April 30th, 2010
07:37 PM ET

Security Brief: Contractors pay the price in Iraq

Military contractors are a fact of life in Iraq - doing everything from protecting diplomats and those involved in the reconstruction process to delivering supplies. 

In September of 2008, there were some 160,000 of them working for the Department of Defense alone, today that number is closer to 100.000. Just over 50,000 are Iraqi nationals - but nearly 28,000 are U.S. citizens. And their service comes at a high price. 

I'm not talking about the monetary cost of contracting out, (on which there has been a protracted debate over whether hiring them is more cost efficient than having troops do the same work.) I'm talking about the price that's paid in blood. 

The Special Inpector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) notes that 25 contractor deaths were reported in the first quarter of 2010, bringing the total number of contractors killed since the Department of Labor began keeping figures in March of 2003, to 1,471.

Compare that to a total of 3,899 U.S. military deaths since the start of the war and you begin to better understand the significant price contractors are paying.  In fact, according to SIGIR, In January of 2009, contractor deaths actually exceeded those of U.S. troops for the first time.

Those familiar with the debate like to argue that the U.S. has always relied on contractors, and they would be right, but the U.S. has never relied on hired help in conflict zones to the extent that is does today. 

SIGIR estimated contractor contributions to prior U.S. conflicts and found that the U.S. utilized the services of one contractor per 24 members of the military during World War I; to 1 to 7 in World War II; 1 to 5 in Vietnam, to a projected estimate of 1 contractor to every  0.7 members of the military in Iraq by this August.  In other words, more contractors than military personnel. And that estimate is CONSERVATIVE. 

It doesn't take into account contractors working on something called LOGCAP which is a fancy military acronym for logistics contracts – which include delivering food to bases – under which some 190,000 additional contractors are hard at work, and sometimes dying when doing the job.

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Filed under: Iraq • Security Brief • World
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. George Hanson

    These contractors have a choice...military do not.....the contractors are there for the money which is nothing to do with defending their country...you did not report how many Iraq civilians which includes women and children have been killed by trigger happy cowboy's 'contractors" as you call them and enjoy the safety of the miss guided American safety net

    May 2, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan

      If you want some reporting or sympathy on the toll Iraq has paid. Then visit an Iraqi website! Were still there because they are acting like animals. Were still there because THEY are the reason innocent women and children die. The brutal reality in war is that..... wait for it. PEOPLE of all ages DIE! Lets recap, Were in Iraq NOW because they need us there. Were there because they are blowing up their own masjids.

      I am a muslim american.

      This is not a war on Islam!

      May 17, 2010 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick James

      Every Iraqi or foreign fighter killed in Iraq were civilian, ...its called using terrorist tactics. Terrorist tactics include not wearing a uniform, and using 8 year old kids to come out on the road and spot & mark your vehicle, while simultaneously telling his MUZZIE daddy & uncle how many of you there are. When that little "Hajji" does this, he just became a combatant. That's right, you can blow his worthless brains out... and its all legal.... just ask the Geneva Convention. I guess the moral of this story is simple, ...you are a MORON.

      May 30, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jay

    As someone who has served in both capacities with 5 tours to the AO, we all have a choice. No one is forced to join the military either. Without the support of contractors the military would not be able to do its job; though personally I would've preferred if we went WWII style and just stayed over there until the job was done and not wasted so much money on these huge FOBs with beautiful dining facilities and X-boxes and laptops everywhere. But thats just my humble worthless opinion.

    May 3, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John

    Jay- As one who has also served, I would also prefer a WWII style, but it would have to do wtih not worrying about what the press thinks about every mission. In takes a lot for one to engage the enemy, even if shot at. WWII was a little different; we were on the move more, and didn't necessarily have a FOB to work out of. By no means am I arguing with you, just bringing another point forward. We need to quit worrying about what the rest of the world thinks, war is ugly and people die. When we leave there, they will go back to their tribal wars.... we can't stop that.

    May 4, 2010 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sha

    I have been in the military and been deployed 4 times to Iraq before getting out and now I am a government contractor working in Iraq. Yes there is a choice made to come over into a combat zone as a contractor. It may be the money that keeps me from leaving on the next aircraft smoking out of here. The real fact is contractors and military members alike put their lives at risk and on hold for their country. A country that affords many an opportunity to say whatever is on their mind, like you have. Maybe people should think twice before they state their opinion. Whether contractor or military, foreign or american it is still an ugly war that no one, military or civilian should pay the price for.

    May 4, 2010 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
    • cory

      I agree with you, Im in the air force right now and I just came back from Scania last year, I met some cool contractors there and they do work hard and risk their life as we do, and i respect all of them and if i had a chance i would get out and do it too... everyone has a choice!

      May 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Josh

    The average U.S. citizen has no clue what it is like to serve their country in the same capacity that people, civilian and military alike, do every day in different combat zones around the world. Every thing you do, day in and day out is a privilege that people fight for and give their lives for every day. Everything we do is a choice. I chose to serve my country. I don't regret it and never will. Give your opinion some weight, serve your country.

    May 4, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. Roger

    I appreicate reading about different subjects at our online news sites, but I would like to see today's journalists go a bit deeper than gathering statistics that are skewd to support their opinion and incredibly biased words like CONSERVATIVE. What this story, and other stories just like it, doesn't tell you is the majority of today's contractors have served in the armed forces in one capacity or another and many are retired military. What they continue to do is serve their country in a most admirable fashion alongside the brave men and women who wear the uniform. They should be lauded for the dedication and continued service, not ridiculed for their (arguable) high salaries and (perceived) bad choices. You don't have to be in uniform to sacrifice.

    May 4, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Keith

    These contractors have a choice...military do not.....the contractors are there for the money which is nothing to do with defending their country...you did not report how many Iraq civilians which includes women and children have been killed by trigger happy cowboy's 'contractors" as you call them and enjoy the safety of the miss guided American safety net
    The person that wrote this does not have a clue. No one forced anyone in the military to join the service. The mililtary is all voluntary if I remember correctly not to mention that I served 24 years before retiring from it. The vast majority of contractors were either in the military or are retires. Which means they did their time but have the skill sets to do the same jobs that military personnel. People that write this sort of crap are just ignorant or envious of contractors. I have personally seen people talk this ignorance about contractors only to become one themselves. I provide a great service with my 24 years of military experience. There are those that slip through the cracks but then again the military has those too not to mention every time you turn around there is an article about coruption and fraud from military members. Stop posting this B online and catagorizing people. If your in Iraq then Afghanistan you are there because you made the "CHOICE" to join the military (NOT DRAFTED). Everybody has a choice in life. I am sure my fellow military members would rather have someone here like me who has the knowledge and experience to make the right decision that in the end may save their lives on the battle field. Would you like to discuss MDMP or do you even know what that means? Get you facts straight and do you research.

    May 5, 2010 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. Max Headroom

    True, we have an all volunteer military. However, military members are compelled by oath and force of law to comply with the 'flavor of the month' notions that place them in harm's way. Contractor's can quit whenever as far as I can determine.

    May 5, 2010 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Don

    As both prior service military and a contractor I think its safe to say that none of the detractors posting here have ever been EITHER. In other words, all you weak in the knees armchair quarterbacks...until YOU grow a set and serve how's about you going back to your knitting and let the real men do the work you're too scared to do. Nothing makes me angrier then parasites who try to hide their cowardice behind a facade of self righteousness. You live free because better people then you paid, in blood, for your ability to do so then try to critique those who provided you with the freedom to do so. Man up or shut up...all I hear is the bleeting of sheep who somehow think they are equal to the shepards.

    May 5, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. Julie

    I don't have to be either to appreciate what sacrifices are made. There's some greed involved but I personally believe that the majority of contractors believe in what they're doing, understand the risks involved and are doing a service to their country and the country they're in.

    Some people, however, seem to feel that others don't have a right to disagree if they haven't been in the same situation.

    There's not a man alive that has borne a baby but I can guarantee that their love for the child is every bit as deep. I love this country, even if I haven't served in the armed forces. I help my country in other ways that I'm able and I don't feel badly about that. We all can't serve.

    So Don, I'm every bit your equal as a human being and when you place your life on a higher plane than others, it reveals an arrogance and ignorance of life.

    To all who do or have served, may God bless you and keep you. Your service is honored.

    May 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Enrique


    May 7, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Charlie

    Boy, this is getting rich (and I'm certainly not, unlike those contractors/mercenaries)! What are we going to do for those legions of contractors next? Make a "National Mercenaries Day"? Lay a fat government check made out to Halliburton/ManTech/Blackwater at the "Tomb of the Unknown Contractor?" Build a "National Beltway Bandit Memorial" on the National Mall?

    I retired after 21 years in uniform, BTW, There's a big difference between a member of the armed forces, and somebody just in it for a fat paycheck.

    May 8, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ken Caples

    If we would just let our military do their job and get this thing over with life would be much better and we would not need the large number of contractors. Things are now so far out of hand that our troops can not return fire unless they are being fired on by a weapon larger than 7.62 caliber. What a joke!

    May 8, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dennis

    To George Hanson.The military does have a choice.One can choose not to enlist in the U.S.Armed Forces.When I was ready to graduate from high school in 1970,a choice was made for you then.Either enlist or be drafted into the U.S. military.

    May 11, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
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