One of my daily challenges is dealing with the multitudes of civilian contractors performing work on our camp. This article in the Tampa Tribune discusses some of the reasons that people decide to come to Iraq to work, and it focuses on the biggest; the money. Lots of money. The individual employees of these firms are making money hand over fist, and loving it.
My issue with contractors is not their paychecks, because I can make a strong case that paying someone $120k to work in Iraq for a year, costs less than recruiting, training, equipping, and paying a U.S. Servicemember to do the same job. When we eventually drawdown forces in Iraq, those active duty troops still have to be paid, housed, and trained. They will continue to cost the taxpayers money. The contractors, on the other hand, are a pre-trained no strings attached package that stops costing you, the taxpayer, money as soon as they are no longer needed. Since I do pay taxes when I am not deployed, I worry about things like that.
As for the argument that “this war is all about making money for Bush and Cheney’s Halliburton cronies”, the financials just don’t bear that out. Here is Halliburton’s income statement; their net income was NEGATIVE $979 million in 2004. Hard to get rich losing a billion dollars a year. And by the way they have been providing logistics support to the Military since well before Vice President Cheney ever had any association with them. The reason that they get these contracts is that no other company on the planet can do what they do in the environments they do it. They do need to hire some better accountants though. Great company to work for, not so great to own.
No, my problem is not with the money, I think it is likely that they save us money in the long run, my problem is their mindset. My job in a nutshell is deciding who gets past my gate, either on foot or in a truck. The Contractors need to get their local workers on to complete projects that they have deadlines on. If I decide that the person on the other side of the gate represents a security problem, I say no. This puts the contractor, who claims to “need” this guy or his cargo, in a bit of a pickle. I have had several confrontations with contractors who found our security procedures inconvenient. I had one several days ago which resulted in a contractor saying “I am never coming down to this gate again!” Well, good riddance buddy. I had one yesterday tell me that because of me, we would have to close down a chow hall because I wouldn’t let his one indispensable worker on the camp. Turns out the real reason he “had” to have this worker was because he had already been paid for the job, not because he was the only guy in Iraq who could rig a crane. He actually had the cojones to go over my head to try to get his worker on; thankfully the “3” backed me up.You know, they have to sleep here too; I would think that they would value their security over their paychecks. Tough to spend that money with a 107mm rocket sticking out of your chest.
Well, I am ranting here so I better get to bed. Need my rest so I can protect this camp from itself again tomorrow.