Contractors keep AF in the fight

  • Published
  • By Maj. J. Bryan Warnock
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Legal Office
Sequestration, shutdown, furlough, force shaping, reduction in force -- these are lean times, and it seems we are all asked to do more with fewer people and resources.

Under the circumstances, it is easy to lose sight of our overarching mission as we buckle down to conserve resources while meeting daily deadlines and monthly metrics. In remembrance of 9/11, and given current events, I believe we should take time to look beyond the daily grind to reflect on Team Vance's contribution to national security.

There is one group whose contributions are often overlooked -- contractors. They are, however, critical to our national security. Militaries throughout history have augmented their forces through contracts and similar agreements with private parties.

American industry and American workers mobilized to win World War II.

In early American history, the British contracted with approximately 30,000 Hessian soldiers to fight American revolutionaries, and the fledgling American army accepted the services of Baron Friedrich von Steuben and other foreign officers. The Prussian baron is now considered no less than the father of the American military, credited with the creation of the NCO corps.

Later in life he fell on hard times and presented a contract claim to Congress for compensation for his service during the Revolutionary War. Alexander Hamilton, then Secretary of the Treasury, recommended payment of the baron's claim, reasoning "whether the transaction, relied upon by the baron, be deemed to have the force of a Contract, or not; it will be most consistent with the dignity and equity of the United States, to admit it as the basis of a final adjustment of his Claims ... [it] appears unequivocally, that his services have been of a nature peculiarly valuable and interesting to the American cause[.]"

Today we cannot accomplish our mission without contractors. In fiscal year 2013, the United States obligated $461.9 billion to contracts for goods and services. Department of Defense contracts accounted for $308.3 billion of the total.

In other words, DoD contracts doubled the value of all other federal agencies' contracts combined. For perspective, the DoD had a fiscal year 2013 budget of approximately $627 billion. Contracts of various kinds roughly equaled half the defense budget.

Government contractors are increasingly sharing the risks of war. Approximately 2,206 American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen and at least 1,530 contractors have lost their lives in Afghanistan.

In fiscal year 2013, 144 service members were killed in Afghanistan, while 180 contractors died in Afghanistan during the same time.

The U.S. Armed Forces have a synergistic relationship with private industry. We need and appreciate the technology, innovation and expertise contractors bring to the fight, and our success depends upon collaboration between the Total Force and Air Force contractors.

The 71st Contracting Office is charged with administering Vance Air Force Base contracts. Speak to the contracting office or the contracting officer's representative if you have constructive feedback or praise for a contractor's performance, and remember that we all contribute to the Vance mission and our nation's security.