Ensuring Retention of Essential Civilians Overseas During Hostilities

NSIAD-84-73: Published: Mar 14, 1984. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 1984.

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GAO conducted a study to determine: (1) whether the military services were reasonably sure that contractor and Department of Defense (DOD) civilian support personnel would be available when needed overseas in the event of an outbreak of war; and (2) what actions might be taken to ensure continuity of essential functions during mobilization and conflict.

Recent studies have estimated that as many as 6,000 overseas U.S. civilian and contractor personnel are essential to maintain weapons systems and military equipment. There is reason for concern that some essential employees would choose not to stay at their jobs if they thought that conditions were excessively dangerous. Within the projected group of essential civilians, there is a smaller subset of critically needed civilians whose loss could be debilitating. DOD officials have suggested several alternatives to address the situation, including: (1) requiring civilians to remain at their posts under penalty of criminal sanctions; (2) expanding jurisdiction under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to cover civilians in situations not involving a declaration of war; (3) requiring military reserve status for civilians in essential positions; (4) requiring agreement to accept officer status upon mobilization; (5) requiring written agreements from civilians performing essential functions; or (6) requiring contract provisions aimed at ensuring retention of essential contractor personnel. However, progress in defining the extent and significance of the problem and in improving the situation has been slow. DOD has recently issued draft policy guidance intended to ensure retention of essential civilians, which calls for the use of written agreements and contract provisions for danger pay and evacuation of dependents. However, there has been some doubt about the effectiveness of such an approach because only administrative sanctions could be imposed on violators.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A DOD audit in August 1988 made new recommendations on this area and DOD is taking corrective actions.

    Recommendation: DOD should expand its current policy proposals to include more specific guidance on what constitutes an essential civilian.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A DOD audit in August 1988 made new recommendations on this area and DOD is taking corrective actions.

    Recommendation: DOD should expand its current policy proposals to include the identification of the subset of very critical civilian positions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A DOD audit in August 1988 made new recommendations on this area and DOD is taking corrective actions.

    Recommendation: DOD should expand its current policy proposals to include the tailoring of policy alternatives, based on the essentiality of individual positions, to provide an acceptable level of assurance that critical or essential civilians will remain at their posts, focusing first on those whose loss would have the most severe impact on combat missions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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