Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fun Fact on Contracting War

I didn't know this.

CBO estimates that 190,000 private contractors were working in Iraq through US government contracts as of early 2008, with 20 percent of them US citizens, and the rest a combination of Iraqi nationals and foreigners. This squares with earlier estimates and reflects, according to CBO, a 1:1 military personnel/contractor ratio — the highest in American history, save the Balkans. The Balkan situation was set on a far less grander scale, however, a CBO spokesman said in a press briefing earlier today

Not a shock, but still an amazing ratio.

HT: The American Conservative


Grim said...

That report was interesting in a lot of respects.

One of them is this:

"A better comparison [than a simple salary comparison, of whether it costs more to hire contractors or use military servicemembers] would also reflect all types of personnel as well as nonlabor costs (such as vehicles and other equipment) that a security contractor includes in its bid.

"CBO performed such an analysis, comparing the costs of a private security contractor with those of a military alternative. That analysis indicates that the costs of the private contractor did not differ greatly from the costs of having a comparable military unit performing similar functions. During peacetime, however, the military unit would remain in the force structure and continue to accrue costs at a peacetime rate, whereas the private security contract would not have to be renewed (see Box 2)."

So, actually: we already have the civilian, expeditionary service capable of deploying with the military and doing COIN operations that SECDEF Gates and others have been calling for. It's just as big and well-funded as the military, at least when current operations demand it, as Sen. Obama has said he feels such a service should be.

It's just not a bureaucratic government agency: it's run through the market.

Dad29 said...

Thanks for that info.

There were two reasons for my interest in the story. 1) The ratio of support/combat is higher than I thought it would be (I surmised about 2 to 3); and the fact that contractors are able to operate with (apparent) relative safety in a hot zone...

Of course, I suppose that "hot zone" has varying definitions.

Grim said...

Well, we lost contractors while I was out there. They don't get reported in the news, because frankly, no one cares. Their families do, obviously, but the media isn't interested and neither is the American public.

Grim said...

By the same token, though, remember that even the military operates in relative safety. More than 90% of deployed troops come home perfectly safe. The combat loss rate at the worst part of the war was only around 2%, injuries and deaths combined.

Some units took far higher losses -- certain Marines in Fallujah and Ramadi, for example. (Not that only the infantry suffered; I knew a PAO who lost a leg while on dismounted patrol with his unit. He was, and doubtless still is, a good guy: a former Airborne Ranger who had moved to a supposedly safer field because he married a beautiful young lady. He still went out, though, to help out and to do his job of trying to tell the story of his soldiers. We also lost a lot of those we lost to IDF, which could kill anyone -- infantry, support, civilian or otherwise).