Changing the Culture of Pentagon Contracting

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Over the past five years, the ongoing U.S. military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought to the fore a host of challenges affecting America’s armed forces. Few, however, have taken on greater prominence and touched on a wider array of management and oversight issues than the role of private security, military, and contingency contractors in the battle space. With a new Administration planning to take office a comprehensive review of the policy decisions that brought 230,000 private military contractors to Iraq and Afghanistan, in support of the U.S. missions there, is long overdue.
The New America Foundation’s Privatization of Foreign Policy Initiative has brought together experts from across the political and policy spectrum for a discussion about the specific challenges presented by private security and contingency contracting. Their latest report, Changing the Culture of Pentagon Contracting examines the relationship between U.S. government agencies and private security, military, and contingency contractors and offers recommendations for managing this relationship in the future. The recommendations presented here are aimed at informing policymakers, both in the executive and legislative branches as well as the uniformed military, as they develop solutions to the growing challenge of effectively integrating private contractors into U.S. national security operations.
The New America Foundation will be hosting an official report release event Friday at 9:30 am. Michael Cohen, co-author of Changing the Culture of Pentagon Contracting, will be joined by military affairs columnist David Isenberg, former JAG Corp Counsel Tara Lee, and human rights lawyer Kevin Lanigan to discuss and debate the report’s findings and recommendations.


Changing the Culture of Pentagon Contracting offers recommendations for the next administration, lawmakers, and military strategists to utilize private military contractors for the good of US military and foreign policy while limiting those that would be detrimental to our presence in the world.
The U.S. government should:
-Begin to transition away from the use of private security contractors in the battle space and build up the capabilities of the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the military police to take on security responsibilities. As this transition takes place, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act should be expanded to govern the actions of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan not currently covered by the Uniform Code of Military Justice; improved training of security contractors, vetting of third-country nationals, and third-party accreditation of contractors should be instituted; and interagency coordination between the military and other government agencies should be strengthened.
-Move away from reliance on the flawed and widely misunderstood term “inherently governmental” in deciding how and when to use private contractors, and instead focus on the question of core competencies and mission success. Congress should permit government agencies to use broad discretionary leeway in determining where and how contractors should be used. Congress should establish red-lined activities that must not be outsourced and require the military to maintain a “resident capacity” for any function it outsources, particularly as it relates to the ability to conduct proper contractual oversight.
-Designate a high-ranking official in each branch of the military to conduct a top-to-bottom review of how that branch interacts with contractors and where there are areas for greater or lesser reliance on contractors.
-Strengthen the contractor and acquisition workforce so that it is better equipped to make contracting decisions and to conduct robust oversight and management of contractors. In addition, the Army should develop and support its newly created contracting career field for enlisted personnel and officers.
-Create a clear chain of command from Secretary of Defense through the Joint Chiefs of Staff and service departments that lays out the responsibilities for contracting and holds commanders accountable for the integration of contractors into the Total Force.
-Integrate contractor oversight into officer training in all branches of the military.
-Include contingency contracting as an “area of emphasis” in the 2010 QDR.
-Create and sustain an enforcement arm of the FBI to conduct overseas investigations of private contractors as well as an extraterritorial U.S. attorney to prosecute criminal behavior.
–Faith Smith

Comments

24 comments on “Changing the Culture of Pentagon Contracting

  1. Susan says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    Susan
    http://www.car-insurance-choices.com

    Reply

  2. Susan says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    Susan
    http://www.car-insurance-choices.com

    Reply

  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Who can doubt that Blackwater, through back channels, has been tasked to commit the crimes that this fuckin’ satanic monster Cheney deems too great a risk to ask of the DOD or the CIA?
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/11/sources_blackwater_used_dog_fo.php#comments
    Sources: Blackwater Used Dog Food Bags To Hide Weapons
    By Zachary Roth – November 14, 2008, 2:21PM
    Yesterday, we noted that the State Department plans to fine Blackwater USA for illegally shipping weapons to Iraq without the proper permits.
    Now, ABCNews.com adds some more detail to the picture, reporting that a federal grand jury is probing whether the company used sacks of dog food to hide weapons and silencers it was shipping into Iraq.
    State Department rules forbid Blackwater from using “offensive” weapons, including silencers, which, an expert tells ABCNews.com, would only be used for assassinations.
    The report adds:
    Larger items, including M-4 assualt weapons, were secreted on shipping pallets surrounded by stacks of dog food bags, the former employees said. The entire pallet would be wrapped in cellophane shrink wrap, the former employees said, making it less likely US customs inspectors would look too closely.
    Earlier today, the Associated Press reported that an indictment had been drafted in connection to the deadly shootings of 17 Iraqi civilians last year, in which 6 Blackwater guards have been implicated. No decision has yet been made to file charges.

    Reply

  4. Mr.Murder says:

    Bribery made the surge work, why not bribe our own contractors?
    Anyone wann make a run to go pick up another rape victim?
    It’s not like anyone in the media would report it, those reporters have contractor guides.

    Reply

  5. Don Bacon says:

    Who is most likely to have the will to forge ahead? The ones who would get the large performance bonus which will soon be introduced as a new feature of enhanced Pentagon contracting. People, some people anyhow, will do anything for money, which is why the US military is there in the first place.

    Reply

  6. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So you’ve got two trucks, rushing to re-supply American troops on the front line. In one truck, you have a Swedish mercenary driving, with an Australian mercenary co-driver. In the other truck, you have two United States Army soldiers. In order to reach the frontline troops, two minefields must be negotiated, and enemy aircraft are on the prowl as well.
    Who is most likely to have the will to forge ahead?
    Its not fuckin’ rocket science.

    Reply

  7. Don Bacon says:

    Oh yes, let’s make foreign military occupations more efficient. That’s just what we need. By all means. That will justify more of them.

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  8. tom says:

    I want to draw attention to two articles that assess the structure of
    the Pentagon and identify the need to breathe new life into it:
    http://www.ssrc.org/essays/minerva/2008/11/10/bracken/
    http://www.ssrc.org/essays/minerva/2008/10/09/devji/

    Reply

  9. rich says:

    Faith,
    You have to make the point, loud and clear, as to why military contractors, i.e., mercenaries, are unacceptable. Else the next administration trying to evade chain-of-command and public reaction to total troops in the field will just do it again.
    King George III used Hessians against American colonists back in ~1776. That rightly enraged then-English citizens. The only difference being he used mercenaries against his own people vs. citizens in another country, yet the same inherent problems exist in both instances.
    That point has to be driven home. Using mercenaries in the battle space flies in the face of every lesson learned at the birth of the American nation. It costs the country militarily, politically, and results in actions/events –killings–that cannot be undone.
    Where American soldiers operate, they act in our name, and largely must take into account the impact on American welfare of their actions. Doesn’t always work out that way, but at least there’s a chain of command and some accountability. There is a direct link between America, the military, and the objective (ostensibly) in our interest.
    As with King George III and his Hessians, when we use mercenaries in Iraq, it’s about the money and not the national objective. There are political-economic-military goals in play that cannot be publicly justified and carry enormous political costs. King George couldn’t justify using English soldiers against his own people, and had a harder time convincing Englishment to do it. And George Bush needed troop numbers the public wouldn’t accept, had a set of goals he could not state publicly, required a lack of accountability to carry them out, needed to dole out some loot to the military-industrial complex, and could not, I think, get away with asking regular American soldiers to do those things.
    We the People are ultimately responsible for what we do militarily overseas. Sever that connection, as King George III did and as George W. Bush did, and it’s anything goes.
    That’s unacceptable.
    It’s essential to make absolutely clear why mercenaries cannot be used in the battle space. Unless you plan to repeat the error in another 5 or 35 years.

    Reply

  10. Mr.Murder says:

    Blackwater moved its HQ to the Chicago area?
    Do tell.

    Reply

  11. David says:

    What Ben Rosengart said.

    Reply

  12. JamesL says:

    The cover provided by Bush the Lesser’s current Iraq War has camoflaged and impeded rational dialog on multiple issues, and Neocons have successfully relied upon on the stuffing of the collective American gullet to the point where a citizen can only concentrate on whatever one is choking on at any particular instant. The Bush “watch” has prompted Constitutional issues, political issues, moral, ethical, and philosophocal issues which, in any RATIONAL country or dialog, would be pursued. But not in the US, where gullet-stuffing is the modus operandi, to followed by a commercial and tips on what’s coming up next. BushCheney (joined at the neck) don’t give a rat’s ass about these greater issues, which is why they need a quick ticket and all our support for a trip to the Hague. “Military contractors” (Jesus H. Christ on a flying crutch) should be part of many sermons every Sunday, because they are absolutely antithical to every religion and every American ideal (start with “freedom”). But those sermons are not heard, and that is a national crime.
    Let me be clear. There are a small number of salient moral issues that have been raised By George II’f historic forays into self adulation. One of them is mercenary armies, which have been re-branded (all you need is effective PR in Bushthink) as “contract” players, as if being in possession of a contract to kill someone represented a morally defensible position.
    “Contractprs” have obfuscated the economic equation of war, ripped open the bank accounts of the patriotic and uninformed, burdened the unborn (talk about choice!!), hastened defeat, and helped no one, save the authoritarian moneymakers of every bent. I’ve written and posted about this over and over, but I guess it needs someone like Steve to make a splash. Good on him. It needs to be be made. Bring it up to your pastor this Sunday: you want a sermon on mercenaries. What is the morality of killing for money? And what is the justification for hiring killer armies versus enlisting your own “boys and girls” to do the killing. You vets of WWII especially need to weigh in on this. I can’t help thinking of the gulf between Ensign Gay and the current criminal Bush who, as far as I can see, never made any sacrifice for anything, but wants us all to sacrifice for him. I cannot WAIT for January and to get someone who can think inato the White House. It has been far too long, and I’m tired of explaining to my kids why we have an dangerous idiot for president.

    Reply

  13. TonyForesta says:

    Word Spunkmeyer! Dr. EU Hillhouse over at
    http://www.thespywhobilledme.com has done much heroic though
    largely ignored work along theses lines. Many of the nobid,
    openended, unaccountable contracts in the radical
    transformation and privitization of the US military and
    intelligence apparatus link directly back to cronies, coteries, and
    cabals in the bushgov. Any cursory examination of the facts and
    the math will prove this monsterous truth.
    Finally, someone with influence is paying attention.

    Reply

  14. Spunkmeyer says:

    I equate military contractors as the equivalent of “managerial
    consultants” that anyone who has worked in large corporations
    is probably all-too familiar with. Higher paid than the
    employees, they probably provide the same information or level
    of task a regular employee could at several times the employee
    cost. The rationale is since they don’t work here, it must be
    better.
    The solution is, raise military pay enough, and you may attract
    more people to do these tasks rather than outsourcing. There
    should be no ambiguity — or perceived ambiguity with the local
    populations our forces come in contact with — that all are
    working first and foremost on behalf of the American people,
    not a middleman corporation. I have very strong negative
    feelings about the legal gray zone a lot of our military
    contractors have been operating under in Iraq.
    The satirical conclusion to an all-corporate army would be the
    movie “War Inc.”, which, despite its inconsistent points, created
    a striking comic portrait.

    Reply

  15. TonyForesta says:

    A thousand thanks Steve to you and your collegues at The New
    America Foundation for shining light on this critical and wildly
    underreported issue.
    The radical privatization of America’s military and intelligence
    apparatus is one of the most grievous and ignored abuses of the
    last eight years under the fascist in the bushgov whose select
    canals have profiteered wantonly in and from the process. Look
    to Stephan Gambones cronyism and profiteering with Qinetic for
    frightening proof.
    The American tax payer has been forced to pay exhorbidantly
    more for products and services that were formally the purview of
    the uniformed military and intelligence apparatus to private
    contractors with creepy links tobthe fascist in the bushgov
    without review, recourse, accounting, or remedy for abuse.
    The private military and intelligence industrial complexes are
    wildly under reviewed, reported, and regulated. Where do their
    loyalties lie? With The Constitution, America – or whom ever
    signs the contracts. What is thief legal standing in cases of fraud
    or abuse (Look to CACI & Titan at Abu Gharaib)?
    More critically, in these stressed economic times – why are
    American taxpayers forced to pay radically more for products
    and services that were formally the purview of the uniformed and
    accoutable assets of the US military and intelligence apparatus?

    Reply

  16. Bbob says:

    This “contractor” thing has bothered me for a long time. I
    served in the Korean War and the only contractors I can recall
    were locals we hired to do laundry and other mundane chores.
    Now we have as many (more?) contractors in Iraq as we have
    military personnel.
    The “contractor” dilemma started to happen, I understand, when
    the armed forces were downsized–maybe in the Clinton
    administration, I can’t remember. The military-industrial
    complex, while reducing the armed forces, began hiring
    contractors to do what the military no longer had the personnel
    to do. The result seems to be that we have more people working
    outside the army, at much higher salaries than soldiers.
    Even truck drivers are hired as contractors–something almost
    any GI could do.
    I’m glad to hear that someone is giving thought to this.

    Reply

  17. Linda says:

    The Project on Government Oversight, POGO, a nonprofit advocacy and oversight group in DC, has been working on these issues for a number of years.
    Anyone interested can visit their website at wwww.pogo.org.

    Reply

  18. pacos_gal says:

    A good report and for anyone interested well worth the read of the entire report. It addresses some of the concerns that have been noted in previous comments.
    I’d add that the number of military personnel to be added to the Career Management Field will probably need to be increased. At Brigade level, you could add a member to the existing S4 for contract management.
    It might be worth it to also seek information from military personnel currently in the field who deal with contractors on a daily basis.
    I realize that this report is directed towards the legislative and executive branches, however quite often within the military the reality is that it is troops that have to interact with the contractors and who try to solve various problems who can give the best advice on how that might be done. Their insight should not be discounted simply because it is at a lower level than to which this report is directed.

    Reply

  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Besides, do we really want to make war any more profitable than it already is for Satan’s army of Washington murderers? Lets start telling these pricks their paychecks are contingent on keeping us OUT of wars.

    Reply

  20. JohnH says:

    Besides legal and operational issues, the military should look at the COST of deploying private contractors. Every decision to hire contractors should first pass a rigorous “in-source vs. outsource” cost-benefit analysis. This administration has taking privatization to obscene lengths, outsourcing functions that could be done internally at far less cost. Creating a highly profitable mercenary force should not be an end unto itself. It should be a means to satisfying a need that cannot cost effectively be met otherwise.
    Truth be told, a good chunk of bloated defense budgets is probably attributable to privatization without any identifiable value added.

    Reply

  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    If I’m part of a team, I want a member of that team to feed me, because he has to eat what I’m eating. I certainly don’t want to risk getting my ass shot off only to eat chow thats put in front of me in its “profitable” form. Iraq has certainly underscored the folly of privatizing what used to be the function of the military. Our soldiers have ingested shit contaminated water, ate substandard chow, suffered electrocutions, and been blamed for Blackwater atrocities. And all at ridiculously inflated prices.
    And BTW, who wants an army of mercenaries prowling our streets armed with Uzis, while the arms of citizens are being confinscated, such as occurred in New Orleans?
    You want to see our servicemen and women offered quality logistics, stores, provisions and services? Then don’t privatize these commodities, for they will ALWAYS end up being provided by some sleazy greedy piece of shit with a crony senator or congressman in his pocket.

    Reply

  22. malamute says:

    As an Army veteran and a former Army contractor who worked in Iraq, I will say that this discussion is long overdue.
    I didn’t fully appreciate the scale to which essential functions has been privatized until I walked into the Mosul chow hall for the first time, in December 2004. There were at least as many civilians seated as there were uniformed personnel – hundreds, at a forward operating base right at the tip of the spear.
    Until that moment I naievely believed that I was one of a small number of civilians supporting the effort. Having a general sense of how much each civilian was getting paid to be there, it was truly a breathtaking moment.

    Reply

  23. karenk says:

    wow 230,000, that’s more than the number of troops we have in Iraq and Afghanistan, no? Yet they are independent in function?? Their role should definitely be narrowly defined. Who’s in charge of them and who monitors their actions?

    Reply

  24. Ben Rosengart says:

    Yes!
    This is a very constructive line of advocacy. It is not a moment too soon to begin undoing the hollowing-out of legitimate government function.

    Reply

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