Guide to the Proper Use of Civilian Intelligence Contractors in the War on Terrorism

Guide to the Proper Use of Civilian Intelligence Contractors in the War on Terrorism

Dies, Harry P, Jr. Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin 33.3 (Jul-Sep 2007): 23-27.

George Washington’s Continental Army employed civilian contractors during the American Revolutionary War.1 Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading U.S. private contracting company, provided contract support to the U.S. Army in World War I.2 Civilian contractors supported the military during World War II and during all other conflicts to the present date. Conclusion With the downsizing of the U.S. military at the end of the Cold War and the unexpected beginning of the War on Terror, senior government leaders have pursued outsourcing as a mechanism to augment our Armed Forces.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Departments of the Army and Defense, or the U.S. Government.


You are newly arrived in Iraq, Afghanistan, or at some other new front in the War on Terrorism, and you have just met your civilian contractor Intelligence Analysts, Counterintelligence (CI) and Human Intelligence (HUMINT) teams. What type of intelligence support can these civilian intelligence contractors provide you? Who do they really work for? What type of taskings can you give them? These and other questions concerning civilian intelligence contractors are swirling through your mind, and you have a limited amount of time to devote to it due to your current operations tempo.

After my military retirement, with 23 years of active duty service in the U.S. Army, I spent one year as a civilian contractor in an intelligence advisory role in Iraq. I offer this brief guide on how to properly use civilian intelligence contractors and leverage the support they offer to win the battle against insurgents and terrorists.

This article will provide a brief overview of the relatively new phenomenon of civilian intelligence contractors performing intelligence jobs/ functions normally performed by Soldiers and Department of Defense (DOD) civilian employees (i.e., intelligence analysts, interrogators, and CI and HUMINT personnel.) The overview includes: background on the use of civilian contractors; intelligence functions contractors can perform; command, control, and oversight of contractors; comparison of Soldiers to contractors; and practical advice on contractor use to assist the military in accomplishing the mission.

Contractors performing intelligence functions are very different than the traditional technical support contractors Military Intelligence (MI) has used to advise on and/ or maintain MI technical systems such as the All- Source Analysis System and other electronic and computer-based intelligence systems. The technical support contractors have been around for sometime, while contractors performing actual intelligence functions are relatively new to supporting MI. Civilian contractors, as part of your intelligence team may be around for awhile, so it behooves MI leaders at all levels to understand the “can’s and cannot ‘s” with respect to their use.


The U.S. military’s use of civilian contractors is nothing new. George Washington’s Continental Army employed civilian contractors during the American Revolutionary War.1 Booz Allen Hamilton, a leading U.S. private contracting company, provided contract support to the U.S. Army in World War I.2 Civilian contractors supported the military during World War II and during all other conflicts to the present date. Army Field Manual (FM) 3100.21 (100-21), Contractors on the Battlefield states that “the increasingly hi-tech nature of our equipment and rapid deployment requirements have significantly increased the need to properly integrate contractor support into all military operations. Recent reductions in military structure, coupled with high mission requirements and the unlikely prospect of full mobilization, mean that to reach a minimum of required levels of support, deployed military forces will often have to be significantly augmented with contractor support.”3 What is new with civilian contract support to the U.S. military is the large quantity of the support. The number of civilian contractors supporting the U.S. military in Iraq is unprecedented. There are more private companies providing civilian contractors to the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq than any other war in history.4

With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. began reducing its military forces to “35 percent from its Cold War high.”5 And of course MI was required to take its share of reductions. By the mid-1990s new regional conflicts began popping-up, and correspondingly U.S. military deployments increased dramatically. The new popular adage (or complaint) in the military became the phrase “doing more with less.” One commander of mine took this logic further when he said “we will soon be asked to do everything with nothing.”

As mentioned above, traditional civilian contract support to MI usually consisted of technical advisors and maintainers of the many MI computer-based systems used in intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination. All through the Cold War, the U.S. military employed high- technology intelligence collection systems that became the premier means of intelligence gathering. In the past, contractor focus was training Soldiers on operating and maintaining these intelligence systems. What is relatively new are the “intelligence gathering” contractors – CI personnel and interrogators as an example.

At the end of the Gulf War, President Bush proclaimed the pursuit of a “new world order” and the Army responded by “building down.” This builddown effort resulted in reductions across the board for the U.S. Army to include MI. The reduction led to shortages of personnel particularly in the CI and HUMINT fields. The reduction in CI and HUMINT personnel became critical as the threat shifted from the massive, conventional Soviet Army to the more loosely defined and non-traditional threat that conflicts such as those in Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia brought to the forefront. After the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, the U.S. military was ordered to deploy to Afghanistan and subsequently to Iraq. Note, the military was still at its “build-down” manning levels and now directed to fight the long talked about two-war scenario. The military found itself with serious shortages of Soldiers with intelligence military occupational specialties. An example of MI personnel shortages is cited in Chris Mackey’s book, The Interrogators. Mackey states, “When the war in Afghanistan started, the Army had just 510 interrogators, including 108 of us who spoke Arabic – a tiny number for a nation about to embark on a massive effort to dismantle Al Qaeda, set up a string of new bases around the Persian Gulf, and within a year and a half, invade Iraq.”6 How to make up for the lack of interrogators, CI and HUMINT personnel, and intelligence analysts? The answer was outsourcing – providing an intelligence services contract to the private sector to reduce the deficit of key intelligence personnel. The U.S. Army has subsequently outsourced for civilian intelligence contractors in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Intelligence Functions

There are a variety of intelligence functions that contractors are now performing for the military. Many of these functions are non- traditional roles for civilian contractors, with the exception of linguists. These include intelligence analysts, CI and HUMINT personnel, locally- employed personnel screeners, and interrogators. The issue for military leaders is understanding what intelligence support contractors can legally do and functions that contractors cannot do. The Army’s Contracting Officer Representative, or COR, is responsible for managing the overall contract that makes these contractors available to the user units. The COR will interface on a regular basis with the parent private company that the contractors work for. What you need to do right off the bat is request a copy of the Statement of Work (SOW) from the COR through your chain of command. The SOW outlines in detail what the military and private contractor’s responsibilities are in fulfilling the contract. The SOW will also describe the exact duty descriptions of the contractors. This is very important because you must always remember that these augmenting intelligence personnel are not Soldiers, they are civilians. There are certain functions they can perform for you in supporting your mission and certain functions that are prohibited by law and/ or military regulations.

As an example, civilian CI contractors are limited in what duties they can perform. In June 2004, the Deputy Chief of Staff, G2 published a memorandum entitled Contractor Support to Army Counterintelligence.7 The memorandum states that, “Contractors supporting CI activities have a limited role due to legalities and Army liabilities, and because the direction and control of CI is considered an “inherently governmental function.” The memorandum also states, “Contractor subject matter experts will not carry badge and credentials (B&Cs) or Representative Credentials, nor will they be referred to as Special Agents.” The memorandum prohibits CI contractors from conducting CI investigations and states that allowable support to CI investigations includes only case analysis, accredited forensics examinations and analysis, and translator/ interpreter duties.

So you might be thinking at this point what’s the use of having the contractors if the Army is going to place restrictions on the support they can provide to you? As we all know, people are the most valuable resource we have and are essential in getting the mission accomplished. From the previous example, your contractors can perform tasks “inside the wire” which allows your Soldier teams to perform their mission outside the wire. Again, it is very important to understand the capabilities of your contractors. You can best do this by requesting a copy of the SOW, reading it and directing any questions or concerns to the COR. Also, have your supporting contractor personnel provide you an overview on what support they can provide you.

Command, Control, and Oversight

Your civilian contractors are obviously not Soldiers. Contractors come from varied backgrounds; some may be retired military, prior service veterans, and some from law enforcement backgrounds. You cannot “treat” contractors as you do your Soldiers. As an example, AR 715-9, Contractors Accompanying the Force, states “in an area of operations where an international agreement authorizes the presence of U.S. forces (stationing agreement) or regulates their status (SOFA), the status of contractors and their employees, under local law, must also be established by international agreement.”8 Duties of contractors are established solely by the terms of their contract – they are not subject to Army regulations or the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) (except during a declared war). Authority over contractors is exercised through the contracting officer.9 Law of war treaties, such as the Hague and Geneva conventions, attempt to establish and clarify the status of contractors when supporting military operations. These treaties entitle contractors to be treated as prisoners of war.10

Contractor status however, is not your responsibility. AR 715-9 states the Contracting Officer’s Representative “… acts as the government’s representative for day-to-day management and/ or receipt of contracted battlefield support services.”11 The regulation also states that, “… the commercial firm(s) providing the battlefield support services will perform the necessary supervisory and management functions of their employees. Contractor employees are not under the direct supervision of military personnel in the chain of command. The contracting officer (KO), or their designated liaison contracting officer’s representative (COR), is responsible for monitoring and implementing contractor performance requirements; however, contractor employees will be expected to adhere to all guidance and obey all instructions and general orders issued by the Theater Commander. In the event instructions or orders of the Theater Commander are violated, the Theater Commander may limit access to facilities and/ or revoke any special status a contractor employee has as an individual accompanying the force to include directing the Contracting Officer to demand that the contractor replace the individual.”12 AR 715-9 also states, “contracted support service personnel will not command, supervise, administer, or control DOD Civilian personnel.”13 It must be clearly understood that commanders do not have direct control over contractor employees (contractor employees are not government employees); only contractors directly manage and supervise their employees.14

So, what does all this mean to you? Well, first, the COR is the military point of contact that is responsible for the overall supervision and dayto-day monitoring of the contract. The private company, who the contractors work for and are paid their salaries by, is responsible for providing supervision and managers to provide this supervision in carrying out the contract. Note, AR 715-9 states, “contract employees are not under the direct supervision of military personnel in the chain of command.”15 Does this mean that your civilian contractors do not have to perform the tasks that you direct? The answer is yes and no. Remember, they are civilians and not Soldiers, so if the military or their company supervisor/ manager says “write that report,” they can refuse and quit at anytime. In the private sector there is the concept of “hire and fire” at will, meaning the company can as easily fire their employees as they can hire them. Of course, illegal firings can be taken to court by the terminated employee for reasons of discrimination and other wrongful acts. But my point is the employee also has the right to quit at anytime, normally giving at least two weeks notice. The military provides the task(s) to be performed to the contractor supervisors/ managers and they in turn direct the contractors to perform the tasks per the SOW. Per AR 715-9, if individual contractor employees violate any military command policies or orders, the base commander can “limit access to facilities” of the contractors or request that the COR direct the contractor’s employer to replace him.16

Another important aspect to be aware of is that contractors cannot supervise Soldiers or DOD civilians. Civilian contractors are augmenting the force to accomplish the mission. Contractors advise and assist the military, while the military decides and controls.

Oversight is an important issue since there is the hazard to lose control over what contractors are doing in support of your mission. An example of this is the Abu Ghraib incident. The Army employed civilian contractor interrogators and interpreters at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The reports of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib led to Major General Antonio Taguba’s AR 15-6 investigation and subsequent report in 2004. John Singer, in the periodical Foreign Relations, states that, “Abu Ghraib contractors were involved in 36 percent of proven incidents and identified six civilian employees as individually culpable.”17 It is obvious that both Soldiers and civilians can make poor judgments and stray off course if not provided proper leadership and guidance.

“Can’t Compare Soldiers to Contractors”

Former Secretary of the Army, Mr. Francis Harvey has stated that comparisons between Soldiers and contractors are “pointless.”18 Mr. Harvey was quoted in an article in the Stars and Stripes in 2005 concerning the pay gap between Soldiers and private sector contractors. His comments arose from growing complaints of Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq that they were “working side by side with contractors who earn double or even triple the military’s base pay.”19 Mr. Harvey argued that people should not expect to get rich by joining the military, but rather take the satisfaction of protecting the nation and that after a 20-year career military personnel could also go into the private sector and pursue financial goals as well. I reluctantly write about this issue because it has the potential to create divisiveness in your team. Remember, it is supposed to be the Total Army concept with an attitude of “one team, one fight.” Civilian contractors augment the force and thus, in my view, should be considered part of the overall team effort. Many contractors are military retirees or have some amount of prior military service. Young Soldiers should not believe that contractors come off the street with no prior military experience, training, or qualifications. Army leaders at all levels should stress that contractors are part of the team.

Practical Advice

I offer some practical advice for military leaders utilizing civilian intelligence contractors and also some advice for civilian contractors supporting the military.

To the military leader:

* View and use your civilian contractor support as a force multiplier.

* Understand the contract Statement of Work and what contractors can and cannot do.

* Use the contractor company provided supervisors and managers to direct and task contractors.

* Remember that contractors are not Soldiers.

* The COR is the authority on your questions and the responsible officer for contract support.

* The military, through contractor supervisors and managers, control supporting contractors.

To the civilian contractor:

* Understand and follow the guidance provided to you (company SOPs, SOW, and ARs and policies) .

* Conduct legal operations and support to the military; protect classified material.

* Always remember that the military is the customer; support the customer.

* In combat areas, expect austere working and living conditions.

* Get along not only with your military customer, but also with your fellow contractors (keep the personality conflicts to a minimum).

* Remember that you advise and support.


With the downsizing of the U.S. military at the end of the Cold War and the unexpected beginning of the War on Terror, senior government leaders have pursued outsourcing as a mechanism to augment our Armed Forces. The use of civilian contractors to augment MI activities will likely continue until the War on Terror is won or the present military force is greatly expanded. MI leaders must understand what capabilities civilian contractors bring to the fight and then integrate this personnel resource into the team to accomplish the mission.



1. FM 3-100.21, Contractors on the Battlefield, 3 January 2003, Preface.

2. Booz Allen Hamilton Historical Timeline Brochure, January 2005, 3.

3. FM 3-100.21 (100-21), 4.

4. Bill Sizemore and Joanne Kimberlin, “Blackwater: Inside America’s Private Army: On the Front Lines,” Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, July 25, 2006, 1.

5. Peter W. Singer, “Understanding the Private Military Sector,” Foreign Affairs, March April 2005, 5.

6. Chris Mackey, The Interrogators, America’s Task Force 500 and Secret War Against Al Qaeda (New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2004), xxvi.

7. Department of the Army (DA) Memorandum, ATTN: DAMI-CD, Subject: Contractor Support to Army Counterintelligence (CI), 10 June 2004.

8. AR 715-9, Contractors Accompanying the Force, (Washington, DC: 29 October 1999), 13.

9. FM 3-100.21, 1-2.

10. Ibid., 4-13.

11. AR 715-9, 9.

12. Ibid., 14.

13. Ibid., 15.

14. FM 3-100.21, 4-1.

15. AR 715-9, 14.

16. Ibid., 14.

17. Singer, 5.

18. Stars and Stripes Mideast Edition, “Army Secretary: Can’t Compare Soldiers with Contractors,” November 9, 2005, 6.

19. Ibid.


Major Harry P. Dies, Jr., U.S. Army, Retired, served as G2X CI/ HUMINT Advisor (civilian contractor) to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Task Force Band of Brothers, in Iraq from 2005 to 2006. During his military career he served in South Korea and Germany, and deployed to Kuwait during Operation Desert Fox. He holds a BS from Austin Peay State University in Tennessee and has an MA from Webster University in Missouri. Readers may contact the author via email at

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