In 2019, private military contractors in places like Cuba will receive higher Basic Allowance for Housing payments than their counterparts in the U.S. military.
The extension is expected to cost some $1 billion over the next five years. The White House is not happy about the added expense, but it is doubtful that President Donald Trump will veto the entire appropriations bill over this issue. The entire BAH system is under review. Most servicemembers and contractors do not receive this money directly. Instead, it goes to the private company which manages the base or other housing. Some say that base housing has deteriorated so much after twenty-plus years of privatization that morale is suffering.
The annual program review in December 2018 could set policy for the future. “It could say whether we need tighter controls on contractors, or a whole different way of doing things,” remarked retired Air Force Col. Dan Merry.
How do I Get a Military Contractor Job?
A few private military contractors fit the stereotypical example of a paid fighter. Some of these individuals have military combat backgrounds. Even more of these people come from law enforcement or perhaps Military Police contingents.
In many anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism campaigns, soldiers are more like police officers. They often go from house to house interviewing people about potential enemy leaders. Furthermore, most people who have served know that most combat duty is more like guard duty. So, a police skill-set is highly prized.
However, most military contractors serve in support roles. The tooth to tail ratio (T3R) varies wildly in most field armies. It is usually around 20 to 1 or 10 to 1. The people in the “tail” are mechanics, cooks, administrators, morale officers, and so on. Military contractors often fill skilled positions, like chefs. Local laborers usually fill unskilled positions, such as busboys.
The same principle applies in many reconstruction projects. Construction managers are often contractors; construction workers are often local workers. This approach gives a needed boost to the local economy and helps neighbors feel invested in the project.
Aside from a willingness to work overseas in dangerous places for extended periods of time, most private military contractors just need passports and security clearances. Private military contractor employers sometimes provide these things. But if job-seekers already have them, they are more marketable.
Most people know how to get passports. But obtaining a security clearance is a bit more complex.
There are three levels: confidential, which is basically one day ahead of the New York Times, secret, and top secret. Most aspiring military contractors obtain confidential clearances. They are relatively easy to obtain and it is also fairly easy to upgrade an existing security clearance.
The application is exhaustive, to say the least. The DoD wants detailed information on employment and residential history for the last 10 years. “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” are not acceptable responses. There is some controversy as to whether any false statement is disqualifying or if the statement must be material.
During the subsequent background checks, most investigators look for red flags. Anything that raises loyalty questions is a good example. Items like close ties with foreign countries or membership in questionable organizations are good examples. Other red flags include criminal background, emotional stability, substance abuse, and financial problems. At the interview, candidates have a chance to explain these and other red flags. If the interviewer does not like the answers, the application will probably be denied.
The DoD occasionally grants temporary clearances after a few weeks. But nearly everyone must wait for permanent clearances, and that process usually takes about three months.
How Much do Private Military Contractors Make?
Once again, this answer varies. However, most contractors can expect to make at least two or three times what their servicemember counterparts earn for the same kind of work.
The government has never been known for its largesse. So, there are obviously some downsides to the much higher regular paychecks.
Like temporary workers in the private sector, military contractors have no health benefits. If your family needs health insurance, you probably do not want to be a military contractor. Sometimes, employers provide some limited benefits, such as a housing allowance or per diem allowance.
Unlike private sector temporary workers, military contractors have absolutely no job security. Many private employers view temp workers as long-term interviewees. If bosses like what they see, they ask the temporary worker to sign on permanently. That never happens among overseas contractors. Once the deployment ends, the contractor goes home. There may be another deployment on another contract later, but there are obviously no guarantees.
What Happens if Contractors Get Injured?
Injury compensation is another difference between civilian and military contractors. For civilians, workers’ compensation may or may not be available in these situations. But military contractors can always count on the Defense Base Act. Generally, if overseas contractors are hurt in any way that’s even remotely related to their job duties, the DBA applies. For example, some people exercise not only for their own physical fitness but because their job requires it.
Some other qualifications apply as well. For example, the victim must usually work for the DoD, State Department, or another part of the U.S. government.
Part of the benefits available include money for lost wages. The compensation guidelines usually depend on the type of injury:
- Temporary Total Disability: Most DBA injuries are TTDs. The victims are completely unable to work until they fully heal. Most of these victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of the disability.
- Temporary Partial Disability: A TPD is about the same thing. Victims must reduce their hours or work at light-duty jobs while they recover. Usually, the DBA pays two-thirds of the difference between the old and new incomes.
- Permanent Partial Disability: Some injuries are so extensive that there are permanent residual effects. For example, a shoulder might be so badly wounded that the victim may lose 50% of its use. PPD compensation usually depends on the nature and extent of disability.
- Permanent Total Disability: VA hospitals include many people who have lost limbs in service to their country. Once again, the amount of compensation in PTD cases usually depends on the nature and extent of disability. There also may be a question about what constitutes a “disability.” Office clerks can still do pretty well with artificial legs, but the same thing is not true for other military contractors.
The definition sometimes changes from time to time. Many victims move from the TTD category to the TPD category as they gradually recover. After a setback, they may move back to the TTD classification.
The DBA also provides compensation for medical bills. To learn more about how that works, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A.