This was a busy week for the private security industry. With the new legislation that Rep Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced, private security contractors would be phased out from war zones.
The Stop Outsourcing Security Act is intended to restore the military as the main provider of training services, weapon repairing, service maintenance, and intelligence gathering. The act also demands more congressional oversight for contracts exceeding $5 million, while in the same time asking contractors to disclose their costs and make public any disciplinary action against their employees. The reasons invoked for the need of such legislation include the usual complaints against contractors in conflict and post-conflict environments: their excessive use of force that strains relationship with local governments, their lack of accountability, their high-pays and low returns and so forth.
What is behind this legislation? Two things mostly, I would say: the economic crisis and political demagogy. About 17% (real number) of unemployment is lurking in the mind of each US politician. This is the main concern on his priority list. And when he tries to look for job opportunities, the military seems like the perfect place. Big projects/toys, that employ American citizens and make the US army look good on paper…that’s what every politician wants to see. They don’t want to see these jobs outsourced to private companies, engaging in “smaller”, “softer” things.
What’s worse is that the QDR has no mentioning of irregular warfare and the threats that the US military forces are actually facing. It is preposterous to not learn and acknowledge how war is fought in Afghanistan after you’ve been engaged in it for 9 years. Politicians though like big, tough, scary numbers that will put the US military above any other in the world! How many tanks does Russia have? We have more! How many ships does China have? We’re way ahead! I don’t care what they say about the “yellow fever” or “Chinese miracle”, in a conventional warfare, no other military force has a stance against the US war machine. Unfortunately, conventional warfare is not what the US in engaged in. The war fought in Afghanistan is a war you fight with contractors, unless that is you want to make it another Vietnam. When a contractor is injured or dies in battle, who cares? Sometimes, it is YouTube-material (remember Fallujah), but most of the times, it passes unnoticed. Try the same thing with a 20-year old Marine! The commender who sent him in combat would get sacked, the political leadership will get sacked…
To all the Sanders, and Schakowskys out there: Afghanistan is not a war of regular military forces! It’s a long-term engagement, a war of contractors, logistics and patience. Your legislation is politically radioactive and it will not and should not pass!
Which brings me to the second point, of political demagogy. From the title of your legislation, to the grossly avoidance of any benefit that contractors bring to a combat zone, both of you indulge in building on the taxpayer’s legitimate frustrations with the state of the economy and on the extensive media coverage of contractor wrongdoings in order to build up your popularity. And you are not the only ones. Back from Afghanistan, where she was escorted by Xe Services (former Blackwater), U.S. Sen Claire McCaskill took a hard stance at the company, complaining about the double standard in the combat zone, one for contractors, and the other for regular military forces. Gee, Senator, first of all I’m glad you came back safe! And Gee, Senator I’m glad this occurred to you just now. Cuz the US military was never associated with engaging in criminal activities, and when it was, the chain of culpability was always disclosed!
Politicians appear very righteous when they criticize what is really easy to criticize. The fact that they’re not doing the US taxpayer’s a real service is a different story.