Mr. Hunter, who received a private Pentagon briefing last week on efforts to defeat improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan, said that effort also relies too much on contractors.
“One of the reasons they have to have so many contractors in theater is because of that troop cap,” Mr. Hunter said. “When you have [the Defense Department] talking about we have to cut down on the number of contractors, it’s a self-imposed headache because of the president’s troop cap in Afghanistan.
“Say you get some extra Predators [unmanned aerial vehicles]. But what is really one of the most important things is being able to analyze all the video coming down to you,” he added. “If you don’t have people to analyze it and watch it and people who know what they’re looking at, then you might as well be watching Sports Center.”
The Pentagon has been reluctant to disclose what roles contractors are performing in Afghanistan, according to a July 2 report by the Congressional Research Service. At that time, the Pentagon had more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan (207,600), the report said, than troops (175,000).
By December 2008, with the Afghanistan war 7 years old, contractors accounted for 69 percent of all Defense Department employees, which the Congressional Research Service called “the highest recorded percentage of contractors used by DOD in any conflict in the history of the United States.”
The report said the Pentagon has not provided a breakdown of contractors’ duties in the country, except for security personnel data. “DOD officials have stated in the past that they will start providing data on the breakdown of services in Afghanistan in the next quarterly census,” said the Congressional Research Service. “However, to date, they have not done so.”
Mr. Kline said the White House should breach the cap by a few thousand troops if it means better security for forward operating bases.
“Look, we shouldn’t be fooling around with this,” he said. “If we need these troops to provide the protection of our forces over there, we ought to just do it and not be constrained by some number.”
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