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.
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