Contractors play big Iraq role

The military is increasingly dependent on contractors, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released last week, analyzing the role of contractors in Iraq. That is largely because of reductions in the military and greater emphasis on outsourcing duties that are not inherently governmental functions, according to the Professional Services Council, an industry trade group.

The CBO report sheds light on why there are as many private contractors as U.S. military personnel in the war zone.

The high ratio of private contractors to military personnel also reflects the United States’ effort to begin reconstructing Iraq now, instead of waiting until hostilities have subsided, according to the CBO report.

“Iraq is the first time in history the United States has taken on three simultaneous missions in the same geographic location — a military operation, a reconstruction effort and economic development,” said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel at the Professional Services Council.

Agencies have spent $85 billion in contracts in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003, according to the report, which outlines the cost, functions and numbers of personnel in Iraq. The CBO also compares the past and present use of contractors during military operations and reviews the associated legal issues.

The report “debunks much of the mythology around the cost and role of contractors supporting the current military, reconstruction and economic development efforts in Iraq,” Chvotkin said.

From 2003 to 2007, government bought services more than any other category of contract, the CBO found. In analyzing federal contract data, agencies obligated 80 percent of the $85 billion spent in Iraq on services contracts. Specifically, contractors offering administrative and management services received $26 billion.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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