09/24/2012 05:33 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2012

Counting the CFTE

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To paraphrase an old sports expression, you can't tell the contractors without a scorecard. Perhaps you've wondered just how many service contractors does the Department of Defense have? Please note that service contractors includes firms like KBR (logistics) or Academi (security), as opposed to those actually making hardware (weapons).

Fortunately for us, back in August those nice number crunchers at the Pentagon produced an informative, albeit little-noted report, on that very subject.

The Inventory of Contracts for Services [ICS] for Fiscal Year 2011 for the Military Departments, Defense Agencies, and Department of Defense Field Activities collected inputs from 32 individual components to calculate contractor full-time equivalents.

As of August 27 those DoD components were awarded approximately $144.5 billion in government obligations and there were an estimated 709,879 Contractor Full-Time Equivalents (CFTEs) across the Pentagon.

Who are some of the Pentagon's biggest consumers of services? Not surprisingly, the Army came in with a whopping 246,916 CFTE, valued at $40,345,114,626.

The Navy had 175,929 CFTE valued at $32,728,959,199. It was closely followed by the Air Force at 166,496 CFTE valued at $33,553,494,773.

Okay, no big surprise there. At this point in time contractors are so integrated with regular military forces that the latter simply can't function without them. Still, given that the active duty forces, not counting reserves or federal civilians, totaled 1,217,901 at the end of 2011 the total CFTE number was equivalent to 58 percent of the active force.

Put another way, given that FY 2012 appropriation just for the Department of Defense and not counting other departments and agencies which also contribute to the overall national security function, and also use service contractors, was about $645.7 billion (p. 1-2) service contractors represented about 22 percent of the total.

Not being an economist I won't venture to say whether that is "cost-effective" but I'm fairly sure it mean one heck of a lot of profit for service contractors overall.

Who else was using service contractors? Well, how about the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS). He used 430 of them for a total value of $107,469,870. The CJCS, of course, is at the top of the military food chain. He and his staff do things like formulate the national military strategy. Should the private sector be helping to do that? Hmmm.

Of course, even if you think it is okay, at an average of $249,929 per contractor the Chairman should expect the equivalent of Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz level expertise. Currently a 2-star O-8, like an Army Major General with over 16 years of service, earns only $143,856 per year.

The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) used 6,610 of them for $1,739,427,371. Did they help Seal Team 6 kill Bin Laden? I have no idea but if they did that was money well spent in my view.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which helps coordinate U.S. arms sales to other countries used 73 for a mere $11,267,339. Oh wait, that works out to an annual average salary of $154,347 per contractor. Sweet! Of course for that salary one half expects that they have vice presidents from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman working for them.

Even the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the agency which is supposed to provide oversight of contractors, uses them; 59 of them for $12,492,773for an average salary of $211,741 per contractor. Talk about the best accountability money can buy!

But wait, the Defense Contract Management Agency used 245 for $47,103,875; for a mere average of $192,260 per contractor. Hey, go suck it, DCMA pukes.

Of course, all the above pales in comparison to AFRICOM (United States Africa Command), which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. It spent $65,578,331 for 191 CFTE, or $343,342 per contractor.

Meanwhile EUCOM (United States European Command) spent $47,163,268 for 201 CFTE., or an average of $234,643 per contractor. Clearly there is more money in developing regions.

And last, although hardly least, there is the Defense Media Activity . Paying $137,292,452 for 672 CFTE, or an average of $204,304 per contractor, proves that while the pen may not be mightier than the sword, it surely costs a lot more. One can only imagine what message these contractors are beaming out to the troops. Perhaps subliminal messaging on contractor cost-effectiveness.