Here is a new problem that accompanies those exotic electronic weapons the Pentagon has been purchasing: when the fighting breaks out, what should be done with all the civilian technicians who are on board planes and carriers to keep the gadgets going?
According to an investigation by the House Appropriations Committee, the Navy needed about 100 civilians on its carriers to keep the F14s flying for the 10 months of the Iranian crisis when they were kept near the Persian Gulf and in the Indian Ocean. The Air Force, according to the committee's investigators, regularly keeps two civilian technicians aboard AWACS aircraft to tend the sensitive equipment their companies have sold the government.
Along with the added costs these technicians represent comes the problem of what happens to them in wartime.
It's being studied on Capitol Hill and now, according to the Oct. 2 Federal Register (page 48744), will be looked at by a Defense Science Board group labeled the Task Force on Retention of Contractor Civilians on Critical Jobs Overseas During Hostilities.
The task force will meet Oct. 21 at the Pentagon in closed session. It will study "the extent of contractor civilians in critical jobs overseas," and then determine, if it can, what the impact would be if these civilians were pulled out in the event of hostilities.
The group will also look at a solution being discussed by defense-minded congressmen--new legislation that would permit critical civilian contractors to be kept on the job by law, perhaps by calling them up for active military duty.