Pentagon says it uses 700,000 service contractors

The Defense Department hires the equivalent of more than 700,000 employees annually to perform tasks under service contracts ranging from mowing grass at military bases to testing key weapon systems, according to a new Pentagon report.

"The Department of Defense relies heavily on contracted labor for the performance of services," according to a March 12 Defense report required by Congress. In the fiscal 2000 Defense authorization act, the Pentagon was required to come up with a detailed accounting of all its service contractors.

The report found that Defense hires the equivalent of about 734,000 employees annually to perform the service work--a number greater than the 640,000 civilians who work for Defense as federal employees. The jobs most commonly contracted out were research, development, test and evaluation work; professional administration and management support services; and maintenance and property repair.

The breakdown for outsourced service jobs is:

  • 230,000 Army positions
  • 231,000 Navy positions
  • 199,000 Air Force positions
  • 71,000 Defense agency positions

The new report is sure to fuel the ongoing debate about how much federal work should be contracted out. The largest federal employees' union, the American Federation of Government Employees, seized on the data as evidence that Defense has "sold off large chunks of our national security to service contractors."

"We have heard a lot of lies the last few years about how much smaller DoD's workforce has become. DoD's workforce has not gotten any smaller; it's merely been reconfigured," said AFGE president Bobby Harnage.

Harnage said a similar Defense review of service contractors three years ago found only 197,00 jobs contracted out. Defense officials, however, said those numbers cannot be compared because the criteria for counting outsourced work has changed.

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