When contractors pay the cost of war

A former Defense Department official struck a chord with many readers when he suggested that DOD should send out notices when contractor employees die in war zones, just as they do for military personnel.

The lack of notices suggests that contractors are seen as expendable or of little consequence, although they are vital to fulfilling operations, said Jacques Gansler, former undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and now the leader of the University of Maryland's Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise.

Many contractors say the problem is that they are seen as mercenaries who are only in it for the money. Here is what readers had to say. Their comments have been edited for length, clarity and style.

Good people
I worked recently in both Afghanistan and Iraq as a federal employee. I have met experienced and intelligent contractors who are former Marines, retired soldiers and just plain hardworking folks who are trying to survive in hard economics times. God bless the contractors who risk their lives and work in war zones!
— Beverly Deese

I can't believe that you folks think they are there strictly for monetary gain. Many of these men and women are former and retired military, and they understand the mission and are extremely loyal to their country. That's why they are there.
— Anonymous

I am disappointed and appalled that contractors killed in a war zone are not acknowledged and are treated as expendable because they are considered free — free of the political consequences that come with significant losses of military and civilians in a war zone.
— SR

On the other hand
Speaking as a contractor, it is not the government's responsibility to report on my demise if I am killed or even if I am injured while working in a combat zone. [The government] is responsible for noting the events surrounding the injury or death of one of its employees — i.e., soldiers. My employer has that responsibility, unless I am self-employed. If you want, amend the [Federal Acquisition Regulation] to acknowledge contractor casualties, to make it a requirement of the contract [to ensure] the employer accounts for its employees in a similar fashion [to what] the government does.
— Olde Sarge

I believe that it is wrong to hire contractors as cooks, military police and mechanics — all duties traditionally performed by (lower-paid) federal employees and soldiers. This seems like a political ploy to accomplish the mission without the related budget and recruiting issues that would arise if it were done properly. Accounting for them properly, along with showing comparative costs of doing things the traditional way, might wake up the public about the true costs of these engagements. So, yes, mourn them, but get rid of the redundant ones along with any $1,000 toilet seats that we might still be purchasing.
— kp

The last word
Perhaps the best response to this type of article is simply a link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism.
— Anonymous

About the Author

John S. Monroe is the editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week.

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