Use of Military Contractors Shrouds True Costs of War. Washington Wants It That Way, Study Says (excerpt)
(Source: Washington Post; published June 30, 2020)
By Alex Horton and Aaron Gregg
The rockets that fell on a military base in Iraq did not distinguish between soldiers and contractors. Nawres Hamid, a U.S. contractor working as an interpreter, was killed in the Dec. 27 attack by an Iranian-backed militia that also injured American troops, prompting retaliatory strikes that edged the United States and Iran closer to open conflict.
Hamid’s death illuminated the proliferation of contractors at U.S. bases worldwide over the past two decades, a presence that camouflages the true cost of war, according to a study on the commercialization of the U.S. war effort.
About 53,000 U.S. contractors were in the Middle East last year, compared with 35,000 U.S. troops, according to a study by Brown University. That ratio was 1 to 1 during the height of troop levels in Iraq in 2008. And since 2001, an estimated 8,000 contractors for U.S. companies have died on duty in the Middle East. That figure is 1,000 more than U.S. troops who have been killed.
Many of the contractors killed were foreign nationals. That has led to a double exploitation of using foreign workers for dangerous jobs and paying them less than U.S. employees earn, said Heidi Peltier, a Research Fellow at Boston University and part of Brown University’s Costs of War Project.
Click here for the full story, on the Washington Post website.
The Growth of the “Camo Economy” and the Commercialization of the Post-9/11 Wars
(Source: Brown University; issued June 30, 2020)
Since September 11, 2001, United States military spending has grown rapidly, as has the portion of that spending that pays for military contractors. These contracting companies engineer and manufacture equipment, build and repair infrastructure around the world, provide services like cafeterias and other facilities support, and even replace troops in many war zones.
In 2019, the Pentagon spent $370 billion on contracting – more than half the total defense budget of $676 billion and a whopping 164% higher than its spending on contractors in 2001.
Over nearly two decades, government officials, private companies, and conservative think tanks have sold the idea that military contractors are a cost reducer, yet in reality, the growth in military contracting—or what I call the “Camo Economy”—has actually increased the overall cost of this country’s military operations.
It’s a Camo Economy because the U.S. government has used the commercialization (often mislabeled “privatization”) of the military as camouflage, concealing the true financial and human costs of America’s post-9/11 wars. Regarding human costs, in 2019, there were 53,000 U.S. contractors compared to 35,000 U.S. troops in the Middle East.
Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, an estimated 8,000 U.S. contractors have died, in addition to around 7,000 U.S. troops.2
America’s post-9/11 wars, which the Costs of War project defines as U.S.-led military operations and other government programs around the world that have grown out of President George W. Bush's "Global War on Terror" and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
Click here for the full report (26 Pdf pages), on the Brown University website.