From his office across the street from the Fair Oaks mall in Fairfax County, Eugene C. Renzi oversees a couple of dozen ManTech International Corp. network engineers, software specialists and telecommunications experts at work in Turkey and Kuwait.
The workers, many of them retired from the military, have toiled for the past few months alongside
Private contractors are sending thousands of technical experts to the
Many of the defense and intelligence contractors are from the
The consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. has about 100 people in
CACI International Inc. chairman and chief executive J.P. "Jack" London said the computer-network services firm has "a meaningful presence" in
"We're playing a role in a large choreography to make sure the president and [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld have the right information at the right time and can disseminate their decisions back to the battlefield,"
The U.S. Central Command in
P.W. Singer of the Brookings Institution in
Singer, whose book "Corporate Warriors" is to be published in May, said such a sizable deployment of "privatized military firms" would be 10 times the size of their presence in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
"The military would not be able to function without these people there," Singer said. "Everywhere
"Think of everything the Navy used to do" to move equipment to where a war might be fought, he said. "Now a company does it." Logistics, he said, is the heart of warfare, and much of it has been privatized.
"Now it extends to critical weapons," Singer said. Private companies help maintain the B-2 stealth bomber, attack helicopters and drone reconnaissance aircraft, he said.
Singer said that because the military has shrunk by a third in the past decade, civilians are needed to fill jobs that might once have gone to military personnel.
"In previous decades, a company like Northrop Grumman would build a system and hand it over to the military," Singer said. Now, private contractors maintain the equipment, he said.
Singer and two military historians, Wayne E. Lee of the
"This is off-the-shelf technology rather than command-requested technology, modified to military use," Lee said. Then, he added, there is the need to keep the complex equipment operating properly, and "the maintenance of sophisticated technology and the level of expertise needed is not something the military teaches."
Technical-support contractors, Millett said, are often "folded right into the units."
But the increased use of civilian contractors is not without risk for the military, Singer said. They may be patriotic former military men and have security clearances, but they answer to their employers, not the armed forces. And the workers, who get 20 to 30 percent "danger pay" bonuses from their employers, may not properly calculate the risk to themselves until they come under fire.
Singer said that during the Persian Gulf War, "a very small number" of private contractors working at an air base in
"A soldier could never say, 'I don't want to go' " into battle, at least not without facing a court-martial, Singer said. "A contractor could and would just lose their job. It's one of those worries."
Renzi, of ManTech, said that is not plausible. He and other executives said they seek volunteers for
"We know the people who we've got with us," Renzi said of ManTech employees. "They know the dangers. No one is ordered to go."
Lockheed spokesman Thomas J. Jurkowsky said: "Sometimes civilian contractors are scoffed at. But they've got as much pride in their country as someone on active duty. As a defense contractor, we've probably got more retired military people than most companies. They've been overseas. They're used to working in that type of environment"
ManTech's chairman, chief executive and president, George J. Pedersen, said his employees are not armed but that the military has rules for protecting contractors. Employees have protective gear and took a 10-day training course at a
The danger to civilians working in the
With that in mind, will the ManTech and CACI workers head into
"I don't know," Pedersen said. "We will go as far forward as contractors are allowed."