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February 12, 2012

New York Times this Sunday morning: Outsourcing Risk and Death in the Afghan War.

I'm reminded of the shockingly high percentage of deployed U.S. Merchant Marine civilian seamen--from old hands to students at Kings Point--who during World War II were killed or wounded at sea, generally unsung and almost always uncompensated. German U-boats coveted Allied supply ships. Merchant Marine vessels were frequent targets. It's true that both governments and the private sector "count funny" during wars. But based on new DOD and DOL statistics, more employees of civilian contractors than U.S. soldiers died last year in Afghanistan. See in the New York Times this morning "Risks of Afghan War Shift from Soldiers to Contractors". Excerpts:

Last year, at least 430 employees of American contractors were reported killed in Afghanistan: 386 working for the Defense Department, 43 for the United States Agency for International Development and one for the State Department, according to data provided by the American Embassy in Kabul and publicly available in part from the United States Department of Labor.

By comparison, 418 American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year, according to Defense Department statistics compiled by icasualties.org, an independent organization that monitors war deaths.

The biggest contractor in terms of war zone deaths is apparently the defense giant L-3 Communications. If L-3 were a country, it would have the third highest loss of life in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq; only the United States and Britain would exceed it in fatalities.

Over the past 10 years, L-3 and its subsidiaries, including Titan Corporation and MPRI Inc., had at least 370 workers killed and 1,789 seriously wounded or injured through the end of 2011 in Iraq and Afghanistan, records show.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for L-3, Jennifer Barton, said: “L-3 is proud to have the opportunity to support the U.S. and coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We mourn the loss of life of these dedicated men and women.”

Other American companies with a high number of fatalities are Supreme Group, a catering company, with 241 dead through the end of 2011; Service Employees International, another catering company, with 125 dead; and security companies like DynCorps (101 dead), Aegis (86 dead) and Hart Group (63 dead). In all, according to Labor Department data, 64 American companies have lost more than seven employees each in the past 10 years.


Late 2010: Civilian contractors at the ABP Border Center in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan. Photo: Sgt. Richard Andrade.

Posted by JD Hull at February 12, 2012 01:26 PM


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