Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Everyone knows Rudolph; he’s the guy at the front of the sleigh lighting up whichever pathCOVER 300 Santa wants to travel. The rest of the team, Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, are providing the reindeer power the outfit needs to get to wherever the man in the red says is the destination.  That’s it, today’s military policy lesson in less than 100 words.

On this Christmas Eve, American soldiers are deployed to 150[1] of the 192[2] or so countries around the world.  They are lighting the way for the Commander in Chief. Right behind the troops are an equal or greater number of government defense contractor employees hunkering down to pull the sleigh of state.  All of those people, uniformed and civilian, are volunteers.  They are all doing what they want to do and they are where they are, because that is where the job is.  Steve Traywick shared a soldier’s perspective of Christmas in his post, Reflections of a Cold War Warrior-Christmas, but there is another tale to tell.

Christmas at the mess hall

Christmas at the mess hall

Government defense contractor employees experience the same range of emotions as soldiers at Christmas. Patti, Dave, and Steve in Afghanistan support the military supply chain, and worry about their children being alone on Christmas.  Paco, Vicente, and Tom, in Yemen, will be up at 0300 hours to prepare a Christmas meal in the chow hall, and they will long to be at home when the presents are opened.

Keeping the military machine running is not an easy life, but it is a good job that pays regularly and needs doing.  Contract personnel are used for all manner of work in support of the military machine. Three times a day in 150 far-flung countries, uniformed and contractor personnel are fed come hell or high water; the military insists on it.  Convoys transport material forward and, in many cases, civilians drive the trucks, the wheels and aircraft of the military need routine maintenance and breakdown repair, the supply chain of goods and services needs staffing, training of civilian and contractor personnel must be completed, installations and infrastructure like roads and pipelines need

Logistics keeps the military in business.

Logistics keeps the military in business.

management and maintenance, and construction needs doing.  Defense contractors stand in line for these support contracts.  Contract personnel, many of whom are former military personnel, perform the work.  It is how the business is done.

There are many benefits to the government for using contract support.  First, the charges for the services may be handled in many ways not directly attributable to the Department of Defense.  For example, in the past, the Department of Energy was used as such a contracting agency.  The DOE contractor could then be used to support the military through various intergovernmental agreements justified by references to even more government agreements such as treaties.  Following the money trail becomes difficult at best and obtaining the true cost of business at any site, say Vietnam, approaches the impossible. Continue reading