CNAS Senior Fellow Richard Fontaine testified on the problems associated with contracting in conflicts and areas for reform before the U.S. Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The U.S. government and its contract employees have been thrust together as partners in a shared endeavor, the scale, cost and duration have taken nearly all observers by surprise. Private contractors now represent an enduring feature of American conflicts, stabilization operations and reconstruction efforts. In light of changes in business practices, the provision of government service and the character of modern warfare, this surprising circumstance is unlikely to change. The reality is that America’s reliance on private contractors is not likely to fade, and it is time for the United States to adapt to this new way of war.
Nine years after America’s initial engagement in Afghanistan, and seven years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq – and with continuing American commitments and interests across the globe – action is long overdue. America’s national security policy demand new ways of organizing, managing and overseeing the use of private contractors in overseas engagements. It requires new standards and new levels of oversight at home. It means thinking hard about what tasks should be outsourced and which should not. And it entails a greater understanding by policymakers and the American public of the role that the private sector has come to play in current and future engagements.
This testimony aims to draw together the most salient issues surrounding the use of contractors in American conflicts and chart a path forward. Taken together, the recommendations outlined above would reform, rationalize and improve the process of employing private contractors in ES&R roles. The government, the military, the contracting community and ultimately the American people will benefit from reform of the ES&R contracting system that ensures the private sector’s role in American engagements aligns firmly with our nation’s interests and values.