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Today, civilian workers – both within the US military and outside the military – play an increasingly important role in global military operations conducted by the US Department of Defense. The Department of Defense and the military branches – the Army, the Air Force, the Marines, the Navy, and the Coast Guard – are all increasingly dependent upon civilians in order to accomplish their tasks at home and abroad. This is largely to free up their uniformed personnel from tasks that are related to mission success, but are only incidentally related to the skill sets that define the core of what it means to be a uniformed military employee, whether as an officer or as an enlisted service member. This allows for the military to invest most of its time and money training uniformed personnel to perform key tasks related to defense, instead of utilizing uniformed personnel to perform auxiliary tasks such as accounting, cooking, construction, etc. Because it is comparatively expensive to train military personnel, spending US taxpayers’ money on training uniformed service members to perform tasks that could be performed equally well by a civilian is an inefficient means for the military to expend its resources. In addition, doing so means that more uniformed service members are trained to complete tasks that do not actually directly contribute to defense in a significant way – which many taxpayers, as well as government officials, have come to view as a misuse of limited tax dollars. As a result, a Department of Defense – wide push for increased efficiency in the use of civilian personnel has occurred.
Outsourcing to Civilian Military Jobs – Saves Money
Outsourcing certain duties associated with military missions to the civilian sector is hardly a new occurrence in the long history of the United States. As early as the American Revolution, civilian employees and contractors were providing essential services – such as supply chain management and carpentry – to the Continental Army. Without the significant contributions of civilian workers, it is doubtful that the Continental Army could have fended off the British and their mercenaries. During the first and second World Wars, civilian employees and contractors played an essential support role on the home front, by helping to support the war effort through manufacturing and other auxiliary tasks. By the 1960s and 1970s, US civilian contractors and employees were playing an important role in front line military operations in Vietnam, largely thanks to demands created by new technologies deployed in the field. The United States quickly learned that the most effective way to deal with the maintenance and support of high-tech weapons and communications systems was to depend on highly skilled civilian employees, rather than attempting to train fresh recruits – many of whom lacked necessary educational qualifications – to work on such systems. As a result, civilian contractors and employees found themselves playing an increasingly important role in the deployment of US military might around the world, and began to indirectly reshape the manner in which the US military forces carry out operations.
There are two manners in which individuals can work for the military as civilians. First, civilians can work directly for the Department of Defense or one of its military branches. Second, civilians might be employed by a private sector company – usually a “defense contractor” – that specializes in providing personnel, products, and services that are tailored to the needs of military groups.
The Department of Defense is actually a largely civilian organization, with exceptions for the enlisted and commissioned personnel within its military departments. Hence, a very large number of Americans go to work every day in order to directly and indirectly support military operations. Alternatively, many Americans around the world also work as civilian employees within military branches. These employees can be found in military installations and on military bases worldwide, intermingled with uniformed personnel. They might work in the base’s hospital as a nurse, or might work in a support position (i.e., as an accountant, or as a counselor) that is essential for day to day operations, but largely unrelated (skill set – wise) to tasks that are generally associated with military activities. These civilian personnel might answer to civilian boss, also employed by the military, or may answer to a uniformed officer within their respective branch. Seeing civilians on military bases is a typical part of day to day military life in the United States, and the employment of civilians on military bases and installations often plays a crucial role in local economies that spring up around such sites. The number of civilians employed by the military branches is quite large. For instance, the United States Army alone employs over 333,000 civilian men and women world wide.
If a civilian does not work directly for the military or a military branch, yet still works for the military, they usually do so under the employment of a private sector military or defense contractor. These companies specialize in providing personnel, products, and services to military groups. Contractors are used to do everything from develop new weapons and technologies (ranging from relatively simple machine such as fire arms, all the way to multimillion dollar aircraft), to providing logistical and support services, i.e., operating a military base’s dining options, or constructing runways and other key parts of military infrastructure. In addition, they often provide support for military technologies at home and in the field. At some point during the 20th century, both defense contractors and military branches determined that they were largely wasting their time and efforts when attempting to train military personnel to care for and troubleshoot high-tech equipment being deployed at home and abroad. Instead, it made fare more sense for employees of a contractor – who developed and deployed the technology anyway – to take over these responsibilities. As a result, contractors and their employees play a crucial role in global military operations, whether this means erecting barracks at temporary military installations in conflict zones, or providing mental health services to military personnel on the home front. Military contractors are an ubiquitous, and arguably, absolutely essential part of every day military operations.