Sept. 10, 2021
This September marks the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that horrifically cut short almost 3,000 lives in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and that had seismic effects on the nation and the U.S. Government. Since that day, the United States has undergone massive changes in several important ways. Ever a reliable partner, the federal contracting community has also changed to meet the evolving needs of its government customer.
On the military side, more than 3 million U.S. service members have deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere since September 2001. As of August 23, 2021, more than 7,000 service members have been killed and more than 53,000 have been wounded in action in post-9/11 operations. Many more troops suffer psychological and other effects; more than one million veterans of post-9/11 operations have a severe service-connected disability rating of 60 percent or higher.
As these service members undertake contingency operations and as they work on their recovery afterwards, government contractors continue to work tirelessly alongside them. According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University, 7,950 U.S. contractors were killed in major war zones between October 2001 and October 2019 —93 percent of which occurred in Afghanistan or Iraq.
These brave men and women made the ultimate sacrifice while pursuing U.S. Government objectives, from training and equipping national security forces to advising civilian leaders within foreign governments to supporting key economic, diplomatic, and gender-based projects in critical efforts to advance democracy and civil society.
We honor their service. They will not be forgotten.
Government contractors are also working with the departments of defense and veterans affairs to assist current and former service members who have returned from combat with a range of physical, mental, and emotional health needs. The contracting community stands with our nation’s warfighters long after they depart the theater of military operations.
On the homefront, the 9/11 terrorist attacks also spurred an unprecedented bureaucratic mobilization to combat terrorism and keep America safe. Less than one month after the attacks, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge began his work in the newly created Office of Homeland Security within the White House. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 formally evolved that office into a brand-new Cabinet department.
As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stood up nearly 20 years ago, the government contracting community contributed significant intellectual, technological, and human resource capabilities. Those contributions continue to this day. DHS is now the third largest Cabinet department with more than 240,000 federal employees and incorporating 22 separate federal agencies. In fiscal year 2020 alone, DHS contract obligations were $21.4 billion with $16.2 billion spent on contracted services. Table 1 represents DHS spending by services category over the last several fiscal years.
Finally, the intelligence community as well as the FBI quickly renewed their mission focus on counterterrorism and began to build and reinforce their workforce and capabilities after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. For example, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 re-organized the intelligence community and created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. As new organizations formed, key elements such as change management, financial management, information technology, human resources, facilities, and other assets were built and modified through the united spirit of the blended government employee and contractor workforce.
After 9/11, there was a sense of unity and purpose among U.S. citizens. As service contractors work alongside military personnel, civil servants, grantees, and other public service-minded colleagues, it is clear that the evolution and realization of U.S. Government missions has been possible in part due to efforts by the private sector. As we mark this solemn 20th anniversary, we recognize the government contractors’ contributions and sacrifices in achieving those missions and keeping our homeland safe. Thank you all.
This article original appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of Service Contractor Magazine.