President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11 impacts more than the military on the ground. As veterans and the American public sort through their thoughts on our country’s time in Afghanistan, contractors are also rapidly dealing with contract modifications and major logistics efforts. While there are a few thousand U.S. troops and around 7,000 NATO and allied forces, there are close to 17,000 contractors in the country. Gen. Austin S. Miller, the head of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, has said that the contractors will also be headed out as well, and that the Afghan security forces must be ready. Private contractors in Afghanistan provide services that range from security and logistics to transportation and aircraft maintenance.
“The timetable to do this properly is already too tight,” said David Berteau, president of the Professional Services Council representing 400 government contractors, many working in Afghanistan. “We don’t have years, we have only months.”
Despite the impact on contractors, it’s clear that the mission is to move out. “Most of the contractors are going to leave, and certainly the U.S. contractors are going to leave,” Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee on April 20. Pentagon officials have detailed the need to help Afghans from a distance, as much of the equipment is heavily reliant on contractor support. McKenzie explained, “We may be able to work some remote, televised way to do that. We’re going to try all kinds of innovative ways. The one thing I can tell you is we are not going to be there on the ground with them.”
No one seems to be clear on how defense contractors will make this transition, but communications make its certainty straightforward.
Layoffs Impacting the Cleared Industry
|GDC Technics||As layoff numbers slow down, a new trend is emerging – fighting for talent. But while the world is in rebound mode, layoffs continue to shape the job landscape.
GDC Technologies, a Boeing subcontractor working on the new Air Force One aircraft is laying off 223 companies after severing their relationship with Boeing. GDC Technics plans to end its operations in Fort Worth, TX, as well as their San Antonio plant.
Hiring impacting the Cleared Industry
|Perspecta||Perspecta Inc announced on Friday that its applied research arm, Perspecta Labs received an award with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to work on low cost, resilient tactical radio communications. The work is in support of DARPA’s Resilient Networked Distributed Mosaic Communications (RN DMC) program. The contract has a 45-month period of performance and a potential total value of $18.5 million.
“We are excited to design, develop and demonstrate low-cost, resilient long-range communications for challenging non-line-of-sight radio environments,” said Petros Mouchtaris, Ph.D., president of Perspecta Labs. “With innovative use of tiles, our solution will deliver a high-performance tactical radio communications solution which is flexible, robust and has significantly lower risk of detection, interference and jamming.”
Cleared Employer at Work: Leidos
Opportunity to Watch
While cyber recruiting and hiring in the DoD has had measures in place over the years to meet the needs, the gap still remains.
Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, CIO of the Joint Staff, said during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel on Wednesday that the pace of DoD’s cyber hiring and training is concerning. He says, “I think the divide between the need is growing compared to what we’re able to fulfill. I’m not sure we’re closing the gap, and time is ticking for us to do so.”
“The digital nature of the fight that we expect, especially at pace and speed, is going to demand a workforce and talent level that we have not seen before,” he said. “The human-machine interface brings a demand that is going to have to be found, cultivated, educated and implemented to get that level of experience as we learn and work our way through this new capability set.”
It’s not the first time that the federal cyber talent gap has been under the microscope; however, as officials continue address the gap, ideally, the need will increasingly be met. While the hiring process is still longer than industry, the need for cyber talent in the DoD is ongoing. Everything from cyber strategy to artificial intelligence is needed.
“We have not onboarded the very capabilities we need to employ: machine learning, autonomy, artificial intelligence, a real cloud-based environment, pushing that processing to the tactical edge and a reformed network,” Crall said. “So the speed with which that’s going to require us to operate is going to have a level of human-machine interface we’ve never had before. And it’s hard for me to believe that the force we’re looking at today is necessarily rightly aligned to that new mission set. We’re going to have to lead-turn this and keep a careful eye on what those skill sets are necessary to bring this on board.”