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Defense Base Act Insurance

What is the Defense Base Act (DBA)

The Defense Base Act provides workers' compensation protection to civilian employees working outside the United States on US military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government for public works or for national defense. The following is general information regarding the Defense Base Act (DBA) that may be of interest to US government contractors, insurance professionals, covered employees and their families, and others in the workers' compensation claims community.

History of the Defense Base Act

The Defense Base Act, P.L.77-208, was enacted in 1941 and extended workers’ compensation coverage under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) to persons working on American military bases that were either acquired by the United States from foreign countries or that were located outside of the continental United States. Coverage was extended to public works contractors working outside of the United States in 1942 with the enactment of the War Hazards Compensation Act, P.L. 77-784, which also established the War Hazards Compensation Act (WHCA) program. The most significant amendments to the DBA were enacted in 1958 and extended coverage to non-citizens, to persons working on projects funded under the Mutual Security Act of 1954, and to persons working to provide morale and welfare services, such as through the United Service

Defense Base Act (DBA) provides the equivalent of workers' compensation for civilian contractors working in contingency operations in overseas countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. "As designated by the Secretary of Defense, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) in Iraq are both contingency operations.” The Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR) 2.101 defines a Contingency Operation (10 U.S.C. 101(a) (13)) to be a military operation that:

  •     "(1) Is designated by the Secretary of Defense as an operation in which members of the armed forces are or may become involved in military actions, operations, or hostilities against an enemy of the United States or against an opposing military force; or
  •     (2) Results in the call or order to, or retention on, active duty of members of the uniformed services under section 688, 12301(a), 12302, 12304, 12305, or 12406 of 10 U.S.C., Chapter 15 of 10 U.S.C, or any other provision of law during a war or during a national emergency declared by the President or Congress."

Defense Base Act provides benefits in the event that civilian contractors are injured, killed, or kidnapped in the course of their work for US government agencies such as the various branches of the Department of Defense (DOD), U.S. Agency for International Development, (USAID), or the State Department.

According to government documents, the Defense Base Act "program was created to provide workers' compensation protections for categories of workers who were outside the jurisdiction of other state or federal workers' compensation systems. The extensions to the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) were enacted to provide coverage to classes of workers who are not covered under any other statutes."


This information herein is intended as general information only.
U.S. Department of Labor   
US Department of Labor Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs
200 Constitution Avenue NW, C-4315
Washington, DC 20210

A person should consult with a insurance agent/professional for more information regarding Defense Base Act and his or her own risk and insurance needs before making any insurance decision.