Sidebar: Picking Up the Slack

July 1996

Picking Up the Slack

by Katherine McIntire Peters

Since the drawdown of military forces following the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf, Defense Department civilians and private contractors have been shouldering greater responsibility on military deployments. They are performing many support tasks formerly done by military personnel:

Food service. Civilians are serving up chow in Bosnia and did so in Haiti for many of the troops deployed on those missions.

Sanitation and shower service. Civilians are largely responsible for building and maintaining showers and latrines.

Recreation. Defense civilians deploy with most brigade-sized units to provide entertainment, sports and other diversions.

Construction. Much of the construction of maintenance shelters and base camps is performed by civilians.

Laundry service. Field laundry operations are largely conducted by contractors and local host-nation subcontractors.

Translation service. Civilian interpreters help U.S. troops talk to locals and foreign troops on deployment.

Running base camps. From building troop facilities to delivering mail, civilians have become central to base operations.

Security. As military policemen have been tasked with more duties, Defense civilians are providing security on more missions.

Communications. When communications technology failed NATO troops in Bosnia, Defense civilians were deployed for repairs.

Maintenance. As various weapons systems have become more sophisticated, civilians have become critical to their maintenance.

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