Contractor death toll surpasses military's in Iraq, Afghanistan

More contractors killed than military personnel since January

Since the beginning of 2010, more U.S. contractors have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan than military personnel, according to a study by a law student and procurement expert.

After analyzing data from the Defense and Labor departments, Steven Schooner, co-director of the Government Procurement Law Program at George Washington University, and Collin Swan, a law student at George Washington, estimated that 232 contractors have been killed in Afghanistan since January, compared to 195 U.S. troops. In Iraq, 204 contractors have been killed since January 2009, compared to 188 troops.

Schooner and Swan revealed their results this month in the Service Contractor, a quarterly publication that the Professional Services Council produces.

The pair wrote the article in part to call attention to the rising number of contractor deaths. “To the extent that the mainstream news media has failed to give these disturbing trends sufficient attention, the public remains largely ignorant of the extent of the contractor community’s sacrifice,” they wrote. "That’s a serious problem."

They also argued that more accurate data is needed on contractor deaths and injuries. Until the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, DOD did little to keep track of contractors employed in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the 2008 law, DOD created the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker system to gather information on contingency contractor operations, including casualties.

Schooner and Swan's study used Labor data for insurance claims filed under the Defense Base Act.

Some of the contractor figures could be higher, they wrote.

“In a representative democracy, an honest, accurate tally is important for the public and the nation’s elected leaders to understand the true human toll of these conflicts,” Schooner and Swan wrote. “Transparency in this regard is critical to any discussion of the costs and benefits of our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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