In the second quarter of 2018, the U.S. Central Command used significantly more contractors in places like Syria.
Most of these contractors served in Afghanistan under the banner of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Some 26,000 contractors, including about 15,000 foreign nationals, served in this theater. About 5,500 contractors served in Iraq and Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. The report did not specify how many contractors were in each country. The report also stated that almost 15,000 contractors served in other countries in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Speculation is that most of these individuals are in Niger and other areas of Africa that are fighting al-Qaeda-related groups, as well as terrorist groups with ties to ISIS.
The “Logistics/Maintenance” category was the largest service classification.
Private Military Contractors in Wartime
In the United States, private contractors are not “mercenaries.” They do not sell their services exclusively to the highest bidder. Revolutionary War-era Hessians were a good example of mercenaries. These German fighters probably could not find the rebellious American colonies on a map. They almost certainly could not speak the language, so they cared nothing about the political issues involved. They did not want to fight for England; they just wanted the English money.
American military contractors primarily fight for money, but that is not their only motivation. There is a big difference. Contractors in Syria would not switch sides and fight alongside Wagner mercenaries for a few extra rubles. Furthermore, American contractors do not drift in and out of war zones whenever they want. They are in-country to do a specific job for a specific length of time according to the terms of a specific contract.
Many times, these duties are quite similar to the ones that contractors performed during the Revolutionary War. Yes, there were contractors back then. Those individuals were largely camp-followers in support roles. They were the blacksmiths, ironworkers, gunsmiths, horse wranglers, cooks, doctors, and other specialists that kept the army in the field. Today’s combat contractors are mostly mechanics, chefs, construction workers, morale officers, and other necessary support personnel.
In fact, armed contractors are a relatively recent phenomenon. For many, many decades, bureaucrats interpreted the 1890s Anti-Pinkerton Act broadly. This law, which on its face applied to paramilitary “strikebusters,” also applied to any armed private military organization, they claimed. U.S. armed forces already had a long tradition of utilizing privateers and other such armed civilian naval vessels, but that is beside the point.
Eventually, in 1977’s U.S. ex rel Weinberger v. Equifax, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals opined that the APA was actually quite narrow. The General Accounting Office followed up with an extensive memo, opening the floodgates for armed military contractors.
The armed contractors that serve during wartime generally man checkpoints, escort supply convoys, and perform other sentry-like tasks.
Needless to say, these individuals face the same combat risks as regular servicemembers. IEDs do not discriminate when they go off. They kill or injure anyone who happens to be in the blast zone. Like all injured combat veterans, these victims want to reintegrate back into society and get back to work as quickly as possible. The benefits available through the Defense Base Act help make that happen. More on that below.
Breaking Down Reconstruction Contracts
Once the shooting stops, the work does not end. In many situations, the work is just beginning. Back in the old days, reconstruction was an ongoing process. When the armies moved on, the rebuilding could begin, at least to some extent. But most modern conflicts have no front lines and rear areas. So, the ink on the peace treaty must be completely dry before reconstruction gets underway.
The initial phases are perhaps the most important part of the war or the peace. Refugees will not come home until basic services are restored. That includes transportation, utilities, hospitals, schools, and places of employment. In other words, the reconstructed area must offer a normal life. That is often a daunting task.
Fortunately, American construction contractors shine in moments like these. Upon very short notice, a firm can begin clearing the rubble and replacing it with desired structures.
These operations usually take place in stages. The high-level planning, such as financial matters, usually takes place in stateside board rooms. Before the government awards a contract, it must be satisfied that the price is fair and that the contracting firm has the resources to do the job.
In-country contractors usually act as foremen and managers. They ensure that the supplies get to the site on time, that there is an adequately-trained workforce to do the labor, and that the work gets done on schedule. Local laborers usually handle the actual work. This arrangement provides jobs for the locals and also gives them a stake in the project’s success. Both these things help reduce the threat of terrorist attacks.
Nevertheless, this threat lingers. So, almost all construction teams utilize armed contractors. These individuals both guard the worksite and serve as a visible deterrent to evildoers.
If the contractors work for an American company that has an agreement with the U.S. government, the contractors are eligible for DBA compensation. It does not matter if they use hammers or rifles. In fact, reconstruction contractors may be at greater risk than combat contractors. In addition to battle wounds, reconstruction contractors must work on dangerous worksites that have little or no government oversight. It also does not matter if the contractors are U.S. citizens or foreign nationals.
Compensation Available to Injured Contractors
Injured workers need medical benefits. The DBA pays for all reasonable and necessary medical expenses, from emergency care through physical therapy. Most injured contractors never see a medical bill. Moreover, DBA victims may initially choose their own doctors during the course of treatment. However, the ability to change doctors once care has started is limited, so it is important for the injured worker to chose a doctor wisely.
While victims work on getting better, monthly bills still come due. To ease this financial pressure, the DBA also pays lost wage benefits. Victims with temporary disabilities usually receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage. Victims who sustain permanent disabilities typically receive an alternative form of compensation, such as a portion of the difference between their old and new salaries. Bear in mind that a “disability” is more than a medical diagnosis. There are other factors, as well.
To get more specifics about DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A.