Is our private military bigger than our real military?

From the ever present AP:

In its first report to Congress, the Wartime Contracting Commission presents a bleak assessment of how tens of billions of dollars have been spent since 2001. The 111-page report, obtained by The Associated Press, documents poor management, weak oversight, and a failure to learn from past mistakes as recurring themes in wartime contracting.

The most ridiculous stat in the piece is about a little base called FOB Rustamiyah. (I spent a few days there about four years ago. Went on a patrol with Americans at night looking for IED’s. Patrol accidentally shot a civilian. Good times. Etc.)

At Rustamiyah, a seven-acre forward operating base turned over to the Iraqis in March, the military population plunged from 1,490 to 62 in just three months. During the same period, the contractor population dropped from 928 to 338, leaving more than five contractors for every service member.

So the report is highlighting the military’s “unprecedented” reliance on private contractors, some 240,000 of them employed by us in Iraq and Afghanistan. FOB Rustimiyah, with a 5 to 1 contractor to servicemember ratio, is the Absurdistan example. But what’s the normal ratio? Well, we have 50,000 or so troops in Afghanistan and 130,000 in Iraq, about 180,000 total. That gives us a contractor/GI ratio of 1.3 to 1. One point three contractors for each troop. A tad more private military than real military, in otherwords.

But another interesting number is just to add the contractors and the troops. Then you get 420,000 American funded ‘particular individuals’ in Iraq and Afghanistan. When you look it like that–the combining the wars–you start to border on Vietnam era troops levels, that half a million mark. (485,000 in 1967, 536,100 in 1968.)  There were private contractors in Vietnam, of course, but lots of the stuff contractors now do was still done by service members back then. If we weren’t privatizing so much of our military, the figures on how much manpower–ie, our real troop levels–we were sending to Iraq and Afghanistan would appear much larger.

Does focusing on the troops alone underplay our commitment? I think so. Maybe when we talk about troop levels, it might make sense to include the hundreds of thousands of civilians in our privately contracted army, too.


About michaelhastings

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One Response to Is our private military bigger than our real military?

  1. Ethan Porter says:

    any idea how many private contractors there were in Vietnam?

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