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[casi] Rumsfeld's privatized army - unaccountable

The Enron Pentagon - Boston Globe, 10/19/2003


THE IRAQ WAR has been a stunning revelation of trends that could shape the
next decades of global politics and conflict - from the revolution in
military technologies to the challenges presented by stability operations.
However, one underexplored current is the extent to which warfare itself is
being privatized.

Iraq is not just the biggest US military commitment in generations, it is
also the biggest market for private military services - ever.

Private firms now play an even more stunning variety of roles in the Iraq
occupation. One example is the controversial Dyncorp firm, a Virginia-based
company whose employees were implicated in sex crimes in the Balkans; they
are now training the post-Saddam police force. Other firms are training the
new Iraqi army and paramilitary forces and guarding critical facilities.

But privatization also comes with risks. In particular are poor accounting
and accountability, a now common thread in the conduct of both business and
our government. The absence of oversight may make Iraq the ``Big Dig'' of
the private military industry - a profit bonanza for the firms, but a loss
on the public policy ledger.

*** A myriad of questions surround our dealings with the industry. For
example, the Pentagon does not even know how many private military
employees, or foreign subcontractors, it has working for it. Likewise, there
is no requirement to reveal the number of private military casualties (at
least five killed in Iraq by unofficial media accounts) or, in turn, the
number of Iraqis killed by their employees.

This lack of accounting also means that we don't know the number of
contractors who have either declined to deploy or left Iraq because of their
security concerns.

This last problem raises an important concern. Contractors who did not
deliver - because of issues ranging from staffing difficulties to higher
than expected insurance premiums - left American troops with less support
than they enjoyed in past wars. When our soldiers were still eating field
rations and lacked running water, months after the president's infamous
aircraft carrier landing, the blame fell on an overreliance on contractors.
Contractors are not within the chain of command and thus cannot be ordered
into combat zones.

The same problems cross over into the Enron-like attitude toward financial
costs. While one of the rationales for outsourcing military functions is
cost savings, the evidence is either absent or limited. Even as we set
greater goals for future outsourcing, we do not know if we are actually
saving money.

However, we do know that contracts have often been awarded with limited or
no free-market competition, and frequently to politically connected firms.
For example, the US Army logistics contract was expanded to employ
Halliburton to run the oil services part of Iraqi reconstruction - without
competitive bid. So far, more than $1 billion in added revenue has gone to
Vice President Cheney's old firm, in which he has continuing financial

In sum, we have a distortion of the free market that would shock Adam Smith,
an interface between business and government that would awe the Founding
Fathers, and a shift in the military-industrial complex that must have
President Eisenhower rolling in his grave. Without change, this is a recipe
for bad policy, and bad business.

P.W. Singer is national security fellow at The Brookings Institution and
author of ``Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Private Military Industry.''  --- Boston Globe article

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