AUGUST 24, 2009
Despite Surge in
By AUGUST COLE
The number of military contractors in
The ranks of military contractors in
The military requires contractors for essential functions ranging from supplying food and laundry services to guarding convoys and even military bases -- functions that were once performed by military personnel but have been outsourced so a slimmed-down military can focus more on battle-related tasks.
The Obama administration has sought to reduce its reliance on military contractors, worried that the Pentagon was ceding too much power to outside companies, failing to rein in costs and not achieving desired results.
President Obama has repeatedly called defense contractors to task since taking office. "In
In April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced plans to hire 30,000 civilian officials during to cut the percentage of contractors in the Pentagon's own work force, and last month he told an audience of soldiers that contractor use overseas needed better controls.
Military contractors' personnel for a time outnumbered
"Because of the surge, we're trying to get ahead of the troops," said Gary Motsek, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Program Support, who helps oversee the Pentagon's battlefield contractor efforts. "So we're pushing contractors in place, doing it as fast as we can, and trying to be responsible about it."
The heavy reliance on contractors in
"For a sustained fight like our current commitments, the U.S. military can't go to war without contractors on the battlefield," said Steven Arnold, a former Army general and retired executive at logistics specialists Ecolog USA and KBR Inc. KBR was formerly owned by Halliburton Co. He added, "For that matter, neither can NATO."
That poses a challenge for military planners who must keep tabs on tens of thousands of people who are crucial to their operations yet are civilians outside the chain of command.
In Congress, there's a particular concern about security contractors who might upset diplomatic and military relationships. "We've had incidents when force has been used, we believe, improperly against citizens by contractors," said Sen. Carl Levin, the
Many contractors in
The reliance on contractors has prompted a shift in the defense industry, sending more money to logistics and construction companies that can perform everything from basic functions to project engineering.
A recent contract is worth up to $15 billion to two firms, DynCorp International Inc. and Fluor Corp., to build and support
Meanwhile, government auditors have repeatedly uncovered military mismanagement of contractors. The Wartime Contracting Commission reported finding during an April trip that the military had accepted a new headquarters building in
Coordination of security contractors, one of the most charged issues in
As well, he said more Defense Department civilians are being sent to oversee all types of contracts, and they will stay longer overseas than their predecessors did in
Video conferencing and other remote management tools had fallen short as a substitute. The Army is also adding hundreds of civilian contracting personnel, among the measures being put in place.
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Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A11
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