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The lessons learned from America’s reliance on military contractors in Afghanistan

An US contractor working with the 10th Mountain Division US Army keeps an eye on the surroundings standing against a wall at the provincial head Intelligence Office of the Afghan National Police in Ghazni city.
An US contractor working with the 10th Mountain Division US Army keeps an eye on the surroundings standing against a wall at the provincial head Intelligence Office of the Afghan National Police in Ghazni city.

2020 turned out to be a record year for government contractors. The federal government spent the most in its history on contracted goods and services. It’s also the fifth year in a row that spending increased.

In terms of signing those contracts, one federal department reigns supreme. In 2020, the Department of Defense awarded more money in federal contracts than all other government agencies combined. And one study found that nearly half of defense spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan went to private contractors.

Even after America’s complicated withdrawal from Afghanistan, congress approved the biggest defense spending bill in history.

We focus in on why we rely on for-profit defense businesses and how much money the government continues to throw their way.

This show is a part of our listener-suggested series. At the beginning of the year, we ask our listeners what topics they want to learn more about. This idea came to us from Leo in Tucson, Arizona.

 

Statement from Department of Defense spokesperson Jessica R. Maxwell:

“Our Nation has depended on contractors during contingency operations since the Revolutionary War.  While contracting for contingencies is not new, DoD’s use of contractors increased significantly over the last decade.  The nature, duration and complexity of DoD operations, coupled with force structure changes and limitations as well as advances in technology/weaponry have contributed to this increase.   Contracted personnel provide an adaptable mix of unique skills sets, local insight and staying power that a strictly military force cannot cultivate or resource for all scenarios.  Contracts can provide supplies and services while alleviating stress on our military capabilities, reducing military footprint, and increasing military availability.

Due to the Department’s increased reliance on contractors during contingency and other operations, in 2009 it established a program known as Operational Contract Support (OCS) as an enduring strategic capability.   OCS program management is essential to promote unity of effort, deliver benefits across all echelons and optimize contractor support to military operations.

Contractors are a critical component of the Total Force and must be integrated into military processes, planning, and functions.  They provide support to nearly all facets of military operations, from meal preparation, to fuel delivery, to maintenance of highly complex weapon systems.  The DoD carefully determines where and when to use contracted support.  In making that determination, the DoD considers the efficiency with which support can be provided by contractor personnel versus DoD personnel, the need for DoD personnel to perform inherently governmental functions, and other Total Force-mix related considerations.”

 

 

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