updated 8/12/2008 6:08:40 PM ET 2008-08-12T22:08:40

The United States paid $85 billion to contractors in the Iraq theater for work ranging from food service to guarding diplomats, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, prepared by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, noted that spending for contractors accounts for about 20 percent of spending for operations in Iraq.

The United States relied more heavily on contractors in Iraq than in any other war. At least 190,000 contract employees are working in the Iraq theater, with the ratio at about one contractor for every U.S. military member, according to the report.

The report probably provided new fodder to critics who have accused contractors of overbilling and providing shoddy work. In the past year, U.S. contractors have been investigated in connection with the shooting deaths of Iraqis and in the accidental electrocution deaths of U.S. troops.

Of the total paid to contractors, CBO estimated that from $6 billion to $10 billion went to pay for security operations.

The study doesn't include figures for 2008, so the amount paid since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 probably is much higher.

The report was prepared at the request of the Senate Budget Committee.

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