Total death insurance claims by contractors in Iraq have risen more than sixfold from 2003, U.S. government figures show, as nearly as many civilians are working overseas as soldiers.
Companies so far this year have filed claims for 157 deaths and 516 serious injuries, based on U.S. Labor Department figures given to Bloomberg News. Almost 60 percent of those civilians who died worked for Halliburton Co. and Titan Corp. In 2003, contractors claimed 23 deaths and 132 serious injuries.
"The figures illustrate a historic degree of reliance by the U.S. military on private contractors in Iraq, as well as the significant dangers these civilians bear in a combat zone," said Peter Singer, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
It was a "huge story when we unfortunately crossed the 1,000 killed mark, but in reality it focused on an artificial figure -- including private deaths, we were over that number already," Singer said.
Halliburton, the biggest U.S. contractor in Iraq, and Titan, the top provider of Army translators, have filed the most claims for employees killed or wounded in Iraq. Halliburton units through Wednesday have filed 747 of 1,346 Iraqi-related claims, including 16 deaths, while Titan has filed 192 claims, including 77 deaths. A total of 78 companies filed insurance claims.
The 1941 Defense Base Act requires insurance coverage for workers in combat zones hired under U.S. contracts. Every U.S. company bidding on government work overseas in places such as Iraq, Kuwait, or Bosnia and Herzegovina must buy insurance for its U.S. and foreign workers, including Iraqi personnel, from private U.S. carriers.
About 60,000 U.S. civilians are working in Iraq alongside 138,000 U.S. troops. Another 85,000 Iraqis employed on U.S. projects are also eligible for benefits under the Base Act.
"The DBA figures are important in that they provide the raw numbers policy-makers and analysts need in an area of public policy that has a surprising lack of public information," Singer said.
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