Consider the following: In fiscal year 2005 (the last year for which full data is available), the Pentagon spent more contracting for services with private companies than on supplies and equipment -- including major weapons systems. This figure has been steadily rising over the past 10 years. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, in the last decade the amount the Pentagon has paid out to private companies for services has increased by 78% in real terms. In fiscal year 2006, those services contracts totaled more than $151 billion.
Ever more frequently, we hear generals and politicians alike bemoan the state of the military. Their conclusion: The wear and tear of the President's Global War on Terror has pushed the military to the breaking point. But private contractors are playing a different tune. Think of it this way: While the military cannot stay properly supplied, its suppliers are racking up contracts in the multi-billions. For them, it's a matter of letting the good times roll.
Consider fiscal year 2001, which conveniently ended in September of that year. It serves as a good, pre-War on Terror baseline for grasping just how the Pentagon expanded ever since -- and how much more it is paying out to private contractors today.
Back then, the Pentagon's top 10 suppliers shared $58.7 billion in Department of Defense (DoD) contracts, out of a total of $144 billion that went to the top 100 Pentagon contractors. Number 100 on the list was The Carlyle Group with $145 million in contracts. Keep in mind, of course, that this was the price of "defense" for a nation with no superpower rival.
Fast forward to 2007 and the top 10 companies on the Pentagon's list of private contractors were sharing $125 billion in DoD contracts, out of a total of $239 billion being shared among the top 100 contractors. The smallest contract among those 100 was awarded to ARINC and came in at $495 million.
In those seven years, in other words, contracts to the top 10 more than doubled, the size of the total pay-out pie increased by two-thirds, and the lowest contract among the top 100 went up almost four-fold.
Just as revealing, almost half the companies on the Pentagon's Top 100 list in 2007 were not even on it seven years earlier, including McKesson, which took in a hefty $4.6 billion in contracts and MacAndrews and Forbes which garnered $3.3 billion.
And here's a fact that makes sense of all of the above: Given the spectrum of services offered and the level of integration that has already taken place between the Pentagon and these private companies, the United States can no longer wage a war or even run payroll without them.