Dead Contractors: The Un-Examined Effect of Surrogates on the Public’s Casualty Sensitivity

When a nation deploys ground forces, an inverse relationship exists between the number of military deaths and public support. This stark and monolithic metric, which economists call the “casualty sensitivity” effect, requires close examination today.  On the modern battlefield, contractor personnel die at rates similar to—or indeed often in excess of—soldiers, yet the U.S. public and Congress remain largely unaware of this “substitution.”  This article explains the phenomenon, identifies some of the challenges and complexities associated with quantifying and qualifying the real price of combat in a modern outsourced military, and encourages greater transparency.

By Steven L. Schooner

Steven L. Schooner is the Nash & Cibinic Professor of Government Procurement Law at the George Washington University Law School. Professor Schooner previously served as the Associate Administrator for Procurement Law and Legislation in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice, and as an Army Judge Advocate. Schooner gratefully acknowledges Seymour Herman for his continued support of government procurement law research at the George Washington University Law School.

By Collin D. Swan

Collin D. Swan is a J.D. candidate at George Washington University Law School, and is an Associate for The George Washington Law Review.


    1. Thanks for letting us know. We’re tracking down the correct PDF and will correct the link within the next couple of days. Thanks for your patience!

        1. Rachel–this issue has been fixed. Sorry it took so long. Thank you for alerting us again.

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