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The United States Military relies heavily upon the support of government and military contractors in order to achieve their goals. As early as the American Revolution, the United States military has a long history of entering into contracts with private sector companies for the purposes of procuring various goods and services. These goods and services are produced and provided by civilians that are employed by the private sector. This allows the Department of Defense and military branches to effectively outsource the production of supplies and equipment, as well as to reduce their in-house staffing and human resources costs.
The use of civilian employees provided by defense and government contractor firms allows the federal government to save money, while still running the armed services in an efficient and effective manner. In addition, the ‘bidding’ process that companies use in order to provide proposals for the research, development and deployment of products and equipment ensures that the government saves money by forcing defense contractors to compete with each other. Whenever a bidding process for a contract to produce goods is underway, various defense companies seek to offer the military the best ‘bang for their buck’ – the highest value goods at the overall lowest cost.
Many military contract jobs involve research and development of new equipment that the military requests. After a bidding process is complete, the military enters into a contract with a defense contractor, who agrees to provide a certain kind of good for a certain cost. The defense contractor is paid for operating expenses related to project completion, plus a pre-determined profit margin calculated based on the costs of operations. This is known as a “cost-plus” model. The contractor will use their own workforce, and often hire new employees so that they can meet the expectations stipulated by the military’s contract. The contract may request the development and deployment of anything from kitchen equipment to fighter jets to satellites – whatever the military happens to be in need of at the time that the contract is drawn up. In many cases, purchasing equipment and products in this manner ensures that the items acquired from the military are custom-tailored to their purposes, and often cheaper than purchasing general purpose ‘commodity’ hardware that is sold to consumers and businesses on the mass market. Additionally, this allows for improved standardization and integration of equipment.
Military contract jobs are also available to civilians in the form of direct labor for the military services. In these cases, civilian employees that work for a defense, government, or other personnel contractors will be directly involved in various support tasks, training projects, construction, or other military efforts. This does not mean that these contract employees become military personnel, though they will often work alongside enlisted military personnel and civilian military personnel. In the latter cases, these personnel are directly employed by the federal government, meaning that the federal government is responsible for hiring, training, paying, and organizing benefits and retirement plans for these employees. However, a contractor working for a military department or base will not be paid directly by the government, and the government is not responsible for their benefits and retirement packages. Instead, the private company that employs them to meet contract terms pays the contract workers’ salaries, transfers, hires and fires in order to meet project requirements, and manages all other human resources aspects of personnel management. This results in significant cost savings for the military. In addition, it ensures that military services maintain a tight focus on the missions and goals that are essential to their functionality. Essentially, the military can thus focus on issues that it is most needed for – defense and national security – and spend less time and resources worrying about minor details such as construction projects or equipment maintenance.
Many military contract jobs involve civilians working in support roles alongside military personnel. There are a number of ways in which contractors can provide support to the military: they may institute training programs that familiarize soldiers with new equipment or technology; they might construct buildings or infrastructure; they may provide maintenance, repair and troubleshooting services for high-tech equipment. In many cases, contractors fill in the gaps where uniformed personnel lack the expertise to deal with certain issues. For instance, it is typical for companies that make office equipment like copy machines to dispatch a contract employee to military locations (even ships!) where their products are heavily used, in order to provide maintenance and support. This absolves military personnel from dealing with issues that are only indirectly related to the military’s capacity to achieve their objectives. In addition, it reduces training costs, because military personnel do not need to be trained to deal with these issues. In addition, the use of contract personnel is a key way to cut costs whenever a project requires a temporary increase in the military’s workforce.
Security jobs are also handled by some military contractors. A variety of security contracting firms provide intelligence gathering, analysis, translation, surveillance, information security, and physical security services to the military. In addition, many of these security contractors also provide the same or similar services to other defense and government contractors that need certain security needs met while projects are completed. This is a particularly useful relationship between contractors; outsourcing security duties usually makes sense, because security operations are so radically different than the research and development and staffing duties that most defense contractors are concerned with. Security contractors are a common feature of projects that involve large amounts of work abroad in particularly dangerous or somewhat suspect locales. They are also deployed whenever contractors are working with sensitive equipment or information. In addition, security contractors that focus on intelligence operations, such as information gathering, analysis, and translation of materials are often directly employed by the Department of Defense or military branches in order to bolster their own internal intelligence capabilities, and to assist in the completion of missions where the government believes it may be more cost effective or efficient to utilize a security contractor.