Waging War with Civilians

By Castillo, Lourdes A. | Aerospace Power Journal, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Waging War with Civilians


Castillo, Lourdes A., Aerospace Power Journal


Asking the Unanswered Questions

Editorial Abstract: When we properly consider war as Carl von Clausewitz did-as unique situations limited by numerous ambiguities-- how can we possibly write a contract for war? Yet, this is one of the challenges that comes from using more and more privatization to save costs in increasingly technocomplex operations. As Lt Col Lourdes Castillo points out, contractors are no longer restricted to acquisition and logistics but are found nearly everywhere-and their presence on the battlefield is a reality. This article, originally submitted to our Spanish edition, opens up many important questions about doctrine, the chain of command, and legal issues. For other insightful articles on this topic and, in particular, Col Steven J Zamparelli 's "Contractors on the Battlefield: What Have We Signed Up For?" see Issues and Strategy 2000, a special issue of Air Force Journal of Logistics. Using contractors in war is a crucial subject on which our services absolutely must focus more attention.

HOULD THE UNITED States consider using contractors to help the military wage war? This question no longer requires an answer. Contractors accompany the military into war zones and even into battle-that is a foregone conclusion. During the Gulf War, US contractors maintained equipment and provided technical expertise alongside deployed US military personnel; routinely flew on joint surveillance, target attack radar system aircraft;1 and even moved into forward areas inside Iraq and Kuwait with combat forces.2 Overall, ninety-two hundred contractors and fifty-two hundred civilians deployed to support 541,000 military personnel.' During Operation Just Cause, 82 contractors deployed to Panama to support aviation assets.4 In fact, civilian contractors have quietly taken part in such recent and varied military-run operations as those in Somalia, Macedonia, and Rwanda, as well as those occasioned by Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki and numerous other domestic and international natural disasters. They also have a long history of supporting the military. As far back as the Revolutionary War, Gen George Washington employed civilians to move and deliver military goods. Civilians performed logistics functions during both world wars, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as during most US-military-led humanitarian-aid missions.5 Currently, contract employees provide food service and other base-- support functions, both stateside and in front-line deployed locations throughout the world. They fulfill roles in construction, laundry service, security, communications, sanitation, and recreation, and work as maintainers and translators-and do so in steadily increasing numbers.6 During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, one in 50 Americans deployed in-theater was a civilian. By the time of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's peacekeeping operation in Bosnia, that number had grown to one in 10.7 The wave isn't coming-it's here. So today's pertinent question is, What is the best way to utilize contractors in combat? Although each of the US military services is actively trying to answer this extremely difficult, politically charged, and multifaceted question, the process produces many more questions than answers.

One must carefully examine such a dramatic change in fundamental military doctrine-replacing soldiers in combat with civilians-from every conceivable angle because the lives of America's fighting men and women are at stake. As was the case with the introduction of the tank and airplane into warfare, the emergence and development of any new military strategy of waging war bring with them new and unforeseeable dangers. According to Joint Publication 4-0, "Doctrine for Logistics Support of Joint Operations," "the warfighter's link to the contractor is through the contracting officer"-not the commander.8 One can group the many risks associated with replacing soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines with contractors into three main categories of questions: (1) How will using contractors affect mission accomplishment?

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