Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Schakowsky, Sanders push to ban private contractors in war zones

| 5 Comments

Below, from Schakowsky...

SCHAKOWSKY, SANDERS TURN CROSS HAIRS ON PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS
Stop Outsourcing Security Act Seeks to Phase Out Security Contractors from Mission Critical Tasks

WASHINGTON, February 23 - Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced legislation that would phase out private security contractors in war zones.

The United States last year employed more than 22,000 hired guns in Iraq and Afghanistan. They protected diplomats, trained military and police officers, repaired and maintained weapons systems. Contractors also were involved with interrogations and intelligence gathering.

"The American people have always prided themselves on the strength, conduct, and honor of our United States military. I therefore find it very disturbing that now, in the midst of two wars and a global struggle against terrorism, we are relying more and more on private security contractors - rather than our own service members - to provide for our national defense," Sanders said.

"The behavior of private contractors has endangered our military, hurt relationships with foreign governments, and undermined our missions overseas," Schakowsky added.

The Stop Outsourcing Security Act would restore the responsibility of the American military to train troops and police, guard convoys, repair weapons, administer military prisons, and perform military intelligence. The bill also would require that all diplomatic security be undertaken by U.S. government personnel. The White House could seek exceptions, but those contracts would be subject to congressional oversight.

The legislation also would subject contracts exceeding $5 million to congressional oversight. Agencies with military contractors would have to report the number of contractors employed, disclose the total cost of the contracts, and make public any disciplinary actions against employees.

High pay for contract workers in war zones both burdens taxpayers and saps military morale, Schakowsky and Sanders said. While some soldiers who risk their lives for their country struggle to support their families, private security company employees are paid two or three times as much, sometimes pocketing as much as $1,000 a day.

Military officers in the field have said contractors operate like "cowboys," using unnecessary and excessive force uncharacteristic of enlisted soldiers. In 2007, guards working for a firm then known as Blackwater were accused of killing 17 Iraqis, damaging the U.S. mission in Iraq and hurting our reputation around the world. Later that year, a contractor employed by DynCorp International allegedly shot and killed an unarmed taxi driver.

Late last year, photos surfaced of lewd and drunken conduct by workers for ArmorGroup North America, a firm the State Department hired to provide security at the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

Some private security contractors have a history of fleecing taxpayers. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated Blackwater's employment practices and found that the company classified security guards in a way that may have allowed the firm to skirt paying Social Security, Medicare, and Federal income taxes. A separate Small Business Administration investigation found that Blackwater may have made misrepresentations in order to qualify for $110 million in government contracts set aside specifically for small businesses.

###

5 Comments

I fully support Rep. Schakowsky & Sen. Sanders in their efforts.
Thank you both for your common sense reasoning on this and other important issues.

Absolutely right. Private contractors are destroying the American military. They cost more, have no accountability, and are primarily owned by a small cabal of Neo conservatives with questionable ties to Raytheon and the CIA. They have no place in a field of combat.

I fully support Rep. Schakowsky & Sen. Sanders in their efforts to phase out private security contractors in war zones from Mission Security Tasks. Blackwater has been a source of great breach of security and a disgrace to our own Military capability and resource.

All that said is non-sense. As a former soldier we have different operations. The military is great and yes I barely had enough money to pay for bills but you know what I made that choice. When I got out there are not that many opportunities for or skills so what do we do rely on Security Contracts that pay great. Its our life too that we risk everyday. When you get out of the military you get out so u can spend time w ur fam, but guess what we're here doing a job. So all you Americans that say the US Military can do all the jobs NO they cant if that was so you might as well shut down several military bases in the US causing more UNEMPLOYED WORKERS, and deploy a lot more Military Personnel here. So before everyone says we have to ban Contractors look at the UNEMPLOYMENT right now if we go back home then guess what that entire thing called STIMULUS of the US, right. Thank yourself that you can hold, sleep, and speak with your children and significant other on a daily basis, as we're here protecting ourselves and other VIP's.

While I fully understand the imperative of "protecting (oneself) and the VIPs, what I do not understand is why that cannot be done overtly. I do agree with the motive for employment and fully understand that private corporations are able to award higher wages, but I cannot help but consider the cost...the cost to the American image, at home and abroad, the cost to America's legitimacy as the "referee of the planet",the cost to American values, the universal albeit individualistic rights-based values that have constituted America's international allure since World War 2... Let's face it, here in Europe America does not have the 'reputation' it once had..meanwhile, the NEED, internationally, for the financial assistance (and political involvement this entails) has never been greater...Taken from a cost-benefit perspective, surely one can see that the cost outweighs the benefit...

That the military is a giant bureaucratic menhir is nothing new, and that private contracting has marked benefits isn't either...however, why the compulsive non-disclosure? Why, in the effort to protect VIPs, ensure peace and build democratic institutions are we, the people whose values are allegedly represented, not allowed to at least KNOW the modus operandi?

If we agree on the fact that it is one risking one's life, everyday, for the sake of the global order, may I then ask why I, as a protected citizen, I am not allowed to know what the Other, protecting citizen, is doing for MY benefit?
More importantly, what society, institutional and normative, are we passing on to the next generation?

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 25, 2010 9:06 AM.

Valerie Jarrett on Fox News. Obama White House Fox thaw. Transcript was the previous entry in this blog.

Bipartisan divide at Obama health summit: Comprehensive vs. incremental reform is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.