According to a July 4 story in the Los Angeles Times, U.S-paid private contractors now outnumber the troops. These numbers were not released by the Pentagon but, instead, had to be dragged out of the DOD by reporter T. Christian Miller via the Freedom of Information Act requests. The Times reports that there are 160,000 troops in Iraq and 180,000 US contractor employees. This number does not include all the private security guns hired into Iraq, so the number could be higher.
The Pentagon has been reluctant to admit that they have to rely on these contractors so heavily to even continue their presence in Iraq. The first DOD reported numbers of contractors hovered around 25,000, then the Pentagon fessed up to 100,000 to 126,000 as the Congress began to press them and now, thanks to the work of the LA Times, we now know that there are more contractor employees than troops.
Using contractors to this extent has had a disastrous affect on our military as I have outlined in my book, Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, Troops have done without the supplies and equipment they have needed because the contractors can just say no and refuse to do the work due to payments or danger to their workers. In the past, the military was able to rely on their own to supply the troops and protect their generals because of the loyalty of the troops and the fact that they have to perform under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Because of contractors, that reliability has been turned on its head and the troops and our mission have suffered.
According to a recent interview of General Batiste with bloggers, the number of contractors has affected the troops and the mission. He bloggers:
[T]here are a huge number of contractors in Iraq, by some estimations, up to 100,000. This is true because the military lacks capability. One of my biggest frustrations as a division commander in Iraq was the total lack of unity of command with so many contractors in my area of responsibility. When there are so many people in charge, no one is in charge. In a counter insurgency mission, unity of command is fundamental
In the longer term, where does this new "war service industry" go when we get out of Iraq? Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute has dubbed them the "coalition
of the billing" for good reason. With contractors like KBR billing a half a billion dollars a month, they aren't going to go away quietly. This new industry promises to entrench itself permanently in the DOD, protecting itself by spreading around its money and influence in Congress and the DOD. What does a war service industry do if there isn't any war to service? There has not been enough debate in Congress and the media about the uncharted future affects this industry may have on our foreign policy.
Now that some of the real numbers on the amount of contractors are beginning to emerge, maybe the public can push and shame the Congress and the media to look into the implications of these numbers more closely. There is a lot of fraud and waste going on to the determent of our troops, the military is becoming dangerously reliant on this new industry, and this new industry could have a harmful influence on our future foreign policy. Let's do something about it now.
If you want to know more, go to my website, www.followthemoneyproject.org .