Contractors' Influence in War Zones
More than 300 audits have been performed on contracts in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003 and of the $450 billion that has been obligated to support operations in Iraq, roughly $78 billion has been awarded through 103,000 contracts, Defense Department officials told a Senate committee today.
The Defense Department does not track the total number of contractors it employs, but the tally is substantial. For example, there are more than 163,000 contractors working in Iraq and some 36,500 in Afghanistan -- about the same number of troops in those regions -- a senior defense official told Congress earlier this year, The Associated Press reported.
During the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) repeatedly pressed Defense Department officials about whether the Pentagon's reliance on private contractors has prevented the government from aggressively pursuing cases of fraud and abuse, and prosecuting individuals.
The security industry's enormous growth in Iraq and Afghanistan contracting has been facilitated by the U.S. military, which uses the 20,000 to 30,000 contractors to offset chronic troop shortages. Armed contractors, such as Blackwater (the subject of The Post's Steve Fainaru's award-winning stories on overseas contracting) protect all convoys transporting reconstruction material, including vehicles, weapons and ammunition for the Iraqi army and police.
Fainaru wrote about how security companies, out of public view, have boosted manpower, added expensive armor and stepped up evasive action as attacks in war zones increase.
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