Pentagon Has No Idea What 108,000 Contractors Are Doing

Photo: AP Photo/Gervasio Sanchez
By DAVID FRANCIS, The Fiscal Times June 3, 2013

The number of contractors working in Afghanistan now vastly outnumbers American troops stationed there, according to a Congressional Research Service report. CRS, along with the Government Accountability Office, also determined that the Pentagon is unable to properly document the work these contractors are doing. And the information DOD is receiving is often unreliable and inaccurate.

According to CRS, there are now 108,000 private workers in Afghanistan, a workforce that dwarfs the 65,700 American troops still stationed there. That means there are 1.6 contractors for every American soldier in Afghanistan. This is an increase from last month, when The Fiscal Times reported that there were 1.4 contractors per American soldier.

Given the size of the private forces, it’s not surprising that CRS found that in recent years, the Defense Department spent more than any other agency to support contractor work.

“Over the last six fiscal years, DOD obligations for contracts performed in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of operation were approximately $160 billion and exceeded total contract obligations of any other U.S. federal agency,” CRS found. Continue reading “Pentagon Has No Idea What 108,000 Contractors Are Doing”

Are Pentagon Civilians Really Behind the Pentagon’s Money Woes?

Are Pentagon Civilians Really Behind the Pentagon’s Money Woes?

By June 04, 2013On Monday, 25 defense analysts from several think tanks announced that they agree on three areas in U.S. military spending where money can be saved: closing down unnecessary military bases and facilities, reforming military compensation, and shrinking the number of Department of Defense civilian employees.

Justifying the last point, the analysts wrote to the Pentagon‘s civilian leaders and lawmakers on Capitol Hill that:

From 2001 to 2012, the active duty military grew by just 3.4 percent. Yet over the same timeframe the number of civilian defense employees grew by 17 percent, an increase five times greater than the armed forces.

Sounds bad, right? Sounds like the Defense Department’s civilian workforce is out of control? Wrong.

The problem with the analysts’ letter is the baseline they use. They picked the period when the Pentagon’s civilian workforce was the smallest it has been since at least 1981. The number of Pentagon civilians hovered around 1.1 million throughout the 1980s.

During the 1990s, the Defense Department’s civilian workforce shrunk from 1 million in 1990 to 649,000 in 2002, according to White House data. Those 350,000 civilians represented the bulk of federal civilian jobs lost during the 1990s, thanks largely to the Federal Workforce Restructuring Act of 1994, but also to reduced Pentagon expenditures as the Cold War drew to a close. Continue reading “Are Pentagon Civilians Really Behind the Pentagon’s Money Woes?”

Sequestration, Defense, and the EPA

Sequestration, Defense, and the EPA

The fiscal cliff looms. Part of that cliff is “sequestration“: the political agreement, enacted into law, to automatically cut federal spending across the board by $1.2 trillion over ten years, starting with $109 billion next year. Half the cuts would be in defense, half in domestic spending. These mindless cuts, which nearly all of Congress acknowledges as damaging, would go into effect on January 2nd if Congress fails to reach agreement on an alternative.

Shockingly, Congressional Republicans want an even worse outcome—increases in defense spending along with more than double the sequestration cuts in domestic spending to make up the difference. They are particularly gunning for elimination of clean air, clean water, and most other programs run by the EPA. Congressional Democrats want a more balanced approach with at least some of the deficit reduction coming from tax increases on the wealthy, and fewer domestic cuts. Yet the Democrats have failed to unite behind any significant cuts in military spending.

Few realize that, even beyond spending for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, base defense spending rose over 77% in the last decade .* Obama‘s much maligned “defense cuts” amount to less than 1% in base military spending from 2012 to 2013. Looking forward, our military spending needs to be rolled back much more, not less, than sequestration would require. And we need to protect the EPA and reinvigorate federal programs that help to stave off global warming and environmental disaster.

Fact checking the third presidential debate

Fact checking the third presidential debate

Posted by at 12:45 AM ET, 10/23/2012

(This is an expanded version of material that originally appeared in the Oct. 23 print edition of The Washington Post.)

Foreign policy is generally a difficult area to fact check — differences can be more of opinions than numbers — but that did not stop President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney from making questionable claims.

“Just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now…. You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day.”

— Obama

“There was an effort on the part of the president to have a status of forces agreement, and I concurred in that, and said that we should have some number of troops that stayed on. That was something I concurred with.”

— Romney Continue reading “Fact checking the third presidential debate”

Not in Romney speech: Afghanistan, Social Security

Not in Romney speech: Afghanistan, Social Security

LAURIE KELLMAN | August 31, 2012 08:49 AM EST |

WASHINGTON — Social Security. Medicare. Iraq. Afghanistan. Illegal immigration.

They’re all costly to taxpayers and the next president presumably will have to address them to one degree or another. Yet GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney made no mention of those issues Thursday in his wide-ranging acceptance speech that closed the Republican National Convention.

The address was Romney’s most sweeping attempt yet to outline the case for his candidacy. It was no time to get into the nitty-gritty of federal budgeting and solutions to the nation’s ills. But Romney did find ways to talk about an array of other issues, some of them sensitive for him personally and politically.

Romney did, for example, pledge to “protect the sanctity of life,” a reference to abortion, even though there are clear differences on the issue between him and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. He referred to his family as Mormons, a rarity for a candidate who typically refers to his religion as “my faith.” And Romney even showed emotion, which he seldom does in public, when he spoke of longing to wake up again with a pile of children in the bedroom he shares with wife Ann. Continue reading “Not in Romney speech: Afghanistan, Social Security”