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Monday, January 04, 2010

The Cost of Military Outsourcing

Reversing the outsourcing of military services will save billions (ending the wars would save even more):

Our view: Warfare, outsourced, adn.com: Congress has finally begun to reconsider the nation's heavy reliance on private contractors to fight our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Measured by personnel numbers, the country has outsourced almost half of our war-fighting effort. As of September, 242,000 contractors supported 280,000 military in the two war zones, according to the Congressional Research Service. In Afghanistan, contractors actually outnumber troops by 40,000.
That outsourcing was supposed to help save money and liberate soldiers from doing routine, safe tasks behind the battle lines, so they could concentrate on fighting.
Congress is realizing it hasn't always worked out that way. In fighting an insurgency, there are no battle lines, and no secure rear areas for contractors to work in.
In that dangerous environment, it takes a lot of money to compensate for the risk of death on the job. U.S. civilians driving supply trucks through hostile territory, for example, could earn triple or more the pay of the GI grunts riding in the seat beside them.
Last year, Congress concluded that each military contract worker cost $250,000 a year. As the Washington Post noted this month, Congress expects to save $44,000 per worker in the defense budget by "in-sourcing" about $5 billion worth of work now handled by contractors. ...
There will always be a role for private contractors in helping supply the country's military on the field of battle. As the Congressional Research Service noted, contractors have carried part of the nation's war effort dating as far back as the Revolutionary War.
But contracting out doesn't automatically guarantee the military will save money. When there are savings, they may come from cutting quality, rather than improving efficiency, so proper oversight is critical. Some jobs - like interrogating enemy suspects or pulling the trigger to kill people -- are just too important to outsource.
It's good to see Congress realize that when the nation is fighting to protect itself; only carefully limited functions are properly handed over to private business. ... Hiring contractors to handle some military logistics can help, but hiring them to wield weapons is asking for trouble.

But was it really about saving money? Or was it a way to ramp up the effective size of the fighting force without having to institute a draft or some other means of increase the size of the military (e.g. increasing pay substantially)? And perhaps sending a few, more than a few actually, bucks in certain directions?

Instituting a draft would not have been popular, at all, and would have undermined support for the war the Bush administration wanted to carry out. And increasing pay as much as would have been required was far too costly and had its own political problems. So while outsourcing was sold to the public as a means of saving money, the real intent was to use the private contractors for support services thereby freeing all of the military personnel previously involved in services to be used on the front lines. This effectively increased the size of the fighting force without increasing the size of the military (in terms of personnel). It wasn't about saving money. If the Bush administration wanted to avoid a substantial public backlash from using a draft or other means to increase personnel levels as much as planned, they had little choice but to obscure the expansion from the public by outsourcing many services previously carried out by military personnel.

    Posted by on Monday, January 4, 2010 at 09:00 PM in Budget Deficit, Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (52)


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