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Army’s Total Force: Civilians and Contractors.

A friend of mine in the military, who served recently in the “Eastern Theatre” (Afghanistan/Iraq), told me about a potential personnel crisis for the Army due to its extended mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. My friend said:

“The Army is increasingly turning over duties to civilian contractors, which would normally do routine duties (recruiting, mentoring, military advisers, maintenance, food service, security, etc.). Some even wear the same uniform, although they don’t get the same pay, no retirement points, just a civilian job in military uniform. If we counted our civilian hire into military numbers, I suspect the numbers would be approaching previous Desert Storm levels, although at a higher price. Lower pay for the personnel, although higher administrative costs.”

What my friend is pointing out may be part of the effects of some of the latest transformation of DoD policy. According to the 2006 issuance of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), Contractors and Civilians are critical to the 21st century warfighting capabilities. The QDR defined the “Total Force” as “Active Component, Reserve Component, civilians and contractors”. This may be nothing new as private companies have often supported military operations in the theatre. But many of us may not be aware that Civilians and Contractors are now factored in as part of our war plans. The Defense Instruction “Contractor Personnel Authorized to Accompany U.S. Armed Forces” (Oct 3, 2005) explains the implementation of this policy.

The Defense Acquisition University (DAU) has some interesting resources on this. Check out the training module, “CLC 112: Contractors Accompanying the Force” (recently modified October 16, 2006). It “…addresses the roles and responsibilities of the Commander in planning for the use of contractors authorized to accompany the U.S. armed forces, with a focus on the guidance in DoDI 3020.41, Contractor Personnel Authorized to Accompany the U.S. Armed Forces”.

Also on the DAU site is the paper “Contractors in the 21st Century “Combat Zone” by Richard L. Dunn for the Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise School of Public Policy, (uploaded to the DAU site on Wednesday, April 27, 2005). This resources is 117 pages and concludes

“The research found there had been a lag in updating policy and doctrine based on lessons learned and that on occasion a “business as usual” approach has decreased the efficiency of contracted contingency support. Serious deficiencies in organization and training for contingency contracting in support of joint operations persist. Contracting in a stressful environment has demonstrated the inadequacy of certain government contracting procedures.”

As the presence of Civilians and Contractors grows in military operations, especially in support of Iraq missions, how to find out about the policies governing their roles and expectations may become more important. For that, a very rich resource on this topic is the “Contractors on the Battlefield Resource Library” available on the Army Sustainment Command: “The purpose of this site is to accumulate and offer materials helpful to the resolution of legal issues arising from the in-theater use of contractor support to military operations.”

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