More Contractors Than Troops Now Dying in U.S. Wars

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Well, here’s something you figured would happen eventually: during the first six months of this year, more U.S. contractors (232) than U.S. troops (195) were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Contractors supporting the war effort today are losing more lives than the U.S. military waging these wars,” Steven Schooner, co-director of the Government Procurement Law Program at The George Washington Law School, and Collin Swan, a student there, report.

They go on to note that while some 5,500 U.S. troops have died in the two wars, more than 2,000 contractors also have been killed — and the proportion of contractors is on the rise. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the fact that contractors now outnumber troops, 207,600 to 175,000, in the two war zones, according to this July report from the Congressional Research Service. The pair’s article — Contractors and the Ultimate Sacrifice — (emphasis in the original) is in the latest issue of Service Contractor magazine, a journal (surprise!) for government contractors (you can download the full September issue here; the article begins on pg. 16).

Schooner and Swan, Service Contractor, September 2010

“To the extent that the mainstream news media has failed to give these disturbing trends sufficient attention, the public remains largely ignorant of the extent of the contractor community’s sacrifice,” they write. “That’s a serious problem.”

Actually, the really serious problem is that this report is simply another data point in a series highlighting the disconnect between accountability and responsibility:

— First, Congress has adopted a strictly hands-off approach when it comes to declaring war. That’s one of its key responsibilities, according to the Constitution, but it hasn’t happened since World War II. In its ultimate abdication of power, CYAongress has subcontracted the entire effort out to the Executive Branch. That way, when things go wrong — as they always do in war — Congress can criticize the White House without getting spattered with too much blood.

— Secondly, with the abolition of the draft, only a tiny slice of America now wages this nation’s wars. The number commonly tossed around is that about 1 percent of the population has a family member involved in either of the two conflicts. So the citizenry has subcontracted the war out to a professional warrior class — the opposite of the citizen-soldiers who fought and beat the British in the American Revolution.

— Thirdly, today’s citizenry and Congress are borrowing huge sums of money to wage these wars, which — when all costs are tallied — are likely to be in the $3 trillion range. They have subcontracted the costs of paying for these conflicts to our children and grandchildren.

— Finally, contractors — hired guns — are doing most of the dying in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our military is subcontracting most of the casualties they would otherwise be suffering to a mercenary class.

This trend is not sustainable.