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Houston Defense Base Act Blog

Civilian contractor ignores own safety to save lives

The civilian engineer was working for the Air Force in Afghanistan when he heard the familiar sound of a helicopter coming from an unfamiliar spot: right above his NATO headquarters office. Seconds later, the British Puma Mk 2 crashed into ground just a few yards from the building.

The civilian contractor ran outside and into a cloud of swirling smoke, dirt and debris. The crumpled helicopter was on its side with nine people inside.

Answers to your pressing Defense Base Act questions

In earlier posts, we've covered some of the basics about what the Defense Base Act is, and given you examples of the types of civilian contractor positions are covered by it. This post will answer some questions we commonly see regarding the DBA, and how it is applied.


Q: What is the purpose of the DBA?

A: The DBA is designed to offer a means of disability and medical expense compensation through which civilian contractors hurt on the job can receive benefits. It functions similarly to traditional workers' compensation, and is an extension of the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

Jobs site breaks down civilian contractor expectations

The money is where the heat is; that's according to a leading jobs website. Even if you work an ordinary job, it can pay quite well if the job is found in one of the world's hot spots where armed conflict is ongoing.

The JobMonkey website directs people to employment opportunities around the U.S., as well as to open jobs available to civilian contractors around the world ("the brave people who find themselves working an ordinary job in a war zone," the site says).

The benefits of working overseas for the government

Our government has interests around the world that require the services of contractors. Whether it is military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan or perhaps servicing a military base in the Pacific Rim, contractors and subcontractors are doing more and more of the work to service the military bases as well as provide basic support to war-torn communities that are trying to rebuild infrastructure. One need only to look at a list here to see the variety of work is out there.

 

There are many pluses to doing this kind of work. These include:

Stepping up for Ladder Safety Month

The rules of gravity are the same in Texas as they are in Italy, Israel, Kosovo and Afghanistan (and anywhere else you care to name). Because gravity is a dependable quantity, construction tools such as ladders are just as effective -- and just as dangerous -- here as they are across the planet.

That means a construction worker in Texas needs to be just as careful with a ladder as a civilian contractor working on a U.S. military base overseas. Falls from ladders can result in disabling injuries no matter where the jobsite is located.

Hazardous duty: Construction work on an overseas U.S. base

Every year, jobs in the construction industry are near the top of lists of the most dangerous occupations. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that of the more than 3.3 million annual nonfatal injuries, about 9 percent happen to construction workers.

The work is just as dangerous here in Texas as it is overseas on U.S. military bases for civilian contractors hired to build or repair facilities and infrastructure. Far too often, those contractors suffer injuries and illnesses that require medical care and time away from their jobs.

Defense Base Act basics

Basic Combat Training takes 10 weeks to transform a civilian into one of the Army's soldiers. We are going to take a lot less time in a look here at the basics of the Defense Base Act.

All government contractors and subcontractors are required to have workers' compensation insurance for employees who work in foreign nations. The Defense Base Act ensures that those workers' comp benefits get to covered workers, the Department of Labor says on its website.

Many civilian contractor jobs not affected by fed hiring freeze

One of recently inaugurated President Donald Trump's first official acts was to institute a temporary widespread federal-level hiring freeze. Thankfully, it appears that many civilian contractor positions, particularly those on military bases abroad where our troops are engaged in active combat with insurgents won't be affected on a global scale. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work issued clarification on Trump's executive order, which also doesn't include uniformed troops, after questions arose about the scope of the hiring freeze.

This hiring freeze is in line with Work's long-term goal of helping shrink the overall Defense Department's headquarter work force 25 percent by 2020. The biggest cuts will likely come in the form of natural attrition and retirement, but there will also likely be job loss of both military and non-military roles deemed non-essential to ongoing operations.

U.S. awards contract for civilian training of Afghan Air Force

U.S. military involvement in the war in Afghanistan has been a constant for more than 15 years. It appears that it will continue for at least several more years.

But the U.S. military is taking steps to reduce our involvement and lower the risks that Americans stationed there have to face, including training and supplying the Afghan military. The U.S. Air Force recently announced that it has awarded a contract to Textron Systems Support Solutions to provide civilian training to the Afghan Air Force for the next five years.

Civilian contractor killed in Air Force training accident

Everyone who signs up to serve their nation in the military understands that duty includes risks. Sometimes people don't recognize that civilian contractors working for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines can also face risks of serious injuries or death.

We read of an example of the ultimate sacrifice made by a civilian contractor this week during an Air Force training exercise. A contractor died as a result of the injuries he sustained when he was struck by unspecified munitions fired by two F-16 jets.