Middle Eastern companies, including Kulak Construction Co. of Turkey and Projects International of Dubai, supply labor from Third World countries to KBR and other U.S. companies for menial work on U.S. bases and rebuilding projects. Foreigners are used instead of Iraqis because of fears that insurgents could infiltrate projects.
KBR is by far the largest employer of Americans, with nearly 14,000 U.S. workers. Other large employers of Americans in Iraq include New York-based L-3 Communications, which holds a contract to provide translators to troops, and ITT Corp., a New York engineering and technology firm.
The most controversial contractors are those working for private security companies, including Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Erinys. They guard sensitive sites and provide protection to U.S. and Iraqi government officials and businessmen.
Security contractors draw some of the sharpest criticism, much of it from military policy experts who say their jobs should be done by the military. On several occasions, heavily armed private contractors have engaged in firefights when attacked by Iraqi insurgents.
Others worry that the private security contractors lack accountability. Although scores of troops have been prosecuted for serious crimes, only a handful of private security contractors have faced legal charges.
The number of private security contractors in Iraq remains unclear, despite Central Command's latest census. The Times identified 21 security companies in the Central Command database, deploying 10,800 men.
However, the Defense Department's Motsek, who monitors contractors, said the Pentagon estimated the total was 6,000.
Both figures are far below the private security industry's own estimate of about 30,000 private security contractors working for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, media outlets and businesses.
Industry officials said that private security companies helped reduce the number of troops needed in Iraq and provided jobs to Iraqis -- a benefit in a country with high unemployment.
"A guy who is working for a [private security company] is not out on the street doing something inimical to our interests," said Lawrence Peter, director of the Private Security Company Assn. of Iraq.
Not surprisingly, Iraqis make up the largest number of civilian employees under U.S. contracts. Typically, the government contracts with an American firm, which then subcontracts with an Iraqi firm to do the job.
Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, a contractors' trade group, said the number of Iraqis reflected the importance of the reconstruction and economic development efforts to the overall U.S. mission in Iraq.
"That's not work that the government does or has ever done.... That's work that is going to be done by companies and to some extent by" nongovernmental organizations, Soloway said. "People tend to think that these are contractors on the battlefield, and they're not."
The Iraqis have been the most difficult to track. As recently as May, the Pentagon told Congress that 22,000 Iraqis were employed by its contractors. But the Pentagon number recently jumped to 65,000 -- a result of closer inspection of contracts, an official said.
The total number of Iraqis employed under U.S. contracts is important, in part because it may influence debate in Congress regarding how many Iraqis will be allowed to come to the U.S. to escape violence in their homeland.
This year, the U.S. planned to cap that number at 7,000 a year. To date, however, only a few dozen Iraqis have been admitted, according to State Department figures.
Kirk Johnson, head of the List Project, which seeks to increase the admission of Iraqis, said that the U.S. needed to provide a haven to those who worked most closely with American officials.
"We all say we are grateful to these Iraqis," Johnson said. "How can we be the only superpower in the world that can't implement what we recognize as a moral imperative?"
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The back story
Information in this article is based in part on a database of contractors in Iraq obtained by The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, which allows the public access to government records.
The database is the result of a census conducted earlier this year by the U.S. Central Command.
The census found about 130,000 contractors working for 632 companies holding contracts in Iraq with the Defense Department and a handful of other federal agencies.
The Times received the database last month, four months after first requesting it. Because the Freedom of Information Act law requires an agency to provide only information as of the date of the request, the census is based on figures as of February. During interviews, Pentagon officials said the census had since been updated, and they provided additional figures based on the update.
Los Angeles Times
Contractors in Iraq
There are more U.S.-paid private contractors than there are American combat troops in Iraq.