When it comes to private contractors, there is room for private contractors to work in the mess hall providing basic supplies and doing some logistical work that might have been done in-house in the past. I am troubled by the use of private contractors when it comes to potential armed engagements.
I think it puts our troops in harm’s way. I think it creates some difficult morale issues when you’ve got private contractors getting paid 10 times what an Army private’s getting paid for work that carries similar risks.
When it comes to our special forces, what we’ve seen is that it’s a potential drain of some of our best-trained special forces, and you can’t blame them if they can make so much more working for Blackwater than they can working as a master sergeant. That, I think is a problem.
[I]f… you start making decisions on armed engagement based on the availability of private contractors to fill holes and gaps that over time you are, I believe, eroding the core of our military’s relationship to the nation and how accountability is structured. I think you are privatizing something that is what essentially sets a nation-state apart, which is a monopoly on violence. And to set those kinds of precedents, I think, will lead us over the long term into some troubled waters.
Wary of putting combat troops in Iraq, the U.S. government is gauging contractors’ interest in advising the Iraqi Defense Ministry and Counter Terrorism Service in a range of capacities, including force development, logistics and planning and operations.
The U.S. Army Contracting Command posted a notice last month seeking contractors willing to work on an initial 12-month contract, who should be “cognizant of the goals of reducing tensions between Arabs and Kurds, and Sunni and Shias.”
They would focus on administration, force development, procurement and acquisition, contracting, training management, public affairs, logistics, personnel management, professional development, communications, planning and operations, infrastructure management, intelligence and executive development, the notice stated.
Those services “fall within the existing mission” of the Office of Security Assistance-Iraq, “which is to help build institutional capacity of Iraq’s security ministries,” Defense Department spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said in an email.
The rapid advance of Islamic State militants in Iraq in recent months has spurred the deployment of almost 1,000 American troops to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities in Iraq’s capital Baghdad and the northern city of Irbil, in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
Nearly 100 additional servicemembers are there as advisers with the Office of Security Assistance–Iraq, and civilian advisers may not be far behind.
Analysts say hiring contractors is a way to avoid deploying such forces.
David Johnson, a former Army lieutenant colonel who is executive director of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies in Washington, said contractors aren’t considered “boots on the ground” in conflict zones.
“The government always seeks to minimize boots on the ground to reduce domestic political risk,” he said in an email. “The American people and media do not consider a paid contractor to represent them in the same way that they do a soldier.”
It rings hollow to say that this isn’t a combat mission and the contractors will be in no danger. If that was true, there would be no objection to sending Special Forces to do the training and act as a stopgap (this is a perfect mission for the U.S. Special Forces, or Green Beret, not Special Operations).
But if I was a contractor in Iraq now given the tepid support I sense from Washington, I would make sure I had means of evasion, escape, egress and evacuation.
Obama: “I hated military contractors then, but now I love them.” Because Obama is a perpetual and incorrigible liar.