Magazine article National Defense

Pentagon Still Undecided on Policies to Protect Contractors

Magazine article National Defense

Pentagon Still Undecided on Policies to Protect Contractors

Article excerpt

As contractors increasingly fall in the cross hairs of insurgents in Iraq, the Defuse Department is struggling to figure out how to account for them, provide for their security and, if necessary, rescue them.

"It is something that we are looking at from a legal standpoint ... from a policy standpoint, exactly what our responsibilities should be in current situations and in future wars," Jerry Jennings, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for prisoner of war and missing personnel affairs, told National Defense.

Personnel recovery is no longer limited to high-risk, specialized troops as was the case in the past, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "Isolated personnel now include U.S. military, contractors and other government civilians, as well as coalition partners."

Contractors are tempting "soft targets," said Marine Maj. Lance Landeche from the U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Who ultimately is responsible for contractor security is murky, Landeche said at the National Defense Industrial Association's personnel recovery conference.

CENTCOM, for example, doesn't oversee many contracts. Most of the contractors in Iraq are working for other military units and civilian agencies, all of which have varying approaches to providing for their contractors' security.

The U.S. government lacks a clear policy to ensure that contractors are protected when they support U.S. missions abroad in high-threat locations, according to an Institute of Defense Analysis report on interagency national personnel recovery architecture.

The kidnappings and beheadings of American contractors in Iraq have raised questions about the lack of government accountability for these contractors.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office reported that the military services lack consistent policies for contractor integration and protection.

The report cited a lack of continuity in how contractors are integrated into the plans of the military units or other agencies.

According to the IDA report, published in July, the contract language for Operation Iraqi Freedom was lifted directly from existing contracts in Kosovo, which is a more permissive and safe environment than Iraq. "These shortfalls disproportionately increased the potential for contractors to be captured, detained or isolated from U. …

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