Even as the active American military presence in the Persian Gulf region seems to be winding down, DynCorp International received a major War Reserve Materiel (WRM) contract worth over $26 million.
Most of the work will be performed in Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. DynCorp has been doing WRM work since 2000, and the company outbid five other firms to win this contract. Most of the work involves logistical support for USAF elements in the region, in addition to similar support for GCC assets; some of the work also involves construction, renovation, repair, and maintenance at existing DoD facilities. No details were released, but according to the company, their previous WRM contracts have involved “outload and reconstitution of pre-positioned assets including expeditionary airfield resources, aerospace ground equipment, air base operability equipment, mobility readiness spares packages and peacetime operating stocks.”
The Air Force maintains three sprawling bases in GCC countries, along with numerous other smaller facilities.
Contractors in Support Roles
Traditionally, military contractors exclusively performed support roles, so WRM work was the lifeblood of most firms. In 1893, largely to eliminate government use of violent “strikebusters,” President Benjamin Harrison signed the Anti-Pinkerton Act. Generations interpreted this one-sentence law as banning government employment or use of military or para-military contractors.
Overseas contractors served as cooks, mechanics, construction workers, communications specialists, and other support roles. Until the Cold War era, the only sizeable American military bases on foreign soil were in the Philippines, the Panama Canal Zone, and a few other pockets, and regular servicemembers from a volunteer army were more than sufficient to maintain security. But after World War II and the Korean War, there was considerable sentiment in the United States to downsize the military even as the American mission abroad was expanding into the Pacific Rim and elsewhere.
In a 1980 letter, the General Accounting Office relied on an obscure footnote in a U.S. appeals court case to reinterpret the Anti-Pinkerton Act. This reinterpretation opened the door for armed contractor use.
Contractors in Iraq/Afghanistan
Now that the tumultuous Arab Spring of 2010-2012 has subsided, the GCC countries are perhaps the most stable American allies in the MENA (Middle East-North Africa) area. Their proximity to Iran and Iraq, and their relative proximity to Afghanistan, make them even more valuable. So, it is critical to keep American military facilities located there in battle-ready condition.
The pressure to “bring the boys home” did not end in the early Cold War period, and military brass must often answer uncomfortable questions about troop deployment. However, as one observer said, a war does not end simply because one side stops fighting. The military must use contractors in these areas, and that includes Iraq and Afghanistan.
Compensation for Injured Contractors
About the time that the U.S. overseas presence started to expand, Congress foresaw the need for a system that reimburses injured contractors for their lost wages and medical expenses, and the Defense Base Act was born.
Both paid workers and unpaid volunteers may qualify under the DBA. To be eligible for benefits, victims must:
- Suffer Injury: The injury could be a trauma wound, like a gunshot wound, or an occupational disease, like respiratory distress due to burn pit exposure.
- War Zone: This phrase is broadly defined and is in fact almost self-fulfilling. If the DoD maintains a presence at the location, that is normally sufficient to consider it a war hazard area under the DBA.
- Related to Occupation: The injury does not necessarily have to occur at work during working hours. In fact, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that a contractor who was injured at the barracks may be eligible for DBA compensation.
Any contractor serving at the behest of a government agency, as well as some sympathetic foreign governments, is likewise eligible.
Victims usually receive two-thirds of their Average Weekly Wage during their recovery. The calculation goes beyond looking at the previous year’s gross income and dividing by 52. For one thing, there is a significant difference in salary between a truck driver in Iraq and a truck driver in Iowa; for another thing, the AWW usually includes noncash and irregular compensation, like housing allowance and performance bonuses.
Victims who cannot recover and return to their former job and salary, can receive benefits, potentially for the rest of their lives. Calculations vary so it is necessary to consult with a qualified DBA attorney.
As for medical bills, the DBA pays for all medical care from start to finish, and all related costs, and victims do not have to make up the difference if any covered charges are unpaid. An injured worker has the right to select his choice of physician.
Contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, & Frankel for more information about DBA procedure.