United States Government Accountability Office Washington, DC 20548
March 30, 2010
The Department of Defense (DOD) has long used contractors to provide supplies and services to deployed U.S. forces. However, the scale and scope of contract support the department relies on today in locations such as Iraq and Afghanistan have increased considerably from previous operations. According to DOD, in September 2009 the number of contractor personnel working for the department in Iraq and Afghanistan was about 218,000, with the number of contractors at times exceeding the number of military personnel in each country. By way of contrast, an estimated 9,200 contractor personnel supported military operations in the 1991 Gulf War. In Iraq and Afghanistan, contractors provide traditional logistical support, such as base operating support (food and housing) and maintaining weapons systems, but also nonlogistical support, such as providing intelligence analysts and interpreters who accompany military patrols. DOD expects to continue to rely heavily on contractors for future operations.
It is important to note that the increased use of contractors at deployed locations, which DOD refers to as operational contract support, is the result of thousands of individual decisions rather than comprehensive planning across the department.1 The department has acknowledged shortcomings in how the role of contractors was addressed in its planning for Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, the Secretary of Defense has stated that the growth of contractor services in Iraq in many respects happened without a coherent strategy.2
Our previous work has highlighted long-standing problems regarding the oversight and management of contractors supporting deployed forces and has identified the need to ensure that specific information on the use and roles of contract support to deployed forces is integrated into DOD’s plans
1 DOD defines operational contract support as the process of planning for and obtaining supplies, services, and construction from commercial sources in support of joint operations along with the associated contractor management functions.
2 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (Jan. 27, 2009).
GAO-10-472 Warfighter Support