DoD Takes Personnel Recovery to Next Level
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2004 U.S. government civilians' and contractors' presence in the battlespace is taking DoD personnel recovery to another level and expanding the personnel-recovery mission, said the director of personnel recovery policy for the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.
"The contractors and civilian employees are in the same environment as military personnel," Air Force Col. John Hobble said in a recent interview. "We have DoD contractors that have been kidnapped and isolated. They went through some training at their processing centers before they went overseas. It's about at the same level as the military members who are at moderate risk of capture."
The U.S. military has always used contractors in times of war. Gen. George Washington reportedly used civilian wagon drivers to haul supplies during the Revolutionary War, and civilian vendors supported Union troops during the Civil War. Contractors have been used in every war since.
During the 1990 Persian Gulf War, the General Accounting Office estimates that there were more than 5,000 government civilians and 9,200 contractor employees deployed in support of U.S. forces providing maintenance for high-tech equipment in addition to water, food, construction and other services.
Hobble said, however, different circumstances face contractors on the battlefield now because the current global war on terrorism "is really an asymmetric war." There are no defined lines. You can walk out your door in the hotel room or the front door of the hotel and you're in the middle of the battlespace."
"With the asymmetric battlespace that we're encountering today, we really have to change how we do business," Hobble said.
"Right now we don't have anything," he said. DoD is looking to address the issue in the national personnel-recovery architecture, part of the National Presidential Security Directive in draft form now, Hobble noted.