» This Story:Read +|Talk +| Comments
» This Story:Read +|Talk +| Comments
Transcript

Outlook: Break the Blackwater Habit

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
P.W. Singer
Director, 21st Century Defense Initiative, Brookings Institution
Monday, October 8, 2007; 11:30 AM

P.W. Singer, director of the Brookings Institute's 21st Century Defense Initiative and author of "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry," was online Monday, Oct. 08 at 11:30 a.m. ET to take readers' questions on his Outlook article listing the myriad ways he sees military outsourcing hampering U.S. efforts in Iraq.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

The transcript follows.

Archive: Transcripts of discussions with Outlook article authors

____________________

P.W. Singer: Hello to all. Thanks for logging in to ask questions.

Two things to note before we get started.

First, the memo published in The Post was a short summary version of a 20-page, in-depth report that Brookings issued last week on private military contractors and their impact on counterinsurgency. Obviously it goes into far more detail than I ever could within the constraints of the 1,000-word online op-ed. Essentially each sentence in The Post version has 2-3 paragraphs of detail and citations behind it in the report. It particularly has some great quotes from soldiers on the issue. It is available right here.

Second, just before publication, the State Department announced that it would be taking new measures to reign the problems in. unfortunately, when we look at what they actually did, it aligns very much with that idea of seeing that the emperor has no clothes, but asking him to wear a scarf.

Lets see what they are actually doing:

1. A State Department employee now will do ride-alongs with Blackwater convoys. In essence, we have the odd outcome of the government "embedding," government employees inside a private operation, which is carrying out a governmental mission. Confused? Some odd aspects of this are that this State person essentially will be like a "chaperone" for the team, but not in operational command of it and not empowered to take any contractual or legal action. These observers will also reportedly only be for Blackwater, which seems to dodge the broader problem of contracting gone too far. As Erik Prince noted, his firm is only one player in a much bigger game -- they have some 170 competitors in Iraq. Blackwater has gotten much attention, but it is not the sole firm there, nor the sole one to have problems. Finally, that chaperone will be making somewhere between $300 to $500 less a day (to use Prince's figures, which are a low-ball) than the contractors they will be watching

2. They will mount video cameras on the dashboard. First, not all incidents happen to the front. Second, many companies already had these. But, third, more importantly, having reports of problems -- and even video footage of incidents -- doesn't mean much if the department refuses to act on them. Here is some great video footage from two years ago (the Aegis trophy video).

3. They will better coordinate radio frequencies with the military. Again, this was supposed to be happening in the past already. It still doesn't solve the problem at hand in any way.

What we have here is a classic Washington response of announcing "action" when there is no real action.

_______________________

San Antonio: Just a comment, but there was a remarkable set of stories in Stars and Stripes last week that revealed that the Missile Defense Agency's forward-based anti-ICBM radar in Japan is staffed by one Army captain, one sergeant, and 100 contractors -- Raytheon ones to run the radar, Blackwater people with automatic weapons for security.

washingtonpost.com: Tiny base assimilates into Japanese town (Stars and Stripes, Oct. 8)

P.W. Singer: Yes, a pretty amazing example of how far contracting has gone; some would argue too far. Wired's Danger Room blog just had a great report on the Blackwater team that is helping with the site.

The requirements are pretty amusing: must be at least 21 years old, with a high school diploma (or GED equivalent), experience with "a civilian police force, military police force or civilian security guard organization" and "ability to apply concepts such as fractions, percentages, ratios and proportions to practical situations."

The job description is great as well: "While performing the duties of this job, the employee frequently is required to stand; walk, use hand to finger, handle or feel objects, tools or controls; reach with hands and arms; and talk and hear. The employee occasionally may sit for prolonged periods of time at a desk or table. The employee may stand for prolonged periods of time. Must be able to occasionally travel by designated transportation i.e. aircraft, vehicle, mass transit system."

_______________________

Fairfax, Va.: Why do we have mercenaries in Iraq? I remember growing up reading about the British bringing Hessians here to defeat our revolution and have detested the idea of mercenaries ever since. How has it come about that our Congress has allowed it so we have more mercenaries (at outrageous pay) in Iraq than our own soldiers? This doesn't seem to have bothered people for the past five years, as secret renditions etc. haven't upset the nation either. Perhaps it's not so hard to understand why Germans weren't bothered by the ashes falling from their neighborhood concentration camp ovens -- they just adapted to the reality, like we have on Iraq. That's the horrific damage Iraq has done to our national soul.

P.W. Singer: Great question. If you'll let me. I will quote from the article we did on this:

"To put it in another way, the war in Iraq would not be possible without private military contractors. This is critically important. Contrary to conspiracy theories, the private military industry is not the so-called "decider," plotting out wars behind the scenes like Manchurian Global. But it has become the ultimate enabler, allowing operations to happen that might be otherwise politically impossible. The private military industry has given a new option that allows the executive branch to decide, and the legislative branch to authorize and fund, foreign policy commitments that make an end-run around the Abrams Doctrine.

"It is sometimes easier to understand this concept by looking at the issue in reverse. If a core problem that U.S. forces faced in the operation in Iraq has been an insufficient number of troops, it is not that the U.S. had no other choices other than to use contractors to solve it. Rather, it is that each of them was considered politically undesirable.

"One answer to the problem of insufficient forces would have been for the executive branch to send more regular forces, beyond the original 135,000 planned. However, this would have involved publicly admitting that those involved in the planning, most particularly Secretary Rumsfeld, were wrong in their slam of critics like Army General Eric Shinseki, who warned that an occupation would mean greater requirements. Plus, such an expanded force would have been onerous on the regular force, creating even more tradeoffs with the war in Afghanistan, as well as broader global commitments.

"Another option would have been a full-scale call-up of the National Guard and Reserves, as originally envisioned for such major wars in the Abrams Doctrine. However, to do so would have prompted massive outcry among the public (as now the war's effect would have been felt deeper at home), exactly the last thing leaders in the Executive branch or Congress wanted as they headed into what was a tight 2004 campaign.

"Some proposed persuading other allies to send their troops in, much as NATO allies and other interested members of the U.N. had sent troops to Bosnia and Kosovo, to help spread the burden. However, this would have involved tough compromises, such as granting U.N. or NATO command of the forces in Iraq or delaying the invasion, in which the administration simply had no interest. This was the war that 'was going to pay for itself' as leaders like then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz infamously described in the run-up to the invasion, and to share in the operation was to share in the spoils. Plus, much of the world was vehemently opposed, so the likelihood of NATO allies or the U.N. sending the needed number of troops was always minimal.

"By comparison, the private military industry was an answer to these problems, and importantly an answer that had not existed for policy-makers in the past. It offered the potential backstop of additional forces, but with no one having to lose any political capital. Plus, the generals could avoid the career risk of asking for more troops. That is, there was no outcry whenever contractors were called up and deployed, or even lost. If the gradual death toll among American troops threatened to slowly wear down public support, contractor casualties were not counted in official death tolls and had no impact on these ratings. By one count, as of July 2007, more than 1,000 contractors have been killed in Iraq, and another 13,000 have been wounded (again the data is patchy here, with the only reliable source being insurance claims made by contractors' employers and then reported to the U.S. Department of Labor). Since the 'surge' started in January 2007 (this was the second wave of increased troop deployments, focused on the civil war) these numbers have accelerated; contractors have been killed at a rate of nine per week. These figures mean that the private military industry has suffered more losses in Iraq than the rest of the coalition of allied nations combined. The losses are also far more than any single U.S. Army division has experienced.

"Hence, such private losses were looked at by policymakers as almost a 'positive externality,' to use an economic term. The public usually didn't even hear about contractor losses, and when they did they had far less blowback on our government. Notice the irony: For all the focus on contractors as a private market solution, the costs that they hoped to save were political in nature."

_______________________

Maryland: Your book was cited in GAO and CRS reports about the private contractors. What do you think will happen next?

P.W. Singer: Can't complain about that. What is interesting is that for all the "shock" expressed these past two weeks in the public and Congress about contracting gone awry, those GAO and CRS reports go back several years.

My sense is that we will see some action around the margins. Price's bill in the House, which seeks to reinforce the scope of U.S. civilian law over contractors abroad, likely will pass the Senate as well. Schakowsky has a bill to demand better transparency of what we are spending and on what now has a new life.

On the Senate side, I also think Obama's bill, which seeks to bring better accounting and accountability, stands a good chance now. It also includes a section that asks the Pentagon to re-examine what it is outsourcing. Again, what is interesting here is that on both the House and Senate sides these were submitted months ago, but no one paid attention to these few to notice the trends. But will they pass with votes now to overcome threatened vetoes? No clue.

The real action to keep an eye on is within the military. Some are amazingly upset within the force about the costs and consequences of over-outsourcing. As Central Command commander Admiral Fallon noted in public, contractors shouldn't be seen as a "surrogate army" of the State Department or any other agency whose workers they protect. He put it pretty bluntly regarding the growing sentiment: "My instinct is that it's easier and better if they were in uniform and were working for me."

_______________________

Virginia: In Africa, Executive Outcomes did the jobs because none of the European countries were willing to do. And former military personnel from Rhodesia worked well with blacks Africans.

P.W. Singer: Yes, what is interesting is that when I started out researching and writing on this issue back in '96, the use of companies like EO primarily was limited to places that the great powers didn't care much about -- the Angolas and Sierra Leones of the world. Now it is reversed, where contractors in the battlefield functions are going into places of national interest, like Iraq and beyond. It's a real reversal. Indeed, when my book was written, Blackwater didn't even merit mention in the text -- it just wasn't simply a player like it is now. It was only in the appendix. A billion dollars later, and it certainly has made mention in our new update.

_______________________

Washington: What about law enforcement in general? Does rent-a-cop work? Are the guards at the Brookings Institution contractors, or Brookings's own guard forces?

P.W. Singer: Brookings has security guards like many other offices, yes. But a few essential differences sort of undermine where you line of thought is going: guarding a think tank is not a mission that the military would have done in the past; guarding a think tank is not an essential governmental function; they don't use military skills and/or weapons to do the job; Brookings is not in a war zone; they are not guarding the think tank against combatants, just robbers and the like; and the security guards are held accountable under U.S. law -- that is, there is no legal questions surrounding their status.

If they were, for example, to get drunk and shoot a Secret Service guy guarding Vice President Cheney, we know what would happen to them (as opposed to the opposite for the Christmas Eve Shooting in Iraq).

_______________________

Richmond, Va.: Realistically, if you were an ordinary solider (officers and NCOs alike) wouldn't you be resentful at how much a Blackwater employee is paid (about $1,200 a day) doing what you could do? Have you heard how these troops feel about Blackwater, differences in pay notwithstanding? Get along, stay out of each other's way, etc.?

P.W. Singer: I think so. No one has done a formal study on it, but anecdotally it seems to be there. I do many meetings and talks with U.S. military audiences, and the anger seems to have gotten worse each year. It is not just the issue of better pay, but that the soldier is facing the same risks but is held to standards and a clear system of accountability, and that there is also a brewing sense that the soldiers efforts to win hearts and minds are being harmed rather than helped by contractor action. Our study found this to be the case on eight different parameters, extending form the tactical to the strategic level. Retired Army officer and New York Post columnist Ralph Peters is perhaps the most blunt on this point. "Armed contractors do harm COIN (counterinsurgency) efforts. Just ask the troops in Iraq."

_______________________

Chicago: Blackwater CEO Erik Prince was asked during last week's hearing approximately what annual profit Blackwater made. He declined to answer, given that Blackwater is a private company. (He also said he wasn't "a numbers guy.") I was flabbergasted -- I have to confess I didn't know Blackwater was private, but given all the billions American taxpayers are doling out to all these contractors, shouldn't even the private companies have to divulge this information?

P.W. Singer: Yes, it was interesting to listen to that point. On one hand you have to admire the business acumen of someone who has grown a company's revenue by more than a billion dollars in a few years. On the flip side, it was rather odd for the chairman of a company to claim he didn't know even a ballpark number of what the profit was. most of those in the room at the time didn't buy that claim but understood why he was making it.

One thing that was equally telling for such a libertarian champion of the private market to reveal was that his firm did more than 90 percent of its business with the government -- which makes it less like a private enterprise as he likes to claim, and more like one of those old French socialist defense firms. I would agree with you that if a firm does such a substantial portion of their business with taxpayer money, that there has to be some limited transparency.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: What troubles me most about this arrangement with private security companies is that the companies' fortunes depend on the existence of chaos in the world, and it's in their financial interest for that chaos to continue. War is a growth opportunity for them.

P.W. Singer: It is, but you can't blame them for the marketplace we have created for them. War was around well before Blackwater and unfortunately likely will be around well after it.

_______________________

St. Louis: Blackwater claims to have been acting in self-defense, protecting a diplomatic convoy, when they opened fire on un armed Iraqi civilians. Who were they protecting? Shouldn't the person they were protecting speak out as a witness to determine who took the first shot?

P.W. Singer: Yes, it would make sense for more of the information to come to light. One problem is that we now have by my count six different investigations of the incident (Iraqi government, Defense, three at State, and one at the FBI). While that means everyone can claim to be acting, the reality is that it may continue the problem of multiple versions of what happened. While it's not kosher for me to cite it here, a newspaper based out of New York had a great report that tracked down witnesses and also U.S. military sources; that seems so far to be the best assessment in public so far.

_______________________

Potomac, Md.: Mr. Singer, you write that private forces perform all sorts of key functions, such as moving fuel, ammunition and food, as well as protecting top U.S. officials and guarding bases and convoys. There are two points I would like to address: Why is protecting top officials a key military function? It has nothing to do with the operation of a military and requires specialty that creates only headaches for units that otherwise can conduct operational tasks. Also, even with the high prices and lawlessness, wouldn't it be fair to say that in comparison to other reconstruction contractors in Iraq, Blackwater did and does a decent job?

P.W. Singer: In a war zone, protecting U.S. officials and key assets like convoys would have been done by U.S. military in the past, most likely an activated reserve military police unit. In a permissive environment, it would have been done by the normal U.S. marine unit attached to the embassy or by a Diplomatic Security team (State employees). Whether you think of Iraq as a war zone or permissive, we are now doing neither. We haven't tasked the unit to do such because that would cause headaches politically (of adding more troops), while we have hollowed out State's D.S. capabilities, at the very same time the need for them has grown. And again, it was not because we didn't recognize the growing threat to U.S. officials, nor that we didn't have the money. we just simply instead chose to go private via a multibillion dollar contract to a consortium of firms led by Blackwater. We are now feeling the consequences.

_______________________

Washington: If you oppose all the private contractors, then where can they work? Go back to active duty?

P.W. Singer: I don't oppose all contractors. Many jobs are quite appropriate to outsource, as long as it saves money and they are well-overseen. Indeed, my own suggestion of a "public by public" policy for even inherently governmental functions notes how it need not be inflexible.

"The return of inherently military and government functions to U.S. military and government personnel will take time, the retasking of personnel, and amendments to existing contracts. Additionally, as one former Pentagon official who supports the above, noted, it must recognize that 'there are always going to be exceptions to the "rule" (policy).' He was also clear, however, that 'those need to be only for extraordinary, exceptional, and temporary (I stress again -- temporary) situations.' For example, even in such clearly governmental areas as military interrogations, a contractor might have a special skill, such as Arabic language with an Iraqi accent, that the active force lacks. With proper supervision, it would be proper to outsource. But the key is that this short-term lack of skills or personnel should neither be the excuse for wholesale outsourcing of the entire function over the long-term, nor the excuse for the public force to not start building its own ability to meet any such changing need. Indeed, it is a basic lesson of business that can be applied to policy -- if you do not start investing to meet your needs now, all you are doing is to guarantee that you will still be reliant (and paying more) for the same need over and over again the long-haul."

As far as where contractors go to work after their job in Iraq, that is up to each individual. Some might go back to service and other might find other jobs they want. They are private citizens with the right to decide their own interests.

_______________________

Munich, Germany: I had always thought that the idea of hiring experienced and professional bodyguards was to maximize the safety of the passengers, but also to reduce the chance of causalities caused by panic during shootouts. Is there any truth to the second point, that experience in battle prevents casualties of innocent bystanders?

P.W. Singer: We don't have good data on that point. An interesting point made to me by a contractor who was former police was that he felt his experience and skills (as opposed to a former Special Forces) transferred better to the kind of roles he was doing in Iraq -- the sense of "reading" a street situation and the like. It was his claim not mine, and I don't have a way to evaluate it, but it does ring true. He also added though that he was low man on the totem pol,e as the firms prefer to market their ex-SOF guys (which is not as widespread as media claims).

More broadly, many shootings are not caused by panic, but rather a a sense that there is no consequences for a dead Iraqi, so better safe than sorry.

_______________________

Virginia: When I lived in London in the 1970s, there was a company made up of former Special Air Service personnel. I never knew that they actually were private military contractors working mainly in the Middle East. Who was the first military contractor in the U.S.? MPRI?

P.W. Singer: Yes, the Brits have had quiet firms in space of training and working with former colonies' militaries for a while now. many of the same firms (ArmorGroup, formerly DSL, might be who you are thinking of) are in Iraq right now. But they tend to have a quieter profile.

MPRI was the first to crack what I call the military consulting market, back in the '90s. As opposed to a military provider, or "private security firm," like a Blackwater, a consultant won't fight for you but will train and advise you on how to fight better. MPRI had some contracts in Iraq, both helping with invasion plans and war-gaming and training for U.S. forces flowing into Iraq, as well as some reported training for the new Iraqi army.

_______________________

Charlottesville, Va.: Thanks for the article and the chat. How is it possible that the U.S. could impose immunity from prosecution of mercenaries on the sovereign Iraqi government? It may have been legal (?) under the provisional authority that "ruled" the nation immediately after Saddam's fall, but how could it still be legal? Is the Iraqi government still subservient to the provisional authority?

P.W. Singer: Great question. Although private military firms and their employees are now integral parts of many military operations, they tend to fall through the cracks of legal codes, which sharply distinguish civilians from soldiers. Private military contractors are not exactly civilians, given that they often carry and use weapons, interrogate prisoners, load bombs and fulfill other critical military roles. Yet they are not quite soldiers either, in that they are not part of the service or in the chain of command, and might not even be of the same nationality. A number of laws might be applied to them, ranging from local laws to extra-territorial application of civilian law (the Military Extra-territorial Jurisdiction Act or MEJA), to even the Uniform Code of Military Justice (with the definition of civilians falling under the jurisdiction of military law expanded from times of declared war to contingency operations in the fall of 2006). The reality is that they almost never actually are used.

Within Iraq, this legal problem further was complicated by a little-known memo known as Order 17. In one of the many decisions that will lead history to judge the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) as the worst governing organization until "Kid Nation," two days before the CPA dissolved itself, it issued an order that could be interpreted as giving foreign contractors immunity from Iraqi law. While the legal standing of this order is questionable now (akin to your dad giving you a curfew the day before you go to college; the CPA's orders do not trump a sovereign state's laws) the interpretation of it held. Contractors saw themselves as above the law and the record seemed to back them up. In the three years that followed that CPA order, not one contractor operating in Iraq was prosecuted or convicted for any crime involving an Iraqi victim or any kind of conduct in the battle space.

Indeed, the only application of MEJA in the past four years in Iraq was against a KBR contractor who had attempted to rape an American reservist while she was sleeping inside a trailer in the Green Zone. In turn, while the UCMJ legal change happened in the fall of 2006, the Pentagon is yet to issue a guidance on how JAG officers should use it in the field. Its effect has been like a tree falling in the forest with no one there. Is real or not if no one hears it fall?

That the only time the law kicked in was when Americans were the victims certainly has not helped the counterinsurgency effort. Not only did this vacuum help impel contractors towards more aggressive actions, but it completely invalidated the message that American political advisors were trying to push to their Iraqi counterparts of the necessity of establishing "rule of law" as a way of ending the insurgency. Finally, the contractors' seeming freedom from justice was considered a particular affront. "The Iraqis despised them because they were untouchable," said Matthew Degn, former senior American adviser to the Interior Ministry. "They were above the law."

_______________________

Rocky Mount, N.C.: Are American military contractors in Iraq willing to be hired by foreign governments and to do their "dirty work," even if it's not a cause our government likes?

P.W. Singer: We have not yet seen that with American contractors coming from Iraq. There was an incident with a few South African contractors who, while on leave from work in Iraq, were reportedly part of the group that tried to topple the government of Equatorial Guinea a few years back. Whether you saw that as a good or bad attempt depends on whether you are a fan of sovereignty or whether you like dictators (it was a profit-motivated coup, but the target was a dictator).

What we have to be worried about in the future is what happens as the business in Iraq dries up. In history, when major wars end, most soldiers go home, but a few don't and fight in wars elsewhere (our filibusters in Latin America after the civil war, for example). Most firms will shrink and seek business elsewhere. Some will find success and some may not. A worry is that a few might go "down market." Most firms would prefer to work with the U.S., but in the past some firms also have worked for warlord groups, dictators, two separate Colombian drug cartels, and, prior to Sept. 11, even two jihadi groups.

_______________________

Reading, Pa.: Sir: It seems to me that independent contractors provide a workable way to wage war, but the U.S. is missing the bigger picture by contracting with American and British firms -- we need to contract with firms from Mideastern allies to have a force that speaks Arabic.

P.W. Singer: Many firms do hire a good portion of locals, and indeed, there are even a growing number of Iraqi firms. On one hand, this flip might save money and even build up better local support of the firms, as they will know the ground better and be linked to local power brokers. but this is a problem in and of itself. The local firms often are simply new coats for a local militia to wear. So, you would still have major problems of security, just now on the inside.

I would urge you to Google the case of Donald Vance, an American who ended up working for an Iraqi firm that turned out to be smuggling weapons to insurgents. He told on them to the U.S. military, but because of a mistake he instead was held captive by U.S. troops for weeks (they didn't know he was the source of the report that led to their raid on the firm, and because he was a contractor they didn't give him full legal protections).

At end of day, I am not sure how you would have guarded that convoy on Sept. 16 with an Iraqi owned company. It was still a critical U.S. governmental function to keep our own officials alive.

_______________________

Re: COIN...: You said: "Armed contractors do harm COIN (counterinsurgency) efforts. Just ask the troops in Iraq." I have a friend who just returned from Iraq. He is very frustrated for the very reason you just stated. He wants all the private contractors out of Iraq. He says that there would be fewer insurgents because many insurgents are not al-Qaeda, but rather Iraqi citizens angry at seeing their fellow citizens gunned down by trigger-happy contractors. Of course, I'm not condoning these insurgents' actions; just understanding. I don't agree with the violence for violence. It just becomes a neverending cycle.

P.W. Singer: Well said. We need to understand that the U.S. must sway a broader population from hostility to support if it ever wants to oust terror cells and shut down recruiting pipelines. As the newly revised foreword to the famous U.S. Marine Corps Small Wars manual notes, "Small wars are battles of ideas and battles for the perceptions and attitudes of target populations." Within these wars, it is non-kinetic tools (as opposed to fielded weaponry) that make up the fire and maneuvers of small wars. "They frequently are the main effort simply because of the criticality of the functions they perform."

It is for this reason that many military experts have grown worried about the backlash that contractors cause unintentionally and how it is hurting the cause. U.S. Army Colonel Peter Mansoor is one of the most influential military thinkers on counter-insurgency. Well before the latest Blackwater episode, in January of 2007, he told Jane's Defense Weekly that the U.S. military needs to take a hard look at security contractors on future battlefields and figure out a way to get a handle on them so that they can be better integrated: "If we're going to allow them to be used in the first place ... if they push traffic off the roads or if they shoot up a car that looks suspicious, whatever it may be, they may be operating within their contract -- to the detriment of the mission, which is to bring the people over to your side. I would much rather see basically all armed entities in a counterinsurgency operation fall under a military chain of command."

_______________________

Boston: Are we still outsourcing "translation services" and interrogation through companies like CACI and Titan (L-3)? Do the congressional intel committees have a handle on all the intel functions that are currently outsourced, or are they in the dark in large measure? Has their been a systematic debate between the intel agencies and Congress about which functions should and should not be outsourced?

P.W. Singer: Yes, there is still a huge amount of outsourcing in the intel world. I have heard various numbers from 40 percent to 70 percent of the intel operational budget going to contractors. For more on this, I would check out the articles by R.J. Hillhouse .

No, the congressional committees simply don't have a good handle on this. We don't merely need a debate, but first just good information to see how far it has gone.

_______________________

Raleigh, N.C.: Good morning! Is it possible to put the genie back in the bottle? Would it be economically efficient to do it?

P.W. Singer: Yes, I think it is possible, but only if we have the will to take the hard choices, rather than outsource the hard choices.

Most likely yes, but it goes beyond mere financial costs savings. The overall effect of the outsourcing has been a short- and long-term negative to our counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and our wider "war of ideas." We are talking about national security here!

_______________________

Re: "Your Kid Nation" Comment...: That is inaccurate. "Kid Nation" governs better...

P.W. Singer: Yeah, those 9-year-olds do often show more common sense.

_______________________

Silicon Valley, Calif.: The subtitle to this discussion has a false premise "We Can't Fight the War Without the Company." For hundreds of years we have protected our diplomats and VIPs with Marines, not mercenaries. If we can't afford a Marine, we can't afford a mercenary. Semper Fi!

P.W. Singer: A Silicon Valley Semper Fi! I have now read it all.

And that Marine will be paid roughly a fourth to a sixth what the contractor will. But again, this is not all about money. As opposed to a contracted force, the Marine comes with the commitment of the nation behind them, as well as strict standards and clear legal accountability.

_______________________

P.W. Singer: Okay folks, my fingers are starting to wear out and the lights are being turned off on us. Again, the full report and various articles that answer your points in greater depth are available on the Web site. Thanks for great questions!

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


» This Story:Read +|Talk +| Comments
» This Story:Read +|Talk +| Comments
© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Discussion Archive

Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity