First some numbers. The size of the US military was cut 30 percent between 1990 and 2005, which led to increased reliance on private companies to provides services previously thought of as “inherently governmental.” The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accelerated the shift. Pentagon contracts have grown 31 percent in the last few years, from $241 billion in fiscal year 2004 to $316 billion in fiscal year 2008, and the Congressional Budget Office reports that, by year’s end, the US will have shelled out over $100 billion to contractors in Iraq. One out of every five dollars spent in Iraq now goes to private industry, and there is one contractor for every US soldier in the country. (During the Gulf War, the ratio of soldiers to contractors was 50:1.)
These figures come from a New America Foundation report released Friday, called “Changing the Culture of Pentagon Contracting” (.pdf), which acknowledges the “inevitability of contractors,” while making recommendations for integrating them more effectively into the US force structure. Among the report’s admonishments:
Perhaps most interesting, though, is the report’s recommendation that the US government move away from outsourcing private security to companies like Blackwater, which has attracted attention for numerous questionable shootings in Iraq. From the report:
Our research with respect to the activities of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan to date leads us to doubt that effective control and, more importantly, sustainable accountability measures can ever be fully imposed upon those providing private security services… That is why we believe that both the U.S. military and, in particular, the Department of State should begin to move away from the use of private security contractors and develop the internal capacity to provide security protection services currently provided by the private sector.