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Privatizing the Iraq war
Speaking Security Newsletter | Note n°200 | 24 March 2023
For the first few years after the invasion, the ratio of US troops to US-funded contractors in Iraq was about 1 to 1, becoming more contractor-dominant as conventional forces started leaving after 2008. By comparison, the troop-to-contractor ratio was 5 to 1 in Vietnam, 2.5 to 1 in Korea, and 7 to 1 during WWII.
What does this mean in terms of cash? Based on my analysis of federal contract data, the US spent more than $155 billion on contractors in Iraq over a 20-year period (FY2003-22). Note that this figure refers only to contracts performed in Iraq and not the contracts for the Iraq war carried out in nearby(-ish) countries like Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE. Does that make sense?
^Alt text for screen readers: The U.S. spent $155 billion on contractors in Iraq. This column chart has a bunch of red columns representing the value of U.S.-funded contracts performed in Iraq from 2003 to 2022. It peaks at 2005 and 2008: in both years, contract values amounted to $22 billion. Figures are expressed in constant 2023 dollars. Data is from the System for Award Management.