The Number of Contractors in Iraq Continues to Rise

The Number of Contractors in Iraq Continues to RiseWhile troop levels have increased only slightly, the number of military contractors in Iraq has multiplied eightfold in only the last few months. 70% of the new contractors in the wartorn country are American nationals.

These figures include only Pentagon contractors; hundreds or thousands more are serving the State Department and other government agencies. The buildup began just about a year ago, when the DoD went on a hiring spree. Many of these positions were off the front lines and in administrative support areas. Congress has imposed a de facto limit on troop strength, but there is no similar limit for contractors, and this force can be expanded or contracted freely based solely on operational needs.

These contractors face serious and unexpected dangers; for example, militants kidnapped three General Dynamics contractors in Baghdad earlier this year, and they are still missing.

The Future of Military Contractors

Given the sudden buildup in Iraq, and the comments made by departing brass in Afghanistan, it appears that military contractors may remain in these MENA (Middle East North Africa) regions, in significant numbers, for the next several years or even longer. But, almost all wars eventually end. Will there still be a need for private contractors when the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars come to a close?

Given the sharp DoD budget decline anticipated in the near future (as much as $500 billion in the next ten years), the answer is a resounding “yes.” Even if their cash compensation is higher, 1099 contractors are much cheaper, from both a financial and non-financial standpoint, than W-2 employees, and this fact is especially true when comparing regular servicemembers and military contractors.

Whereas the government must expend vast amounts of time and money recruiting and training service members, military contractors are deployment-ready on day one. During their time in-country, contractors impose almost no administrative burden, beyond the monthly or bi-monthly payroll distribution; conversely, service members must be housed, fed, clothed, entertained, and otherwise taken care of.

When the deployment ends, military contractors are released and possibly never heard from again, unless an additional need arises. But, service members must be retained during their down time, while they receive the same level of pay and benefits as before. Looking even further down the road, military contractors are obviously not entitled to the generous pension benefits and medical care benefits that some service members enjoy.

So, where will tomorrow’s military contractors be deployed? The short answer is “anywhere the DoD needs them,” and some specific possible missions include:

  • Humanitarian Relief: Whether the disaster is natural, like a flood or earthquake, accidental, like a plant explosion or infrastructure failure, or intentional, like an interstate war or terrorist attack, the need for security may be even greater than the need for food, water, and other supplies.
  • Security Deterrence: Contractors could probably police Korea much more cost-effectively than the Eighth Army, and the same holds true for other potential problem areas.
  • Intelligence Gathering: Some servicemembers, especially in first response units, are lukewarm about missions that involve door-to-door sweeps and interrogations, but there are contractors who will gladly fill these roles.

For several decades, military contractors have been an integral part of the DoD’s response strategy, and there is little or no reason to believe that this role will diminish.

Compensation Available

Every one of these potential future missions involves significant risk, whether the contractors are security forces, construction workers, project supervisors, back-office workers, or anything else. When injuries occur, and they almost inevitably will, the Defense Base Act provides injured workers with Federal worker’s compensation insurance that pays for economic damages. In other words, victims do not have to prove liability to obtain cash benefits for:

  • Lost wages,
  • Medical bills,
  • Medical devices,
  • Prescription drugs,
  • Rehabilitative care, and
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses.

In most cases, victims can also obtain benefits in advance of future lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses.

For non-scheduled injuries, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other brain injuries, victims are generally entitled to two-thirds of their Average Weekly Wage (AWW) for the duration of the injury. For scheduled injuries, like broken bones and amputations, victims are eligible for a set amount of money after receiving payment as per the above for any permanent impairment they may have suffered.

In terms of medical bills, the insurance company typically pays providers directly according to a predetermined rate schedule, and injured victims are not responsible for any unpaid charges after the case settles.

Reach out to Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel today to learn more about the benefits available under the Defense Base Act, as well as what these benefits can mean for you and your future.