A couple of years ago, Blackwater executive Joseph Schmitz seemed to see a silver lining for mercenary companies with the prospect of US forces being withdrawn or reduced in Iraq. "There is a scenario where we could as a government, the United States, could pull back the military footprint," Schmitz said. "And there would then be more of a need for private contractors to go in."
When it comes to armed contractors, it seems that Schmitz was right. According to new statistics released by the Pentagon, with Barack Obama as commander in chief, there has been a 23% increase in the number of "Private Security Contractors" working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan, which "correlates to the build up of forces" in the country. In Iraq, the Pentagon attributes the increase to better accounting. But, these numbers relate explicitly to DoD security contractors. Companies like Blackwater and its successor Triple Canopy work on State Department contracts and it is unclear if these contractors are included in the over-all statistics. This means, the number of individual "security" contractors could be quite higher, as could the scope of their expansion.
Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of the "total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility]." This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two US wars. These statistics come from two reports just released by Gary J. Motsek, the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Program Support): "Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in USCENTCOM AOR, IRAQ, and Afghanistan and "Operational Contract Support, 'State of the Union.'"
"We expect similar dependence on contractors in future contingency operations," according to the contractor "State of the Union." It notes that the deployment size of both military personnel and DoD civilians are "fixed by law," but points out that the number of contractors is "size unfixed," meaning there is virtually no limit (other than funds) to the number of contractors that can be deployed in the war zone.
At present there are 132,610 in Iraq and 68,197 in Afghanistan. The report notes that while the deployment of security contractors in Iraq is increasing, there was an 11% decrease in overall contractors in Iraq from the first quarter of 2009 due to the "ongoing efforts to reduce the contractor footprint in Iraq."
Both Pentagon reports can be downloaded here: