For the last eight years one of the biggest complaints from the American left was that George Bush was in the sway of big government contractors. They did too much of the housekeeping services in Iraq and Afghanistan. Companies like KBR lined their pockets at the expense of the troops and taxpayers. They were doing jobs that green suiters or civil servants should be doing.
Unfortunately due to the small size of the military they had to use contractors for those jobs. This has been a trend going back thirty years. Use contractors to wash clothes, cook food and clean latrines. Then there would be more soldiers freed up to do the fighting. Despite a consistent philosophy on the use of support contractors Bush received holy hell about it. True the scale in Iraq was much larger then it ever had been before and the contracts were in some case let quickly and didn't have enough oversight but people were trying to get things done.
Now the word is that Obama wants to increase the number of foot soldiers in Afghanistan but without increasing the number of U.S. troops deployed to that country. One way to do this is to reduce the number of soldiers assigned to logistic support units, command headquarters, maintenance and so one and do a one-for-one swap with "trigger pullers". How do you do this and still provide the enormous tail that U.S. forces need? Use contractors.
It might be possible to assign U.S. civil servants to do this but there have been many issues in the past with getting them to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is too dangerous or not career enhancing. Certainly there is a number of people assigned or who volunteer for these positions but to get the kind of capability that is needed it will have to be contractors. Contractors like KBR or other such companies experienced in logistics and maintenance.
This will not be an easy or quick switch. The ground troops will have to be designated from either those in Iraq or in the U.S. recovering from a recent deployment. Then they will have to be trained and equipped up. A plan will be figured out how to deploy a 1000 support troops and replace them with a battalion of infantry. The support infrastructure will probably have to switch first. Contractors taking over for the rear echelon folks.
Another challenge will be writing and awarding the contracts for this. Unless they plan on expanding existing contracts there will be a several month period of writing the RFP, putting it out and evaluating the proposals. Awards may be protested which could add to the delays. Once awarded the contractors will have to hire their people and get them into place. Expect the almost constant sniping from Congress and the Media about this. See the LOGCAP contract from Iraq for example.
The Obama administration really cannot do anything else. They have reached the fish-or-cut-bait point. Either abandon Afghanistan or pour resources in. At the same time he does not want to "surge" troops there as that will make him and many Democrats look like idiots for opposing the same in Iraq. So he does the next best thing: surge contractors to maximize his troop availability. Good luck to them and the soldiers.
Cross posted at Defense Procurement News