Thursday, November 13, 2008

Private Security Contractors: Oversight and All That

The New America Foundation in its Privatization of Foreign Policy Program examines the growing influence of non-state actors in the design and execution of U.S. foreign policy. Click here to view their policy papers and other related articles.

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.

An official report release event will be held 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 (h/t to washingtonnote).

A quick excerpt from the summary of the report as it relates to the State Department:

A cultural shift is required in which civilian and military leaders take steps to fully integrate private contractors not only into the force structure but also into mission requirements. Without this sort of institutional change, the problems we have experienced in connection with contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan will continue, significantly retarding the military's ability to adjust to the evolving security challenges of the 21st century.

The U.S. government should:

  • 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. Continue reading here (PDF).
The GAO reports that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) obligations on service contracts, expressed in constant fiscal year 2006 dollars, rose from $85.1 billion in fiscal year 1996 to more than $151 billion in fiscal year 2006, a 78 percent increase. With this growth in spending, DOD has become increasingly reliant on contractors both overseas and in the United States. It also reports that DOD currently has the equivalent of three brigades of contractors providing security services in Iraq, as well as another brigade equivalent supporting these contractors—a total of about 12,000 personnel. Put another way, there are more private security contractors in Iraq today than the total number of contractors (about 9,200) that were deployed to support military operations in the 1991 Gulf War. Of course, the current estimate of the total private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is certainly more staggering at 230,000.

Anyway, some good news for State below.

In a related report, the State Department has implemented 11 of 18 actions recommended in October 2007 by a panel tasked by the Secretary of State with reviewing that agency’s use of private security contractors in Iraq. For example, the State Department has increased the number of diplomatic security personnel stationed in Iraq to provide oversight of contractor activities and has requested and received funding to hire and train 100 additional agents to replace those who were transferred from other State Department programs in the United States to Iraq. According to State Department officials, the additional personnel will help sustain the increased number of agents in Iraq. In addition, as of June 2008, the State Department has equipped 140 of its security vehicles with video recording equipment and plans to equip an additional 93 vehicles. You can read the update on the Implementation Status of Recommendations from the Secretary of State’s Panel on Personal Protective Services in Iraq in GAO-08-966 (see Appendix II).

The 100 new agents will continue to be needed after the hostilities in Iraq are over. The State Department received funding for the new agents in the 2008 supplemental appropriations act signed by the President of the United States on June 30, 2008, which covers the 4th quarter of fiscal year 2008 and all of fiscal year 2009. According to the State Department, these positions will be included in the agency’s fiscal year 2010 budget request.

Continue reading some good news for State: GAO-08-966

Click here to view Diplomatic Security’s 2008 Recruitment Schedule. Click here to view the career page for diplomatic security personnel.

Related Items:

Changing the Culture of Pentagon Contracting (PDF) 6.9 MB

Rebuilding Iraq: GAO-08-966 – July 2008 (PDF) 1.1MB DOD and State Department Have Improved Oversight and Coordination of Private Security Contractors in Iraq, but Further Actions Are Needed to Sustain Improvements

Defense Management: GAO-08-572T – March 11, 2008 (PDF) 447 KB DOD Needs to Reexamine Its Extensive Reliance on Contractors and Continue to Improve Management and Oversight

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