Contractors on the Battlefield: When and How? Using the US Military Risk Management Framework to Learn from the Balkans Support Contract
Greenfield, Victoria A.
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For centuries, the US military has wrestled with decisions about when and how to use private contractors, especially ''Contractors on the Battlefield.'' Reports of mixed performance, inexperienced contracting officers, miscommunication, and profiteering date back to the Revolutionary War. History may be ''living history,'' in part, because decision-makers have lacked adequate means of systematically anticipating future outcomes and harvesting lessons from the past. The US military''s risk-management framework, a familiar tool in other operational settings, may fill that void. To illustrate, this paper applies the framework to the Army''s Balkans Support Contract (BSC); the contract covers a variety of life support, transportation, and maintenance services and has registered a substantial track record in deployment. The application demonstrates the utility of the risk-management framework and draws general lessons from the BSC experience for selecting service providers and for contract development, management, and oversight. Four deceptively simple lessons emerge from the analysis: first, not all risks are inherently contractual; most are environmental or activity-based. Second, risk is dynamic; appropriate responses change over time. Third, a contract is only as good as its customer; design and execution determine outcomes. And fourth, risk management is not risk elimination; not all risk can or should be eliminated.
Proceedings Paper (for Acquisition Research Program)
NPS Report NumberNPS-AM-07-013
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