Contractor surge: 56,000 contractors to accompany the 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan

Published 22 December 2009

The Obama administration’s decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan is just one aspect of the surge; these troops will be accompanies by up to 56,000 additional contractors; as of September, the Defense Department had 104,101 contractors employed in Afghanistan

It appears that there are two types of surges in Afghanistan: a troop surge and a contractor surge. President Barack Obama’s 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan could be accompanied by a contractor surge as high as 56,000, according to a 14 December Congressional Research Service (CRS) report. The report, first reported by, estimates an additional 26,000 to 56,000 contractor employees may be hired to provide base support services for the surge. Many of those contractor employees are expected to be Afghans, the report said.

Federal Times’s Elise Castelli writes that CRS based its estimate on past patterns of contract employment in the nation. As of September, the Defense Department had 104,101 contractors employed in Afghanistan, approximately 62 percent of its workforce there. Of those, three-quarters were Afghan citizens, CRS said. Defense officials expect contractors to continue to make up between 50 percent and 55 percent of the workforce there, according to the report.

The report became public in the same week the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing on how contractors will support the troop surge in Afghanistan. On 17 December, the contracting oversight subcommittee heard from William Campbell, director of operations for the Pentagon comptroller; Edward Harrington, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for procurement; and Jeff Parsons, director of the Army Contracting Command. They testified about whether “sufficient steps are being taken to ensure adequate management and oversight of contracts, as well as whether contracting oversight lessons learned from Iraq are being applied in Afghanistan,” according to a subcommittee news release.

Charles North, senior deputy director of the Agency for International Development’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Task Force, and Daniel Feldman, the State Department’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, also testified.

With upcoming increases in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, government contracts related to the conflict are expected to increase in both number and value,” according to the news release issued by the subcommittee chairwoman, Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri).