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August 6, 2007

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) announced that over 1,000 contractors have been killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.  Congresswoman Schakowsky obtained this information after contacting the U.S. Department of Labor to request the latest numbers on contractor injuries and deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Under the Defense Base Act, claims for deaths and injuries for employees of federal government contractors are filed with the Department of Labor, which had received 1,001 death claims as of June 30, 2007.  Schakowsky released the following statement in response to this news.

“This is a sad, but significant milestone.  Until now, the American people have largely been kept in the dark about the true costs of the war in Iraq.  Although most of these contractors are Americans, the Department of Defense refuses to include their deaths in the total number of U.S. causalities in Iraq.  The Pentagon has reported that 3,668 Americans have died in Iraq when in actuality that number is much higher.

I asked the Department of Labor for this information because the American people deserve to know how many Americans have been injured or lost their lives in Iraq.  Sadly, hundreds of American families are grieving over the loss of their loved ones while our government fails to publicly acknowledge their service and sacrifice.

The American people are not getting the full story about the role and scope of military contractors in Iraq.  Under current law, Congress can’t even get a straight answer from the Pentagon about how many contractors are operating inside of Iraq, and yet the American taxpayer is expected to foot the bill.  According to some estimates, there are as many as a 100,000 military contractors operating inside Iraq.

I have been working to provide transparency and oversight to an industry with little oversight.  The use of private contractors deployed with U.S. military personnel overseas, in particular armed security-contractors, remains one of the biggest grey areas of the entire war effort.  My bill, H.R. 897, the Iraq and Afghanistan Contractor Sunshine Act, would let Congress get information about private contracts and require reporting of contractor injuries and deaths. I am determined to get to the bottom of this issue so that the American people can understand the full extent and true costs of this war.”

In May 2007, the House unanimously passed a contracting oversight amendment offered by U.S. Representatives Schakowsky and Price (D-NC) to the Defense Authorization Bill.  The amendment would create a database to collect descriptions contracts, including the value of the contracts, amount of overhead spent, total number of personnel employed on the contracts and other general information.  The Schakowsky/Price Amendment will make certain that Members of Congress will have access to this database and that they can request to view individual contracts.  Currently, Congress is unable to provide oversight of these contracts because they do not have access to them.

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