Concerning Military Contractors

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 10 months ago

So I spent most of the weekend with several Marines (not an uncommon occurrence), one of whom isn’t re-enlisting and has been trained extensively as Scout Sniper and Force Recon.  What are his intentions, you ask?  Military contractor.  It doesn’t matter which one, DynCorp, Aegis, or what was once Blackwater.  They’re all the same, in my estimation.  They pay more for services, they issue better body armor, they issue better weapons, and they do little to no real training of their hires.  They rely on the training done by the U.S. military.

Regardless of what one might think, the use of military contractors is still ongoing in Iraq, and increasing in Afghanistan to the point that they are being used to conduct force protection at some Forward Operating Bases.  This all raises several important observations.

The Captain’s Journal isn’t opposed to the use of military contractors for the normal reasons.  We have no moral objection to their existence, and similar to their pay scale and outfitting, we believe that the U.S. military should be given the best weapons and gear.

But the cost of recruiting and training Marines (who have deployed multiple times) is astronomical, and the military contractors get the benefit of that investment.  So the U.S. pays to recruit them, pays to train them, pays to deploy them and gain combat experience, and then pays a much higher rate to hire them as military contractors when they leave the service because we refuse to fund the U.S. military so that they can retain its own warriors because of budgetary constraints within the Congress.

It is stupid in the superlative degree, and much more costly in the long run.  It is also very destructive of morale in the U.S. military.  Is my life not worth it, they ask?  Larger pay raises are being called for in 2010, but even these pay raises are a pittance compared to what is required to retain the best, and what – in the long run – would make the U.S. military more cost effective.

The very existence of military contractors is evidence against the decision-making in Washington and in favor of larger pay increases for the military.  The bean-counters be damned, there is a better way to do things.

  • Ken_K

    Oh come now. Military brass and upper level bureaucrats have been doing the exact same thing for years. And now that the enlisted types are able to cash in it’s somehow wrong? Nonsense. Why shouldn’t I retire and install communications networks for mil contractors for three times the money? Generals and DoD big-shots do it all the time.

  • Herschel Smith

    Oh please. I don’t write for dolts. Learn to read smarter.

    I didn’t say that it was wrong. The focus wasn’t on the fact that he opted out to take advantage of what he could get. The problem is that it’s a dumb way for the military to do business, and that the active duty boys deserve better.

  • Ken_K

    And that’s news? The US military always does business that way. Nothing new there.

  • Herschel Smith

    Well, on that we agree.

    Update: Actually, the Congress is more to blame than the military, but if Congress won’t allocate the appropriate resources for military pay and weapons systems, the military shouldn’t fill the gap by hiring contractors to protect FOBs. My philosophy is that people should have to feel the affects of their decisions. That’s the way they learn.

  • stevel

    I have to agree with Ken_K on this one. I find the flag officers and SES taking jobs with the big defense contractors causes lot more harm in the long run, both to nation and to our soldiers. Far to often the procurement system is gamed toward contract awards based on relationships rather than best value to taxpayer or the soldiers using the equipment.

  • Herschel Smith

    Perhaps so, but still not the subject of the article. The original subject was the detriment to troop morale and fiduciary responsibility of the hiring of highly paid contractors when we can pay our own more and retain them.

  • Starbuck

    This is absolutely correct. Soldiers ask “Where’s the justice in staying in the military, when you see these contractors”? Look at the following vignettes:

    1.) I have a Soldier with a newborn kid and makes maybe $30,000 a year working in the IT field, and he won’t re-enlist. Instead, he’s looking at a contractor job because, for the same work, they pay over $100,000/yr. You can quit your job at any time, too–there’s no stop loss that I know of in the contractor community.

    2.) Sometimes, I’ve seen Black Hawk crew chiefs kicked out of the Army for DUIs or weight problems, and the very next week, they’re in civilian clothes, long-haired and bearded, doing the exact same job, working on the same aircraft, for more money. You hear the leadership say “Specialist so-and-so really wishes he were back and uniform”, and then you’ll hear the rest of the crowd chuckle. Where’s the justice when the bottom of the barrel can get a good job as a contractor?

    3.) Like working on aircraft? Like making six figures a year? Hate picking up rocks, standing in formation, saluting, cutting your hair, doing PT, and everything else that goes along with being in the Army? Well, do we have the job for you…

  • stevel

    I’ve been on both sides of this divide. Wore the uniform for 4-years of active duty many years ago. Have been working as a DoD contractor since 1985. Issue comes down to: some jobs are best done by active duty military, some by civil servants and some by contractors.

    As stated, training and equipping a soldier is expensive. Outsourcing jobs that should be done by active duty military is just plain stupid. Don’t blame the contractor, it was the fools who didn’t plan and resource for the “Army we need” that are to blame.

    At the same time, the military trying to compete with industry for high priced IT folks is also silly. The number of IT jobs that are best done by active duty military is very small. Most military IT can be done by civil servants or contractors. Active duty military should concentrate on the jobs required on “tooth” side of the tooth-to-tail ratio. Use civil servants and contractors to fill out the “tail”.

    Starbuck: Calling contractors bottom of the barrel is really uncalled for. In addition to smearing many fine people with this slander it is also patently untrue. Contractors can be fired, remember.

  • Herschel Smith


    I think you’re still missing the point. This article has never been, is not currently, and never will be an indictment of those Soldiers and Marines who decide that they want to make more money. The point is that we need to retain them in the first place. As for the “fools” who didn’t plan for the Army we need, I agree, but only to a point. The real culprits are those who make policy based on politics and money, who decided many years ago that we could do with much less in the middle of two wars. The Army and Marines can only do what they can do with the resources allocated to them. They can’t wave a magic wand and make troops suddenly appear out of thin air. Congress has to allocate dollars.

You are currently reading "Concerning Military Contractors", entry #2619 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Department of Defense,Marine Corps,Obama Administration,Policy,Politics and was published April 5th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

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