War in Afghanistan and Iraq

Published — October 30, 2009 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Vast undercount of war contractors by defense tracking system

Introduction

Nearly one-quarter of defense contractor employees deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and elsewhere in Southwest Asia — some 74,000 employees — are not being counted by the Defense Department’s tracking system, according to a document to be released on Monday by the Commission on Wartime Contracting. The finding brings into question the Pentagon’s continuing difficulty in monitoring and managing its contractor workforce.

The Synchronized Pre-deployment and Operational Tracker, or SPOT, is the Defense Department’s primary system to track contractors. Contractor companies are required to maintain individual employee accountability within SPOT, according to the system’s website. Government representatives use SPOT for oversight of the contractors they deploy.

SPOT counted about 170,000 employees in the region. However, a census by the Army’s Central Command counted about 243,000. Both counts occurred in the second quarter of 2009. U.S. Agency for International Development and State Department contractors are just beginning to be counted by SPOT, the Commission said.

The biggest difference in counts was in Afghanistan. SPOT counted around 30,000 contractor employees and the Army found more than twice as many, almost 74,000. The difference was minimal in Iraq.

It took more than two years to produce an order to implement the SPOT database — which was supposed to have achieved 100 percent coverage by the fall of 2008 — according to Clark Irwin, the Commission’s spokesman. The SPOT database, as shown by the 74,000 employee discrepancy, is still far from achieving 100 percent coverage.

By the time of publication, the SPOT program had not responded to a request for comment.

On Monday, the Commission will review the lack of an accurate count of contractors, among other issues.

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