When our nation goes to war, contractors go with it. Contractors have become an enduring feature of modern American conflicts, and the United States cannot now engage in hostilities or in reconstruction and stabilization operations without them. At their peak, there were more contractors on the ground in Iraq than American troops in uniform and there are more contractors today in Afghanistan than there are U.S. troops on the ground.
However, while private security contractors (PSC) like Blackwater (now knows as Xe Services) have gotten the bulk of public and congressional attention, they only compromise about 5 percent of all contractors in hostile environments – this working paper, which is part of the CNAS project Contracting in Conflicts, addresses the other 95 percent. That 95 percent represents the vast majority of all the tasks carried out by U.S. contractors in theater, and it has been plagued by its own set of problems – including insufficient oversight, inadequate integration into operational planning, and ambiguous legal status. In order for the United States to adapt to the key role that contractors will play in future hostilities, it must establish new policies and rules of the road.
More from CNAS
Contracting in Combat Zones: Who Are Our Subcontractors?
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 Oversigh...
By Richard Fontaine
Are Private Security Contractors Performing Inherently Governmental Functions?
CNAS President Dr. John Nagl testified before the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan on the proper role and oversight of security contractors su...
By John A. Nagl
Contracting In Conflicts: The Path to Reform
In both Iraq and Afghanistan, there are currently more private contractors than U.S. troops on the ground. This report calls for the U.S. government to embark on a path of amb...
By John A. Nagl & Richard Fontaine
Flag on the Bag? Branding Foreign Assistance and the Struggle Against Violent Extremism
CNAS Vice President for Studies Dr. Kristin Lord testified before the House Armed Services Committee on whether the branding of U.S. foreign assistance has the potential to pu...
By Kristin M. Lord