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Defense Contracting: Fact Versus Fiction

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By Ronald Bennett

I know, yuk, right?  With the War on Terror in its fifteenth year the term contractor has been drug through the mud due to innumerable incidents abroad, which have garnered the attention of the press.  Likewise, within the intelligence and military community, contractors are often seen as greedy and opportunistic individuals.  In most cases, this could not be further from the truth. While negative comments can be made regarding both federal employees and contractors, we thought it was important to explain the roles that contractors play for the government, and how critical they are to the defense of this nation.

The government…has drastically reduced hazard pay for almost all contractors, now offering only a 25% percent hazard differential rate for individuals in warzones…

Many assume that contractors only provide security or infrastructure support in mechanics, logistics, or other mission enhancement roles. This too, is far from the truth.  With most of the United States’ efforts to combat terror taking place abroad, the government has struggled to find both the necessarily volume of employees and the expertise to staff the growing needs overseas.  Therefore, a large portion of the work performed abroad is completed by contractors, this includes security operations, intelligence operations, logistical support, positions related to facility infrastructure and even kitchen staff.  The point being, there is little the U.S. government does not utilize contractors for and in most all cases, particularly in warzones, the contractors previously served in similar roles as federal employees or in the military, thus providing a wealth of experience.

Furthermore, another critical aspect to understand is the fact that within many federal agencies, it can adversely affect an officer’s career if they spend a significant portion of their time in a warzone.  Personnel offices aim for their cadre to be well rounded and performing only counterterrorism operations can, in some cases, hurt an individual’s career.   However, once an individual transitions to the private sector as a contractor, he or she can perform their same role, but remove the element of careerism and thus be able to spend ample time in an area of operations and subsequently become an expert for the organization.

They are rarely rewarded, frequently ridiculed, but always ready to serve

Some might say that I served as a contractor so my argument is biased, and to that I would argue I have served as both and such a statement could not be further from the truth.   Many staff officers within the intelligence community believe that contractors are paid significantly more and are not committed to the fight for the right reasons.  The opposite is true, while some individuals are paid a substantial fee, the lion share of contractor’s pay continues to fall at a dramatic rate.  The government in an effort to be frugal has drastically reduced hazard pay for almost all contractors, now offering only a 25% percent hazard differential rate for individuals in warzones.  The differential previously ranged between 50-70% for contractors serving in warzones, federal employees continue to earn 70% – as they should.  However, the decrease in rates for contractors did not stop at the drop in hazard differential.   Now, in most cases, hazard pay for contractors only applies for the first 40 hours of each week, indicating that said patriots are no longer in danger after they hit that mark, a purely absurd, and likely illegal, sentiment.  I say all this to demonstrate that despite the ridiculous rate reductions and attempt by the government to cram down their most willing and experienced individuals in conflict zones, these warriors continue to leave their families and fight the good fight.  They are rarely rewarded, frequently ridiculed, but always ready to serve.

Ronald Bennett is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and former Air Force veteran. Following his time in the Air Force, Bennett performed more than thirty deployments to the Middle East in order to perform covert action and counterterrorism operations for the United States Intelligence Community.

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