Military Privatization Led to Great Waste


The Commission on Wartime Contracting concluded that at least 31 billion, and possibly as much as 60 billion appropriated by Congress for the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, over the past 10 years, was lost to contract waste, fraud, and abuse.

Unlike previous conflicts, where the U.S. used uniformed military units, with strict chains of command, and established budgetary procedures, President George W. Bush instead employed independent contractors to privatize operations in the field, resulting in massive cost-control failures. He avoided expanding the armed forces, because a draft would have been needed to fill their ranks, which would have turned Americans against his wars.

Now, the U.S. wastes billions on private security companies in situations where military personnel could have been used. Contractors now represent more than half of the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of contract employees used by the Defense Dept., State Dept., and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) exceeds 260,000. 46,000 Americans and 214,000 Iraqi and Afghan nationals are employed. In some areas, independent contractors outnumber the U.S. troops in the field.

The basic problem with the use of so many private contractors is mismanagement. As the number of contractors increased, but the size of the agencies charged with overseeing them remained flat, the ability to manage budgets deteriorated. Government agencies simply lack the staff to manage the greater number of contractors.

It does not take a rocket scientist to know that private contractors are going to soak the government for every dollar they can take, and someone needs to stop them from ripping us off. The problem is the profit motive is not being offset by taxpayer watchdogs. In the rush to war, there was a lack of competitive bidding, and once contracts were awarded, it was just too easy to renew them.

Much of the waste, fraud, and abuse, stems from contractors doing too much. There was poor planning before Bush started his wars, and the U.S. did not understand the needs of the host countries, or their long-term development goals. Many projects were ill-conceived, and are now abandoned, or not maintained.

The Commission reported: “poor planning, management, and oversight of contracts, led to massive waste.” They recommend a phase out of the private contractors. It is time to dismember Bush’s Contractor Army. It is simply too expensive as compared to the military, whose soldiers and Marines have fixed pay grades.

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