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Civilian contractors pay price in Iraq
Wednesday April 14, 3:50 pm ET

By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2004 (Summary of Reuters Article) - Although 680 soldiers have died in Iraq, nobody is tracking the number of dead employees for civilian contractors working with the military. The Pentagon does not tally the number of civilian employees killed. Contracting companies are reluctant to release the figures of the number killed for fear of becoming targets. A conservative estimate is that 50 civilian contractor employees have died in the Iraq war so far. The State Department keeps track of the number of U.S. civilian deaths but for security reasons the numbers are not made public. Known deaths so far include 30 employees and subcontractors working for Halliburton's KBR subsidiary and 13 civilians working for San Diego company Titan Corp, which does translation work for the U.S. Army in Iraq. Private security firms have become increasingly involved in combat roles as attacks continue to rise. Four employees for security firm Blackwater were killed in March. "There are very few countries that are so hostile, where you constantly run the risk of being surrounded by people with weapons and RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades)," said one security contractor, who asked not to be named. "Iraq really is a very hostile environment. It raises the question whether ... private companies should be operating there," he said. Private contractors have always played an important role in wars of the United States, but what is different this time, say experts, is the scope of work and the dangers. At the end of the Gulf War the ratio was about one contractor to 100 soldiers, but this time around it is one contractor to every 10 soldiers, estimated Peter Singer, author of a book on the privatization of military jobs.