The U.S. military can increasingly look to the contractor workforce as a source for training and augmentation services as the Defense Department eyes control of personnel costs as a means to control the defense budget, according to retired Air Force Col. Scott Seavers.
Seavers, who joined Fairfax, Va.-based Salient Federal Solutions as a vice president last year, outlined in an op-ed piece on his view of how contractors can help the military stay ready and maintain equipment against a backdrop of declining budgets and heightened scrutiny of how the services use their financial resources.
In particular, the U.S. Navy has reduced its fiscal year funding for training and maintenance services on warships in order to free up money for other areas the branch sees as priorities (our sister site ExecutiveGov has more on that story, here).
Overall, the military faced a 12-percent cut to its fiscal 2014 operations and maintenance funds under sequestration as set forth in an internal planning document that outlined the cuts if they fell.
“Current budget trends indicate the need for creative methods to make best use of shrinking federal coffers,” says Seavers, a 27-year military veteran and former Air Force Security Assistance Training Squadron commander.
In that role, Seavers led all aspects of international training and education for soldiers, civilians and contractors in support of more than 10,000 students across 140 countries.
One creative approach Seavers suggests in his op-ed to help maintain the readiness of warfighters is to increase the use of contractor-provided services in military training.
“Contractors can be hired for short periods of time to perform specific services and then released when no longer needed,” he says.
Seavers pointed to examples of how contractors have performed academic and simulator flight training for the Air Force and sometimes “provide the first military flight training Air Force pilots receive.”
In one example, the Air Force chose aerospace technology maker CAE last year to continue its work to manage training for nearly 1,500 pilots that fly the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft.
Seavers also highlighted how contractors have helped the military provide other specialty skill training to warfighters
For its part, the Navy has awarded contracts for training services throughout the branch, including a potential three-year contract for work at SPAWAR program offices and a potential $877 million award to seven firms for work in academics, experimentation and training assessments.
Seavers concludes his piece by highlighting how contract trainers are motivated to perform the work and prove their value from the start in order to receive future opportunities.
“Contract personnel must adapt and perform at a high level, or they don’t survive.”