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Why Contractors?

I've either not been thinking enough or thinking too much, because today, all of those contractors in Iraq made sense. I wasn't sure whether to write it all down before I forgot, or start drinking beer until I forgot. Sadly, the beer in the house moved from the last apartment and is probably unfit to drink.


Manpower--reservists, guardsmen, and inactive ready reservists being called up, contractors--we are using all of these people now because of the first Gulf conflict, when the US chased Iraq out of Kuwait. Actually, it was the period immediately following, when the Congress looted the defense budget for the nonexistent "Peace Dividend."

CONUS bases got closed (and what happened to them is the finest example of greed I've seen in a long time), overseas bases closed, and entire Army units got disbanded and booted out of the military. Ships decommissioned at a furious rate, although the Navy just transferred its people and offered early retirement rather than wholesale discharges. Advancement dried up, and people were refused permission to reenlist. Good people, some of them.

The armed forces are already on a temporary force increase, and as soon as Congress thinks it's safe, those 100,000 troops are gone. As in, ta-ta, you did your duty and now you can leave, have a nice life somewhere else whether you wanted to stay in or not. Those contracted positions--the cooks, the convoy drivers and guards--each position is one less soldier that we're going to screw over when the job is done in Iraq. And I have to wonder if we even could carry out the mission without their support. Certainly, we couldn't without making troop deployments even longer, and that's not really viable. This article from September 01, 2001 has these figures that illustrate the depth of the downsizing:

----
ACTIVE-DUTY FIGURES
ARMY: 479,000, compared with 560,000 in 1994 and 734,000 in 1991.
NAVY: 373,000, compared with 485,000 in 1994 and 575,000 in 1991.
AIR FORCE: 352,000, compared with 434,000 in 1994 and 526,000 in 1991.
MARINE CORPS: 172,000, compared with 175,000 in 1994 and 198,000 in 1991.
----

That damned Peace Dividend is why we are more frequently swapping out crews on ships during deployment, rather than send a whole ship. That would be easy, if every ship were identical, but it isn't. Even ships of the same class have a variety of configurations, and the individual equipments have their own peculiarities. A completely different issue is pride and ownership--that feeling of "This is _my_ ship, my gear, and I'm damned proud of it." USS Coronado even deployed with a large component of civilian mariners. That's not new for supply and auxiliary ships, but this one's a combatant--a command ship.

Civilian outsourcing and contractors...America's Peace Dividend.

Back to the point I was rambling towards--perhaps, this time, those in the Pentagon have taken a lesson from the last war's downsizing, and are working to minimize this war's downsizing effects on future military readiness.


Now for that beer....

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