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Privatizing the Military

June 25, 2004 • Volume 14, Issue 24
Does the Pentagon rely too much on private contractors?
By Mary H. Cooper

Introduction

A civilian bodyguard for L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, is among the 6,000 private security contractors in Iraq hired by the U.S. military.  (AFP Photo/Ceerwan Aziz)
A civilian bodyguard for L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, is among the 6,000 private security contractors in Iraq hired by the U.S. military. (AFP Photo/Ceerwan Aziz)

Since the Cold War ended, a downsized U.S. military has increasingly turned to private contractors to fill positions once held by military personnel. In U.S.-occupied Iraq, most of the jobs involve logistical support, but several thousand contractors also work as armed security guards or help interrogate Iraqi prisoners. The privatization trend went largely unnoticed until April, when insurgents in Fallujah murdered four civilian security guards and burned and mutilated their bodies. Soon afterwards, at least two contract interrogators were implicated in prisoner abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. The incidents have renewed questions about the effectiveness and legal status of private contractors operating in war zones and the wisdom of the Pentagon's increasing reliance on private contractors. Supporters of privatization say the military's use of contractors saves taxpayers money and improves efficiency by freeing up soldiers for strictly combat operations.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
U.S. Military
Sep. 23, 2011  Military Suicides
Sep. 05, 2008  Rise in Counterinsurgency
Aug. 31, 2007  Wounded Veterans
Nov. 19, 2004  Treatment of Veterans
Jun. 25, 2004  Privatizing the Military
May 30, 2003  Reforming the Corps
Apr. 26, 1996  New Military Culture
Jun. 08, 1990  Downsizing America's Armed Forces
Jul. 20, 1966  American Forces in Europe
Jan. 15, 1964  American Troops Abroad
May 21, 1958  Military Reorganization
Feb. 28, 1952  Benefits for Korean Veterans
May 12, 1948  Militarization
Nov. 06, 1946  Veterans' Bonus
Jul. 17, 1946  War Veterans in Civil Life
Nov. 27, 1941  Government Aid to Ex-Service Men
Sep. 27, 1932  The Bonus After the 1932 Elections
Oct. 06, 1930  Veteran-Aid Policies of the United States
Jan. 07, 1924  Congress and the Bonus
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Defense Personnel
Privatization of Government Functions
U.S. at War: Afghanistan
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