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GENERAL ARTICLES

 

Actions Needed to Improve Use of Private Security Providers
A July 2005 GAO report on the continuing challenges in getting capable private security contractors, coordinating their working relationship with the U.S. military and tracking the costs of these forces. (pdf file)

 

Status of Funding and Reconstruction Efforts
A July 2005 GAO report on how the unstable security environment and inability of Iraqis to fully govern and secure the country has compromised efforts to rebuild Iraq following multiple wars and decades of neglect by Saddam's regime. (pdf file)

 

"A Fistful of Contractors"
This is one of the most extensive reports on private contractors, published by the British American Security Information Council (BASIC). It reviews some of the private contractors operating in Iraq in 2003-2004. The report looks deeply at the major issues of concern behind using private companies for military work, such as political influence in the awarding of contracts, accountability in chain of command when contractors work alongside uniformed military, and the effect on armed services when some of their best and brightest are lured away by private companies.

 

Think Again: Mercenaries
In this article from Foreign Policy, Deborah Avant debunks some myths and conspiracy thinking on private military contractors.

 

Outsourcing War
The Brookings Institution's Peter Singer offers a lucid rundown of the history and increasing use of private military firms (PMFs) in U.S. foreign policy, focusing on their presence in Iraq, where "nowhere has the role of PMFs been more integral -- and more controversial." (Foreign Affairs, March 2005)

 

"Army, Inc."
James Surowiecki, a financial writer for The New Yorker, examines the recent explosion in U.S. military contracts -- which now comprise nearly half of all defense-related jobs. He argues that outsourcing the responsibility of national defense to the private sector is often economically inefficient and can expose the military to the uncertainties of the free market -- at a time when it can least afford it. (Jan. 5, 2004)

 

International Peace Operations Association
This organization, headed by Doug Brooks is an association of private security contractors. Its Web site contains a section on its member companies' work in Iraq, and the code of conduct that members pledge to follow.

 

Military Operations: Contractors Provide Vital Services to Deployed Forces but Are Not Adequately Addressed in DOD Plans
In June 2003, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released this report on the use of contractors by the Department of Defense (DOD). It found that the DOD relied on contractors for many essential services but did not have sufficient backup plans in case the contractors failed to fulfill their obligations, and did not adequately inform its field commanders of the contractor activity taking place in their area of operations.

 

LIFE IN IRAQ

 

I'm From the Private Sector and I'm Here To Help
This American Life contributing editor Nancy Updike went to Iraq to talk to private citizens working in the middle of a war zone. "Private contractors are a part of this war in unprecedented numbers, but we don't know that much about the people doing these jobs -- why they chose to come to Iraq, and what they're seeing that we can't." (June 4, 2004)

 

"The Bridge"
This seven-part series by Raleigh News & Observer staff writers Jay Price and Joseph Neff examines the murders of four Blackwater guards in Fallujah. The series profiles the guards, reviews the events that happened the day they were killed in March 2004, provides in-depth coverage of Blackwater, the Myock, N.C.-based company they worked for, and addresses the larger issues raised by this grisly and highly-publicized event. (July 25-Aug. 1, 2004)

 

"Contract Workers Are War's Forgotten"
In this story for The Washington Post, staff writer Renae Merle takes a closer look at what happens when a contractor dies on the job in Iraq. She finds that grieving families "confront a bureaucracy that is largely inventing procedures on the fly. Inconsistent corporate responses and murky government procedures exacerbate families' already raw emotions. Unlike when soldiers and officers die in the line of duty, few fixed rules apply to contractor casualties." (July 31, 2004)

 

"Iraq Contractors Brave Ongoing Risks"
Listen to NPR's Robert Siegel's conversation with T. Christian Miller, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, about the dangers faced by thousands of contractors working in Iraq. Recorded in May 2005, just after the kidnapping of an Australian contractor, this segment discusses why many companies have no trouble finding employees willing to work in Iraq despite the mounting risks. (May 2, 2005)

 

The Iraq Index
The Brookings Institute, a centrist think tank based in Washington, regularly compiles statistics about security, politics, the economy and the quality of life in Iraq into what it calls "The Iraq Index," including detailed statistics on the number of contractors killed in Iraq, their nationalities, and approximate numbers of deaths per month.

 

CONTROVERSY

 

The Iraq Project and Contracting Office
The Project and Contracting Office (PCO) is in charge of the rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure and manages the allocation of the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF), the $18.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars appropriated for reconstruction. On its Web site you can find news and updates about some of their more than 2,100 individual projects and download a list of the primary contractors operating in Iraq, as well as the cost and a description of the services they have been contracted to perform [Note: This download is in PDF format; Adobe Acrobat required].

 

Contracting and the Rebuilding of Iraq
Here are the transcripts of prepared witness testimony from a July 2004 hearing by the House Committee on Government Reform. Note that this site reflects the view of Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.); the minority office's viewpoint can be found on its Web site, which contains press releases from Minority Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and audits of Halliburton conducted by the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

 

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction: Audit Reports
This section of the Inspector General's Web site contains the audits evaluating programs funded and/or operated by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) up until June 28, 2004, when the CPA turned over the country's administration to the Iraqis. The bulk of these audits regard CPA administration and controls.

 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Frequently Asked Questions
This FAQ offers the USACE's official position in regards to the concerns raised by their Repair and Continuity of Operations of the Iraqi Oil Infrastructure project. Among the questions answered are "How is the KBR work being monitored for accuracy?" and "How are you doing quality control to avoid cost overruns and fraud, waste and abuse?"

 

War Profiteers
This Web site, which contains investigative stories about U.S. companies operating in Iraq, is run by CorpWatch and describes itself as "our way of drawing attention to those institutions and individuals who view war, death, repression and violence as 'a safe bet.'"

 

"Follow the Money"
This April 2005 article, Newsweek reporter Michael Hirsh investigates why the Justice Department was reluctant to take part in a lawsuit brought by two whistleblowers alleging that the private contracting company, Custer Battles, defrauded the U.S. government of $50 million in funds appropriated for Iraqi reconstruction, and explains why they government's failure to take action could mean that several companies alleged to have taken part in fraud could go unpunished.

 

"The Spoils of War"
Vanity Fair writer Michael Shnayerson weaves the testimony of several whistleblowers into the history of KBR's LOGCAP contract and examines the accusations of corruption and favoritism that have plagued the company since the start of the war in Iraq. (April 2005)

 

"Changes Behind the Barbed Wire"
This December 2004 Washington Post article examines the allegations of abuse against civilian contractors who worked at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. "… the evidence that has been detailed so far in military reviews indicates that contractor employees played a more limited role in abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib than initially suggested," writes Ellen McCarthy.

 

"Contract Sport"
This February 2004 New Yorker article examines the hotly politicized charges surrounding Vice President Dick Cheney's tenure as CEO of Halliburton and the company's subsequent work in Iraq.

 

"Dirty Warriors"
In this commentary from Mother Jones, Barry Yeoman takes a closer look at the questionable hiring practices of some contractors and finds that human rights violations in places like South Africa, Chile, and Yugoslavia do not preclude the hiring of some workers. (November/December 2004)

 

The Iraq Revenue Watch
An initiative of the Open Society Institute, the Iraq Revenue Watch monitors the Iraqi oil industry to "ensure that it is managed with the highest standards of transparency and that the benefits of national oil wealth flow to the people of Iraq." Its Web site contains reports that funds for reconstruction were seriously mismanaged by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), private contractors such as Halliburton, as well as the interim Iraqi government (IIG).

 

INTERNAL DOCUMENTS

 

These memos offer a glimpse inside the contracting business in Iraq and the new urgency in hiring, arming and coordinating security contractors that followed the upsurge in violence in the spring of 2004. In the Minutes of Private Security Company Working Group, a meeting that took place March 30, 2004, at CPA Headquarters, Green Zone, appears one of the many comments candidly summing up some of the issues confronting CPA and contractors: "We are creating a private army on an unprecedented scale. ... It will be a force for good or harm depending on our insistance on the rule of law." The following month, Lawrence Peter, the U.S. official in charge of regulating the security business in Iraq, was dealing with the difficulties security contractors were having getting licenses to import guns -- many of them turned to the black market which contributed to lawlessness. Here is Peter's April '04 memo on the subject. In another April '04 memo to Coalition authorities -- "Private Security Firms Call for More Fire Power in Combat Zone" -- Peter criticizes regulations limiting contractors to small-caliber weapons only, citing an incident where PSCs came to the rescue of Coalition forces. Around this same time, Coalition authorities were gearing up for how best to track and coordinate the explosion in security contractors due to the growing insurgency. Here's a draft document, "The Structure of National Regional and Governorate Coordination Centers", on this. [Note: The urgency of events following the shocking contractors' killings in Fallujah and the escalating violence in the following weeks, led to the CPA's signing a $300 million contract with British firm Aegis to coordinate and track all security teams operating in Iraq.] Finally, with a number of proposals coming from DoD, Congress and others to significantly increase the regulation and oversight of private contractors, this invitation to a May '04 "Roundtable Discussion--Battlefield Contractors" was forwarded by Peter to over 100 individuals with the military, private contractor firms and the CPA to discuss the issues facing the burgeoning industry.

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posted june 21, 2005

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