LaborTalk for July 6, 2011

Will 155,000 Contractor Mercenaries Remain
On Pentagon Payroll in Iraq and Afghanistan?

By Harry Kelber

While there is heated debate about when and how many soldiers to bring home from Iraq and Afghanistan, there is hardly any discussion about what to do about the tens of thousands of military contractor personnel whom the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been keeping on the Pentagon payroll.

It will probably shock you to learn that, as of March 2011, there were more contractor personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan (155,000) than uniformed personnel (145,000). Contractors made up 52% .of DoD's work force in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to the Pentagon, 90,339 mercenaries were working for contractors In Afghanistan, compared with approximately 99,800 U.S. soldiers. They made up 48 percent of the total U.S. military in that war region at this time.

The American government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with a dozen private military contractors (PMCs), yet the exact amount is unknown, because the military has not fully accounted for it. We do know that the Department of Defense allocated about $33.9 billion on PMC contracts for the Afghanistan theater between 2005 and 2010. What about wages? The average salary is $141,166 (and that includes bonuses, overtime and danger pay.)

Will Mercenaries Remain on the Pentagon Payroil?

While the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to be winding down, the Pentagon has made no public announcement about what it intends to do about the tens of thousands of mercenaries it has employed in the two wars.

There is the strong suspicion that when U.S. troops finally return home, the defense contractors will take on their role as an occupying military force to maintain U.S. influence and authority in those two countries.

While a new agreement makes it clear that contractors are under the jurisdiction of the Iraq government, the Pentagon's hired mercenaries often act as though they are still under United States law, with little respect for Iraq authority. .

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If the Republicans and the Obama administration are looking for additional ways to make spending cuts, contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, with their massive payrolls, should be high on their list. The American people could certainly make good use of the billions of dollars in savings.

LaborTalk will be posted here on July 8, 2011 and on our two web sites and on

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