Multinational Monitor

MAR 2004
VOL 25 No. 3


Saddam’s Debt: The Emerging Conflict Over How to Deal with Saddam’s Devastating Economic Legacy
by Justin Alexander

Hijacking Iraq’s Skies: The Secret Plans to Privatize Iraqi Airway
by Svetlana Tsalik, Isam al Khafaji and Julie McCarthy

"Don’t Worry About Price:"Whistleblowers Sound the Alarm on Halliburton in Iraq
by Representatives Henry Waxman and John Dingell


The Aftermath: Iraq’s Perilous Future Under U.S. Control
an interview with Medea Benjamin

The Privatized Military: The Unmonitored, Unregulated and Unchecked Global Growth of Private Military Firms
an interview with Peter W. Singer


Behind the Lines

Outsourcing Common Sense

The Front
Justice on the Range - Pakistan's Oil Spill Disaster

The Lawrence Summers Memorial Award

Names In the News


Outsourcing Common Sense

More than a decade ago, the Pentagon set out on the path of outsourcing some of its operations.

What began as a small experiment has now morphed out of control.

Billions of dollars are being spent in Iraq on military contractors, who are taking on tasks as mundane as providing meals to the troops and as militarily essential as providing security to Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. occupying power in Iraq.

As Peter W. Singer, author of Corporate Warriors, relates in an interview in this issue, the contractors are horribly under-monitored -- so much so that the Pentagon does not know exactly how many private contractor personnel are working in Iraq.

There is terrible oversight of their performance by the Pentagon -- both in terms of quality of service and financial accounting.

Singer reports that there are only 14 personnel overseeing the $18 billion in U.S. reconstruction aid for Iraq, which includes many military or security-related functions. And the 14 is a bump up. Originally, there were only five.

That may be why it is the tiny investigative staff of Representative Henry Waxman, D-California, that is performing the most aggressive oversight of Halliburton and other military contractors. By way of example, see "Don't Worry About Price," a story in this issue by Representatives Waxman and John Dingell, D-Michigan.

The reliance on military contractors is creating a feeding frenzy of corporate fraud and abuse. It's a near certainty that the taxpayer rip-offs Waxman has identified -- everything from overpriced gasoline to overcharges for meals not served to troops -- are only the tip of the iceberg. And Halliburton is surely not the only firm taking advantage of the opportunities.

Military outsourcing is upsetting traditional norms of military command and control. The private security firms do not necessarily answer to particular units; and they are not integrated into the military's intelligence network. The result: in order to defend themselves, they are networking and developing their into their own loosely integrated, unaccountable, private army.

Whatever the limitations of the military code of justice and its in-practice application, the code does not apply to contractors. Nor does the national law of the United States clearly apply to the contractors in Iraq -- especially because many of the contractors are not from the United States. Indeed, the mechanisms by which contractors are held responsible for their behavior, and disciplined for mistreating civilians and committing human rights abuses -- all too easy violations for men with guns in a hostile environment -- are fuzzy at best.

There are already more than a few examples of what can happen, notable among them accusations that Dyncorp employees were involved in sex trafficking of young girls in Bosnia.

As the private military firms have grown in size, so have they gained in political clout.

With more and more ex-generals among their executives, they can wield ever more influence in the Pentagon, and with brass and a few pieces of silver, their influence in the halls of Congress is rising, too.

The small experiment of military outsourcing is now a major, and growing, disaster -- and the bigger it gets, the harder it will be to reform, let alone stop.

Military outsourcing should be ended. Most importantly, there should be an immediate moratorium on outsourcing of security and battlefield operations, or positions that might foreseeably involve combat.

But in the absence of a common-sense moratorium, there is still a range of useful steps that could be taken.

First, a condition of any firm entering into a military contract with the U.S. government should be that it agrees to have its overseas operations governed by U.S. law, and that it will subject itself to the jurisdiction of U.S. courts to resolve disputes over alleged abuses committed by its employees.

Second, if the government is going to engage in outsourcing, it must invest in appropriate oversight. Not only is this a matter of safeguarding the public purse, it is essential to ensure that promised services are actually provided. If the United States is going to pay contractors to provide meals and hot showers to soldiers, they at least ought to do it.

Third, the contracting process has to be cleaned up, as Representative Carolyn Mahoney, D-New York, has suggested in her proposed Clean Contracting In Iraq Act. Sole-source and no-bid contracting should be prohibited. Halliburton's LOGCAP contract -- in which the company won a long-term contract to be the exclusive service provider to the Pentagon for logistical contracts to be determined in the future -- should never be repeated.

Fourth, as the Center for Corporate Policy has suggested, all military contractors -- all government contractors, for that matter -- should have to meet minimum standards of good behavior. Companies with records of repeated violations of the law, corporations that pay their CEOs excessively, and companies that move their headquarters to offshore tax havens and otherwise use offshore subsidiaries to avoid paying their fair share of taxes should be ineligible for taxpayer-funded contracts


Mailing List


Editor's Blog

Archived Issues

Subscribe Online

Donate Online


Send Letter to the Editor

Writers' Guidelines