is less understandable. The executive branch has conducted numerous investigations into fraud, waste, and corruption in the contracting process. Congress has held hearings and established the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the U.S. Government has not systematically explored the essential question: Does using contractors in a conflict zone make strategic sense?

This article explores that question. It examines the good, the bad, and the strategic impact of using contractors in conflict zones. It concludes with policy recommendations for the future employment of contractors and outlines additional actions needed to understand and cope with the rapidly expanding use of armed contractors worldwide.

The Good

Contractors provide a number of advantages over military personnel or civil servants--speed of deployment, continuity, reduction of troop requirements, reduction of military casualties, economic inputs to local economies, and, in some cases, executing tasks the military and civilian workforce simply cannot. This section examines each of these advantages in turn.

Speed of deployment--the ability to quickly mobilize and deploy large numbers of personnel--is particularly important when a plan fails to anticipate problems. Since the Pentagon had not planned to keep large numbers of troops in Afghanistan or Iraq for any period of time, it had not planned for the required logistics support. The Pentagon also failed to anticipate the requirement for large numbers of security personnel to protect all U.S. activities (including political and reconstruction activities) once the Afghan and Iraqi governments were toppled.

By tapping into databases, running job fairs in the United States, and contracting for labor from Third World companies, contractors were able to quickly recruit, process, and ship personnel to run base camps, drive trucks, and perform the hundreds of housekeeping chores required to maintain both combat forces and civil administrators spread across Iraq and Afghanistan. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Private Contractors in Conflict Zones: The Good, the Bad, and the Strategic Impact
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.