Ok folks, this is pretty important.  CNAS, like I have mentioned before, has the ears of the guys that advise the President on matters like this one.  As you can see, John Nagl is personally involved on this working paper, and you can read his stamp all over this thing. I have been waiting for this paper for awhile, and I am glad they are finally pulling the trigger.

   It is a quick read and the best I could come up with on this, is that CNAS is trying to make the administration feel better for using contractors in the war.  To say ‘it’s ok, we have been using them for awhile, and contractors are the way of the future’. Oh, and we are going to rebrand contractors by calling them ES&R contractors. (Blackwater, eat your heart out)

    You get the idea.  President Obama owns this ‘just war’ now and the increase in the use of contractors is under his watch.  Matter of fact, contractor use has gone up under his leadership, and in Afghanistan we outnumber the troops. Yee haw.  Finally there is a recognition of that fact over at CNAS, and this paper is proof of that.

   With that said, the administration needs ammo for the conversations they have with those who oppose the use of contractors within their party.  Especially with President Obama’s far left supporters and even his more moderate supporters. He needs us for this war, and his party needs some convincing as to the why.

   The reason why I mention the political aspects of this paper, is because the mention of Bosnia and the use of contractors there under the Clinton Administration was very much emphasized.  Nagl and company wanted the reader to know that contractors are not just a tool of the Bush administration and the Republicans.  That the Democrats have a pretty good history of using and enjoying the benefits of contractors during times of conflict as well. Or better yet, we are a tool of America and not some political party.

   So why do I like this paper?  Well it is finally a legitimization of this industry, and at the highest levels of defense think tankery.  CNAS has the ear of all the President’s men, and generals for that matter.  These guys are saying we are a necessity for the war and for future wars, and it is time to figure out how to properly use this tool of warfare called contracting.  It is about smart contracting and dealing with reality.

   Personally, I just think we need strong leadership to make the common sense/necessary decisions to square away contracting.  To demand quality service from contractors, trust but verify that service, and insure tax payer dollars are wisely spent. And then just apply Kaizen to the whole thing to make sure it remains kick ass. If you guys need more people in government to manage these contracts, then get off your ass and hire some folks to get the job done. We are in a recession right now, and I am sure you could get some more people to help out.

   Below I have also put up a few critiques of the paper. (bold is my statement, quoted chunks are CNAS)  One is about the new name CNAS came up for us–‘ES&R contractors’. It has a terrible ring to it. lol  The other is about a lack of proper historical reference–no mention of privateers or the Indian WarsBuffalo Bill Cody was a contractor that received a Medal of Honor, and no mention of that? Wow, talk about selective history recollection? The final one is just a little bit of slam on ‘smart contracting’.  We need good leaders who know their stuff, have the courage to do what is right, and takes care of their people.  Once we have those, then we can implement smart contracting or whatever strategy you want to pursue. Overall, good stuff and I can’t wait for the final product.-Matt


Contractors in American Conflicts: Adapting to a New Reality

Publication Type: Working Papers

Publication Date: 12/16/2009

Author(s): Richard Fontaine , John Nagl

When our nation goes to war, contractors go with it. Contractors have become an enduring feature of modern American conflicts, and the United States cannot now engage in hostilities or in reconstruction and stabilization operations without them. At their peak, there were more contractors on the ground in Iraq than American troops in uniform and there are more contractors today in Afghanistan than there are U.S. troops on the ground.However, while private security contractors (PSC) like Blackwater (now knows as Xe Services) have gotten the bulk of public and congressional attention,  they only compromise about 5 percent of all contractors in hostile environments – this working paper, which is part of the CNAS project Contracting in Conflicts , addresses the other 95 percent. That 95 percent represents the vast majority of all the tasks carried out by U.S. contractors in theater, and it has been plagued by its own set of problems – including insufficient oversight, inadequate integration into operational planning, and ambiguous legal status. In order for the United States to adapt to the key role that contractors will play in future hostilities, it must establish new policies and rules of the road.

PDF for paper here.

Edit: 12/22/2009 – CBS posted a story about this as well.



The best quote from the paper.

     Future conflicts are likely to be more like

American engagements in the Balkans, Colombia

(via “Plan Colombia”), Iraq, and Afghanistan, and

less like Operation Desert Storm. To the extent

that future wars involve messy insurgencies and

attempts to boost host government legitimacy,

rather than conventional battles between massed

armies, contractors will continue to play a large

and prominent role. To extinguish support for

insurgencies, build the security forces of host

governments, expand the capacity to provide

services to local populations, create jobs, train civil

services, and construct (or reconstruct) infrastruc-

ture, the U.S. government will rely to an enormous

extent on the use of private contractors.


ES&R contractors? Yet another name for what we are?

     “Given the vast array of functions carried out by the

private sector in conflicts, contractors have often

been grouped into three broad categories: private

security firms employing individuals (often armed)

who provide direct military assistance; military

consulting firms that provide training, assessment,

and analysis; and military support firms that

provide logistics, intelligence, and maintenance

services.4 Observers have offered various terms

– including “expeditionary contractors,” “private

military companies,” and “contingency contractors”

– to describe those involved in this realm. Yet

such terms are often either arbitrarily limiting or

insufficient to convey the tremendous scope of

activities in which contractors are now engaged,

including their stabilization and reconstruction

roles. For the purposes of this study, we propose

a new term: Expeditionary Stabilization and

Reconstruction (or ES&R) contractors.”

What about the thousands of privateers used during the Revolutionary War or War of 1812? Or Medal of Honor recipient William Bill Cody and Indian Wars?

     “The provision of ES&R-type functions by contrac-

tors on the battlefield is not a modern phenomenon;

in fact,  it predates the adoption of our nation’s

constitution. The Continental Army relied on sup-

port from various private individuals and firms,

including logistical support to George Washington’s

troops in the field. During the Civil War, the Union

hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to carry out

intelligence functions for the Army of the Potomac,

while the Confederates had supply vendors follow

them on the battlefield.”

Smart Contracting or just applying sound leadership to managing this stuff?

     “It is time for a strategic look at the role played by

ES&R contractors in conflicts. The aim should be

a new approach that neither rejects the role played

by contractors in wartime nor merely reflects the

status quo. This new approach, which we call “smart

contracting,” will require revised doctrine and

regulations, new structures and organizations, and

enhanced plans and training. It will involve changes

to the culture and awareness of contracting at DOD,

State, and USAID, and will entail the buy-in of

Congress and perhaps new legislation. And it will

mean calling on senior foreign and defense policy

makers – individuals for whom contracting issues

are too often someone else’s business – to consider

in depth how the increased reliance on contractors

can best be leveraged to further American national

interests abroad.”