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U.S. Government Research & Oversight

Congressional Research Service

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress. CRS works exclusively for the U.S. Congress, providing policy and legal analysis at the request of Congress or Congressional committees. CRS reports provide excellent analysis and information on a range of issues, including national security, military strategy, and the U.S. defense budget.

2016 Congressional Research Service Reports

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Author: Moshe Schwartz, Kathryn A. Francis, and Charles V. O'Connor
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This CRS report addresses four questions: What is the acquisition workforce? What is its current size? How has Congress previously attempted to improve it? and What are some questions for Congress to explore in order to improve acquisitions? The report finds that between FY2008 and Q1 of FY2016, the acquisition workforce grew by 24%, however this growth has not kept pace with acquisition spending.

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Author: Heidi M. Peters, Moshe Schwartz, and Lawrence Kapp
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This report analyzes the current amount the Department of Defense spends on contracting as well as current trends in those payments. It also tracks where those funds go, both in terms of product and region.

Department of Defense Contractor and Troop Levels in Iraq and Afghanistan: 2007-2016

Author: Heidi M. Peters, Moshe Schwartz, and Lawrence Kapp
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This is the 2016 version of the Congressional Research Service's report on contractor and troop levels, which states that about 77% of total DOD presence in Afghanistan are contract personnel as of March 2016. In Iraq, as of July 2016 approximately 38% of total DOD personnel were contractors. The report goes on to list total numbers of U.S. Armed Forces, Total Contractors, U.S. National Contractors, and Foreign and Host Country National Contractor on a quarterly basis starting in Q4 of 2007 up to present.
2015 Congressional Research Service Reports

Defense Acquisitions: How and Where DOD Spends Its Contracting Dollars

Author: Moshe Schwartz, Wendy Ginsberg, and John F. Sargent Jr.
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This CRS report investigates spending by the Department of Defense on a variety of services provided by contractors. The report finds that in fiscal year 2014 the DoD spent more money on federal contracts than all other government agencies combined, totaling $285 billion and equal to 8% of all federal spending.  The report further details the breakdown of DoD spending by types of services and materials purchased by the agency as well as where these funds were spent (by geographic region and domestic vs. international).
2014 Congressional Research Service Reports

The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11

Author: Amy Belasco
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This CRS report details US government spending in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations and accounted for spending on contracts by the military. The report states that the US Congress has voiced concerns over the performance of contractors and coordination, as well as contractual corruption that inflated the costs of missions. Contract administration was a significant weakness for both Iraq and Afghanistan operations during the time period under investigation.

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Legislative and Executive Branch Initiatives

Author: Alex Tiersky
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This report discusses Department of State actions in response to the Benghazi attack, including the Benghazi Accountability Review Board, implementation of Review Board recommendations, and funding requests.  Further, the report details the legislative response to the attack, specifically diplomatic security legislation during the 13th Congress.  The report investigates hiring practices for contract security services.

The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy

Author: Kenneth Katzman, Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud, Rhoda Margesson & Alex Tiersky
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This CRS report examines the history of the Islamic State, it's current threat to Iraq, and the US-lead initiatives to create a multilateral coalition for military action against IS.  Many coalition members are currently looking to the US for a more involved and expanded role in the fight against IS.  Prior to the crisis, there were roughly 200 Marine Corps guards and contractors at the US Embassy and the White House has since committed additional forces, though it is unclear how contractors are playing a role in these new deployments.

State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs: FY2014 Budget and Appropriations

Author: Epstein, Susan B., Tiersky, Alex & Lawson, Marian L.
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This report provides a brief overview of the FY2014 State Department, Foreign Operations and Related Programs funding request, as well as top-line analysis of House and Senate State-Foreign Operations appropriations proposals and enacted continuing resolutions. Noteworthy items include a 96% increase in requested funding for embassy and consulate security in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. 

Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance

Author: Kenneth Katzman
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In the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan, the US has sought to firmly establish capacity, transparency, and cohesiveness in Afghan governance.  However, corruption, especially in lower levels, has become a serious problem.  Corruption is partly fed by the low salaries that government workers receive.  As a comparison, contractors in Afghanistan are paid $6,500 per month, whereas government workers can expect about $200.  Further, the US Department of Defense has been focused on corruption through it's Task Force Spotlight, noting $3.4 million in seizures from allegedly fraudulent contractors.

Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights

Author: Kenneth Katzman
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In the years since US military withdrawal from Iraq, ethnic and sectarian tensions have widened, fueling the rise of the Islamic State.  This CRS report looks into US - Iraq security relationships post 2011, including the withdrawal of troops and security contractors, most of whom were responsible for protecting US facilities such as the Embassy and consulates.  The Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OCS-I), operating under the US Ambassador, acted as the primary entity tasked with interacting with the Iraqi military.  The majority of of staff in the OCS-I are contractors.  Additionally, US contractors worked closely with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for tactical training of Iraqi forces prior to the IS crisis.

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Author: Kenneth Katzman
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This report includes a detailed background of historical factors dating back to the 19th Century that have shaped the current security situation in Afghanistan.  Further discussion includes U.S. policy concerning the transition of power from U.S. and coalition forces to Afghan security forces.  This discussion includes the use of private contractors in combat and reconstruction.
2013 Congressional Research Service Reports

Securing U.S. Diplomatic Facilities and Personnel Abroad: Background and Policy Issues

Author: Alex Tiersky & Susan B. Epstein
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After the death of U.S. Ambassador Stevens in Benghazi, CRS devoted this report to the security challenges facing U.S. diplomatic efforts. Noting that 90 percent of U.S. diplomatic security is contractor personnel, the report discusses the role of private security broadly for U.S. embassy security, and also briefly discusses private security's presence at the Benghazi attack. This report updates a November 2012 document of the same title.

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Author: Kenneth Katzman
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Afghanistan as the U.S. draws down forces faces an uncertain future. This CRS report details the many challenges facing the Afghan government and U.S. policy in the coming years. The report discusses contractor training of Afghan security forces, the future use of the Afghan Public Protection Force for private security, and the amount of money spent on security (and other programs) up to 2011. 

2012 Congressional Research Service Reports

Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act: Federal Contractor Criminal Liability Overseas (R42358)

Author: Charles Doyle
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The U.S. government uses hundreds of thousands of civilian contractors and employees overseas. They and their dependents are often subject to local prosecution for the crimes they commit abroad. Whether by agreement, practice, or circumstance - sometimes they are not. This report discusses why, highlighting the applicability of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) the proposed Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA; H.R. 2136) that would supplement MEJA.

Circular A-76 and the Moratorium on DOD Competitions: Background and Issues for Congress (R40854)

Author: Valerie Bailey Grasso
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This report discusses the moratorium on the conduct of Department of Defense public-private competitions under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76. OMB Circular A-76 defines federal policy for determining whether recurring commercial activities should be performed by the private sector or federal employees. Congress passed legislation in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 to suspend DOD public-private competitions under OMB Circular A-76. At the time this report was issued, some policymakers were advocating an end to the moratorium.

Trafficking in Persons: U.S. Policy and Issues for Congress

Author: Alison Siskin & Liana Sun Wyler
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This report updates the previous CRS report on Trafficking in Persons released in November, R42497. The report describes the current U.S. legislation on TiP and briefly discusses the requirements it places on contractors, particularly in the context of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. 

Statement by Moshe Schwartz on Operational Contract Support: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future

Author: Moshe Schwartz
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In a statement before the House Armed Services Committee, Moshe Schwartz describes the state of contracting in the Department of Defense. The statement details the need for DOD contracting, the inadequate capability to manage contracts in the early years of Iraq and Afghanistan, and provides recommendations on the cultural, operational, and systemic changes required for the DOD to effectively oversee contractors in the future.

2011 Congressional Research Service Reports

Wartime Contracting in Afghanistan: Analysis and Issues for Congress (R42084)

Author: Moshe Schwartz
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This report examines (1) to what extent U.S. government contracts contributed to the overall mission in Afghanistan; (2) how contract oversight could be impacted by a troop drawdown; and (3) to what extent the DOD is preparing for the role of contractors in future military operations.

The Department of Defense’s Use of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq: Background, Analysis, and Option for Congress (R40835)

Author: Moshe Schwartz
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This report examines current private security trends in Afghanistan and Iraq, steps DOD has taken to improve contractor oversight and management, and the impact using private security personnel can have on military operations. It also reviews steps Congress has taken to exercise oversight over the use of private security and includes options for Congress.

Department of Defense Trends in Overseas Contract Obligations (R41820)

Author: Moshe Schwartz, et al.
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This report examines (1) the DOD’s overseas contract obligations in the larger context of U.S. government and DOD contract spending, and (2) how those contract obligations support DOD operations in different regions. This report also examines the extent to which this data is sufficiently reliable to use as a factor when developing policy or understanding government operations.

2010 Congressional Research Service Reports

Inherently Governmental Functions and Department of Defense Operations: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress (R40641)

Author: John R. Luckey, et al.
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An “inherently governmental function” is one that, as a matter of law and policy, must be performed by federal government employees and cannot be contracted out to the private sector Concerned that the existence of multiple or inconsistent definitions of “inherently governmental functions” might be partly responsible for the alleged contracting out of inherently governmental functions by the DOD and other agencies, Congress enacted legislation requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop a “single consistent definition” of “inherently governmental functions.” At the time this report was prepared, OMB had not yet set a definition, and so the report describes the issues at play and options for Congress, particularly as they relate to DOD contracting. 

Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis (R40764)

Author: Moshe Schwartz
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This report examines current contractor trends in Iraq and Afghanistan, the steps DOD has taken to improve contractor oversight and management, and the extent to which DOD has incorporated the role of contractors into its doctrine and strategy. The report also reviews steps Congress has taken to exercise oversight over DOD contracting, including contracting issues that have been the focus of hearings and legislation.

The Department of Defense’s Use of Private Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background, Analysis, and Option for Congress (R40835)

Author: Moshe Schwartz
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This report examines current private security contractor trends in Iraq and Afghanistan, steps DOD has taken to improve oversight and management, and the extent to which DOD has incorporated the role of security contractors into its doctrine and strategy. It also reviews steps Congress has taken to exercise oversight over the use of private security services and includes options for continuing monitoring and oversight by Congress.

Private Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Legal Issues (R40991)

Author: Jennifer K. Elsea
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This is an update to a previously-issued report discussing the legal framework that applies to private security in Iraq and Afghanistan. After presenting a general description of the types of law applicable, including international humanitarian law and relevant status of forces agreements, the report addresses some implications of international law and a multilateral proposal for the adoption of international “best practices” regarding the use of PSCs. The report follows up with a discussion of jurisdiction over private security personnel in U.S. courts, including a listing of known cases that have occurred or are pending. 

2009 Congressional Research Service Reports

Private Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Legal Issues (R40991)

Author: Jennifer K. Elsea
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This report discusses the legal framework that applies to private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. After presenting a general description of the types of law applicable, including international humanitarian law and relevant status of forces agreements, the report addresses some implications of international law and a multilateral proposal for the adoption of international “best practices” regarding the use of security contractors. The report follows up with a discussion of jurisdiction over private security personnel in U.S. courts, including a listing of known cases that have occurred or are pending. 

Department of Defense Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background and Analysis (R40764)

Author: Moshe Schwartz
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This report examines contractor trends in Iraq and Afghanistan, steps the DOD has taken to improve contractor oversight and management, and the extent to which the DOD has incorporated the role of contractors into its doctrine and strategy. It also reviews steps Congress has taken to exercise oversight over DOD contracting, including contracting issues that have been the focus of hearings and legislation.

The Department of Defense’s Use of Private Security Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan: Background, Analysis, and Option for Congress (R40835)

Author: Moshe Schwartz
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This report examines current private security contractor trends in Iraq and Afghanistan, steps DOD has taken to improve oversight and management, and the extent to which DOD has incorporated the role of security contractors into its doctrine and strategy. It also reviews steps Congress has taken to exercise oversight over the use of PMSCs and includes options for Congress.

Iraqi Civilian, Police, and Security Forces Casualty Statistics (R40824)

Author: Hannah Fischer
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This report presents various governmental and nongovernmental estimates of Iraqi civilian, police, and security forces fatalities. Because the estimates contained in this report are based on varying time periods and have been created using differing methodologies, CSR instructs readers to exercise caution when using them and to look to them as guideposts rather than as statements of fact.

2008 Congressional Research Service Reports

Defense Contracting in Iraq: Issues and Options for Congress (RL33834)

Author: Valerie Bailey Grasso
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This is an update to a previously-issued report. It examines logistical support contracts for troop support services in Iraq primarily administered through the U.S. Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). LOGCAP is an initiative designed to manage the use of civilian contractors that perform services during times of war and other military mobilizations. 

Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues (RL32419)

Author: Jennifer K. Elsea, et al.
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This report summarizes what was publicly known at the time about companies that provide personnel for security missions in Iraq. A treatment of legal status and authorities, including an overview of relevant international law as well as Iraqi law, is included. The various possible means for prosecuting contractors under U.S. law in civilian or military courts are detailed, followed by a discussion of possible issues for Congress, including whether protective services are inherently governmental functions. 

Defense Contracting in Iraq: Issues and Options for Congress (RL33834)

Author: Valerie Bailey Grasso
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This report examines logistical support contracts for troop support services in Iraq primarily administered through the U.S. Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). LOGCAP is an initiative designed to manage the use of civilian contractors that perform services during times of war and other military mobilizations. 

2006 Congressional Research Service Reports

Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade: Key Issues for the 110th Congress (RL33760)

Author: Clare M. Ribando, Bruce Vaughn
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The 110th Congress faced a number of pressing foreign affairs, defense, and trade issues in the opening days of its tenure. This report identifies which major issues were most likely to be on the legislative agenda, discusses critical policy choices at stake, and summarizes some of the major alternatives that Congress could consider. Among other issues, Department of Defense contract management is addressed. 

2005 Congressional Research Service Reports

Defense Outsourcing: The OMB Circular A-76 Policy (RL30392)

Author: Valerie Bailey Grasso
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This report provides information on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Circular A-76, “Performance of Commercial Activities,” and the impact of a related reform initiative, the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act (FAIR) of 1998, within the Department of Defense. Together, these two laws prohibit the performance of “inherently governmental” functions by the private sector. It has been argued that contractors cannot perform security, intelligence, law enforcement, and criminal justice functions because such tasks are “inherently governmental.” 

2004 Congressional Research Service Reports

U.S. Treatment of Prisoners in Iraq: Selected Legal Issues (RL32395)

Author: Jennifer K. Elsea
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This report summarizes pertinent provisions of the Geneva Conventions and other international and U.S. standards regarding the treatment of prisoners. A discussion of accountability in the wake of a breach of these standards follows, including a summary of the potential means of asserting jurisdiction over alleged violators. A section is devoted to the accountability of government contractors who violate the law. 

Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues (RL32419)

Author: Jennifer K. Elsea, Nina M. Serafino
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This report first summarizes available information on private contractors providing security services to the U.S. government in Iraq. It then provides extensive information on relevant U.S., international, and Iraqi law, and legal issues involved in the use of armed contractors. It concludes with a short discussion of cost and potential foreign policy implications of private security contractors.