Defense Base Act Compensation Blog

The Modern Day DBA Casualty

Contractor Deaths Accelerating in Afghanistan as They Outnumber Soldiers

Posted by defensebaseactcomp on April 14, 2010

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica – April 14, 2010

A recent Congressional Research Service analysis [1] obtained by ProPublica looked at the number of civilian contractors killed in Afghanistan in recent months. It’s not pretty.

Of the 289 civilians killed since the war began more than eight years ago, 100 have died in just the last six months. That’s a reflection of both growing violence and the importance of the civilians flooding into the country along with troops in response to President Obama’s decision to boost the American presence in Afghanistan.

The latest U.S. Department of Defense numbers show there are actually more civilian contractors on the ground in Afghanistan than there are soldiers. The Pentagon reported [2] 107,292 U.S.-hired civilian workers in Afghanistan as of February 2010, when there were about 78,000 soldiers. This is apparently the first time that contractors have exceeded soldiers by such a large margin.

Using civilian contractors to haul food, prepare meals and act as bodyguards has kept the Pentagon’s official casualty figures lower than they would have been in past conflicts, where contractors were not as heavily used.

Contractor casualties are, by and large, invisible to the public, disguising the full human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are not reported in totals given by the government. If they were, the death toll in Afghanistan would have surpassed 1,000 — 848 soldiers, 289 civilian contractors — from 2001 to 2009, a milestone that has gone entirely unmarked.

The number of contractor dead are released only though the Labor Department, which keeps count as part of an insurance program for contractors known as the Defense Base Act. And these numbers, agency officials have admitted and our reporting has shown, undercount fatalities. As David Isenberg [3] pointed out in the Huffington Post recently, a new database designed, in part, to track contractor deaths is still not being used to do so.

Staff researcher Lisa Schwartz contributed to this report. Original here

One Response to “Contractor Deaths Accelerating in Afghanistan as They Outnumber Soldiers”

  1. anonymousonpurpose said


    This is just like Iraq..there are more contractors there than Allied soldiers. It takes a lot to keep the military up and running. With the deployments happening more frequently and for longer periods of time, without the comforts that the contractors provide to the soldiers morale would definitely suffer…and with it distractions on the battlefield leading to more casualties. The contractors are right there on the front lines with the soldiers…almost from day one…and yet, no one counts them among the dead and wounded…it is a travesty to say that they are “only” there for the money!

    I knew several men, and women, killed and injured who were there only to do laundry, or pump fuel, or maintain the generators, or purify water, or cook food, or put a smile on a soldiers face by listening.

    We should be counted!

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