Institutionalizing Contractor Support on the Battlefield

by Joe A. Fortner

In the first of two articles on contractor support, the author discusses general policy and doctrine development efforts for using contractors to support Army operations.

Lessons learned throughout our country's history, including those from our most recent military operations, demonstrate that contracting can be an effective force multiplier. Contracted capabilities can increase or decrease available support resources quickly in response to changing requirements. They can extend existing military capabilities, present alternative sources of supplies and services, and provide capabilities where none exist in the military. The Army can obtain substantial advantages and economies through contracted support.

Contracting for support services is not new; contractors have supported the Army in every contingency since the Revolutionary War. Contract teamsters, for example, provided critical support to General George Washington. Contractors supported military operations during the American Civil War, both World Wars, the Vietnam War, and the Persian Gulf War.

Today, the Army uses contractors to support a wide variety of activities, from routine base operations to technical maintenance of high-tech weapon systems. But, except for Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contracts, the Army's use of contracted support typically has been focused on individual contracts written and implemented as circumstances required.

This article focuses on general policy and doctrine development efforts for using contractors to support Army operations on the battlefield. More detailed issues associated with managing, deploying, protecting, and sustaining contractors will be discussed in a subsequent article in the next issue of Army Logistician.

Institutionalizing Contractor Support

Over the past year and a half, the Army has attempted to institutionalize contracting as a routine function of military operations. The Army's procedure for institutionalizing a process is simple in concept. It tasks an agent or organization to investigate the process in precise and finite detail, perform analytical and intellectual reviews, and coordinate the results among the appropriate staff agencies. The Army then writes and publishes appropriate policy and doctrine, and the process is institutionalized.

In mid-1998, the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and the Army Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM) formed an Integrated Concept Team (ICT) to develop a capstone field manual for Contractors on the Battlefield. Coincidentally, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (ASA) for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (ALT) was beginning to develop a capstone field manual for acquiring contracted support. Additionally, the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (ODCSLOG) had begun to develop Army-level policy for using contractors to support Army operations. TRADOC and CASCOM, as co-chairs of the ICT, invited ASA (ALT) and ODCSLOG representatives to join the ICT to ensure coordinated and synchronized doctrine and policy development. The ICT also invited numerous organizations with contracting experience to participate, including the Army Forces Command, the Army Intelligence and Security Command, Army Materiel Command, and combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) service schools.

Over the following several months, the ICT accomplished much. Its successes included—

Publication of Army Regulation (AR) 715-9, Contractors Accompanying the Force, 29 October 1999. This AR establishes Army policy for using contractors to support battlefield operations. It is the first Army-wide policy governing contractor operations on the battlefield.

Publication of Field Manual (FM) 100-10-2, Contracting Support on the Battlefield, 4 August 1999. This is the Army's first capstone doctrinal manual for acquiring contractor support. It focuses more on acquisition of contract support than on contractor operational support.

Publication of FM 100-21, Contractors on the Battlefield, 26 March 2000. This is the Army's first capstone doctrinal manual for the operational aspects of using contractors to support Army operations.

The Contractors on the Battlefield Rock Drill, which was presented to Army leaders first on 29 June 1999. The presentation embodied all of the knowledge the ICT had amassed during its deliberations. CASCOM continues to present versions of the rock drill in numerous forums.

Basic Principles of Contractor Support

Using contractors to provide support and services to military operations is not without risks or costs. Institutionalizing their use in doctrine therefore must be based on certain governing principles. These principles are not absolutes; some of them, in fact, may be mutually exclusive at certain levels of detail. Nevertheless, they provide functional parameters within which to evaluate the desirability of using contracted support in military operations.

These principles, which have been incorporated into the doctrinal and policy publications listed above, include the following—

Contractors do not replace force structure. They augment Army capabilities and provide additional options for meeting support requirements.

Depending on mission, enemy, terrain, troops, time, and civilian considerations (METT-TC), contractors may deploy throughout an area of operations and in virtually all conditions.

Commanders are legally responsible for protecting contractors in their area of operations.

Contractors must have enough employees with appropriate skills to meet potential requirements.

Contracted support must be integrated into the overall support plan.

Contingency plans must ensure continuation of service if a contractor fails to perform.

Contractor-provided services should be invisible to the users. Any links between Army and contractor automated systems must not place additional burdens on soldiers.

The Army must be capable of providing critical support before contractors arrive in the theater or in the event that contractors either do not deploy or cannot continue to provide contracted services.

Although contractors can be used as an alternative source of capabilities at theater or corps level, commanders must remain aware that, within a given operation, using contractors could decrease flexibility.

Changing contractor activities to meet shifting operational requirements may require contract modifications.

These basic principles provided the framework for developing doctrine and policy for contractors on the battlefield. They are applicable to contractor efforts today and on the future battlefield.

Types of Contractors

The ICT has defined three types of contractors and documented the definitions in FM's 100-10-2 and 100-21.

Theater support contractors support deployed operational forces under prearranged contracts or under contracts awarded from the mission area by contracting officers serving under the direct contracting authority of the theater principal authority responsible for contracting (PARC). Theater support contractors provide goods and services and perform minor construction to meet the immediate needs of operational commanders. Contracting officers deploy immediately before and during the operation to procure goods, services, and minor construction, usually from local vendors or nearby offshore sources. Theater support contracting occurs according to the theater PARC's contracting support plan. This plan, which is an appendix to the logistics annex of the operation plan, campaign plan, or operation order, governs all procurement of goods, services, and minor construction within the area of operations.

External support contractors provide support to deployed operational forces that is separate and distinct from either theater support or support provided by system contractors (see below). They may operate under pre-arranged contracts or contracts awarded during the contingency itself to support the mission. Contracting officers who award and administer external support contracts retain unique contracting authority derived from organizations other than the theater PARC. The Army Materiel Command (AMC), for example, provides commercial depot support by contracts through its commodity commands. Other organizations that provide external support contracts include the LOGCAP Program Office; the U.S. Transportation Command, which provides Civil Reserve Air Fleet and commercial sealift to support the theater; and the Army Corps of Engineers, which procures leased real property and real estate. These organizations retain contracting authority from their parent commands for those specific functions.

Commanders and their staffs include these commands in their mission planning; they should include support appendices in the applicable staff section annex to the operation plan, campaign plan, or operation order. For example, the staff engineer coordinates Army Corps of Engineers procurement of real estate and real property, and the joint force transportation planner coordinates with U.S. Transportation Command component commands to monitor their assets. External support contractors establish and maintain liaison with the theater PARC as they conduct their unique support missions. They procure goods and services they need in the theater in accordance with the theater PARC's contracting support plan.

System contractors support deployed operational forces under pre-arranged contracts awarded by program executive officers (PEO's), program managers (PM's), and AMC to provide specific support to materiel systems throughout their life cycle during peacetime and contingency operations. These systems include, but are not limited to, vehicles, weapon systems, aircraft, command and control infrastructure, and communications equipment. Contracting officers working for the PM's and AMC's major subordinate commands administer their system contractors' functions and operations through their contracts. AMC and the individual PM's maintain contracting authority for those contracts, plan required support for their systems, and coordinate that support with the supported commander in chief's planning staff. The contracting organization with responsibility for system contractors establishes and maintains liaison with the theater PARC or senior Army contracting official in theater as specified in the theater contracting support plan. These contractors procure goods and services they need in the theater as stipulated in the theater PARC's contracting support plan and published in the operation plan, campaign plan, or operation order.

Note that these definitions do not include the term "contingency contractors," a term that has been in common use. This is because the term is not sufficiently precise for doctrine and policy publications; all contractors supporting military operations in an area of operations are contingency contractors.

Benefits of Contractors on the Battlefield

There are several reasons why the Army needs to use contractors on the battlefield, the most fundamental of which derives from the Army's mission—to deter our Nation's potential enemies and, if deterrence fails, to win our Nation's wars. However, over the past several years, the resources available to perform that mission have dramatically decreased. Our active-duty force structure, for example, has dropped from 789,000 in 1989 to 480,000 in 2000. Yet the operating tempo (OPTEMPO) continues to rise. In 1999, soldiers across the Active Army were deployed an average of more than 130 days per year.

More specific reasons why the Army benefits from using contractors include the following—

They can facilitate force projection by permitting more rapid force closure. As the Army becomes ever more based in the continental United States, force-projection capability becomes increasingly critical. Theater support contractors provide an in-place capability that does not have to be deployed, and any capability that can be obtained in theater saves time and effort during deployment operations.

Contractors provide a source of high-tech, low-density skills. The Army is reaching the point where it no longer can afford to maintain the training infrastructure for military occupational specialties with a density of a few dozen soldiers. Such skills are readily available from system contractors. In fact, the manufacturer of a weapon system (or major subsystem) is a common source of such talent.

Contractors permit the Army to maximize combat forces in areas where total force size is constrained. The Army sometimes operates in countries where status of forces agreements limit the total number of uniformed soldiers. By using contractors, who do not count toward the force limit, the Army can increase the number of combat soldiers available and still have adequate CS and CSS capabilities.

Contractors can provide capabilities the Army does not have. Although this usually means high-tech skills, it also can include more mundane skills. In Bosnia, for example, contractors are providing sewage treatment serv-ice for the base camps. The Army does not have appropriate soldier skills for this function.

Contractors can reduce OPTEMPO and its inherent burden on soldiers. A force-projection Army requires soldiers to deploy frequently and for long periods of time. This can affect soldiers' quality of life significantly and, ultimately, impact training and retention. Using contractors, particularly in relatively benign environments, reduces the need to send soldiers to perform the mission.

Limitations on Contractor Use

Contractors have supported, and will continue to support, the Army across the full spectrum of military operations, and they will be used in virtually all locations on the battlefield. However, there are three functions that contractors, by law, cannot perform—

Armed combat. The United States does not contract out its warfighting.

Command and control of U.S. military and civilian personnel. Command and control is a uniquely military function that cannot be contracted.

Contracting. The Army does not hire contractors to perform its contracting function.

Except for these limitations, contractors can perform any Army function. This means that virtually all Army CS and CSS functions potentially are contractible. Today, contractors routinely perform such CS and CSS functions as transportation, maintenance, medical support, signal support, real estate management, and mortuary affairs.

Determining Core Capabilities and Risks

Contractors are not soldiers, so they are not subject to the same rules and conditions as soldiers in the field. This introduces the related requirement for core capability determination and risk assessment.

The Army's total capability to perform a given function, such as transportation, maintenance, or field services,
is the sum of the capabilities of uniformed soldiers and units (Active Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve), Department of Defense civilians, host nation resources (military or civilian), other civilian resources, and contractors.

A core capability can be defined as that portion of a given functional Army capability that must remain in the "green suit" force structure. But this definition depends on METT-_TC; the requirement varies with the circumstances. Circumstances dictate the amount of a functional capability that the Army can contract out. This means that core capability has both functional and quantitative aspects. It is not enough to determine which functions can be contracted out; the Army must determine, for each contemplated operation, how much of each function can be contracted.

One of the biggest factors affecting determination of core capability requirements is risk assessment. There are two aspects of risk assessment. One is the risk to contractor personnel, and the other is the risk to successfully accomplishing the mission. Because contractor personnel are not soldiers, the Army must protect them physically. While contractors can be armed, they can use their arms only for self-defense. They cannot use their arms to perform perimeter defense or even to protect their fellow contractors. This means that using contractors to perform an otherwise military function may not reduce the green-suit force requirement by the same amount. Soldiers still have to be present to protect the contractors. On the other hand, contractor presence almost certainly will reduce the soldier presence by some amount. If the contractor fails to perform, there may not be sufficient soldier presence to accomplish the mission successfully.

Operational circumstances also affect risk assessment. In relatively benign environments, such as a humanitarian assistance operation, the risk to contractor personnel may be quite low. Accordingly, their presence may be very high in proportion to the soldier presence. In less benign circumstances, such as a major theater war, risks to contractor personnel may be much higher, and their presence may be reduced significantly.

The key point is that core capability determination and risk assessment must be an integral part of the planning process for any military operation where contractors may be used. Staff planners must have the doctrinal and policy tools necessary to perform that planning. The capstone doctrinal manuals and regulations already developed provide only the most basic insights for staff planners. Doctrine that addresses the tactics, techniques, and procedures level of detail is still needed. ALOG

Joe A. Fortner is a logistics management specialist in the Capstone Doctrine Branch, Directorate of Combat Developments for Combat Service Support, Army Combined Arms Support Command, Fort Lee, Virginia. He has a bachelor's degree in aviation management and a master's degree in business administration from Auburn University in Alabama. He is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and has more than 25 years of experience in Army transportation and logistics management.


America's only female Medal of Honor recipient was a contractor. She was Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. Dr. Walker served the Union Army during the Civil War with the title of "Contract Assistant Surgeon." At war's end, General William T. Sherman recommended her for receipt of the Medal of Honor, and America's only female Medal of Honor recipient, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, was a contractor. President Andrew Johnson approved it on 11 November 1865. Later, in 1917, the War Department rescinded the award of Dr. Walker's medal (along with some 900 others). She refused to relinquish her medal and wore it until her death in 1919. President Jimmy Carter restored Dr. Walker's medal posthumously in 1977.