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inside iraq's 2nd largest forceupdates to the story

A closer look at a the companies profiled in the film, with internal documents and background on their operations and the challenges they confront.



Outsourcing the Mission
There are tens of thousands of private contractors living and working in Iraq. They have provided logistical support to the military -- building and running the bases, including supplying food, water, electricity, and laundry services. They have protected U.S. diplomats, including former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Ambassador Paul Bremer. And they have contributed to and provided security for Iraq's reconstruction. But they operate outside of the military command structure and have been criticized for their rough treatment of Iraqi citizens. Has their presence become a liability? And which parts of the U.S. military's mission are appropriate to oursource? Here are the views of Col. Thomas X. Hammes (Ret.) and Col. John Toolan, both of the U.S. Marines; Steven Schooner, a professor at The George Washington University Law School and an expert on government contracting; and Peter Singer, the author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry.


Does Privatization Save Money?
One of the arguments for downsizing the military after the Cold War was that private contractors could be brought in to do some jobs more efficiently and the cost would be cheaper than the expense of a larger standing army. But there is a real debate within and outside of the military as to whether the use of private contractors has saved taxpayer funds or not. Here are the views of Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association (an association of private security contractors); Paul Cerjan, vice president of worldwide military affairs for Halliburton/KBR; Peter Singer, author of Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry; Col. Thomas X. Hammes (Ret.), U.S. Marines; and Steven Schooner, an expert on government contracting.


Who Are the Contractors?
Profiles of the companies featured in "Private Warriors," with links to investigative reports by the Center for Public Integrity and other articles and Web sites about private companies operating in Iraq.


Some Background & History
Long before Iraq -- in fact, centuries ago -- private contractors operated in war zones. Two specialists on international politics and the military's use of private contractors offer some history and context for how we should understand these companies and the evolution of their use. In her Foreign Policy article, "Think Again: Mercenaries," Deborah Avant debunks some myths and conspiracies on private military contractors. And, in his recent Foreign Affairs article, "Outsourcing War," Peter Singer offers a lucid rundown of the history of private military firms (PMFs) and their increasing use in U.S. policy, focusing on their presence in Iraq where "nowhere has the role of PMFs been more integral -- and more controversial."


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, here's 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 security contractors 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 the 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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