Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) today introduced legislation that would phase out private security contractors in war zones.
This legislation recognizes that the United States increasingly has relied on private contractors to wage our wars, wasting taxpayer money, damaging military morale and hurting our reputation around the world.
"The American people have always prided themselves on the strength, conduct, and honor of our United States military. I therefore find it very disturbing that now, in the midst of two wars and a global struggle against terrorism, we are relying more and more on private security contractors - rather than our own military - to provide for our national defense," Sanders said.
"Our continued reliance on private security contractors endangers our military, damages our relationships with foreign governments, and undermines our global priorities," said Schakowsky. "Though we have the finest military in the world, we continue to outsource our security to private contractors, who answer to a corporation rather than a uniformed commander. When Senator Sanders and I introduced this legislation last year, we had 22,000 armed private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, we have 28,178. We need this bill now more than ever. "
There are 155,000 contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan today, but only 145,000 uniformed service members.
About 28,000 of the contractors are performing mission-critical functions such as training troops and police, guarding convoys, repairing weapons, administering military prisons, and performing military intelligence.
The Stop Outsourcing Security Act would restore the responsibility of the military to perform such functions. The bill also would require that all diplomatic security be undertaken by U.S. government personnel. The White House could seek exceptions, but those contracts would be subject to congressional oversight.
The legislation is a strong and necessary step toward restoring the international reputation of the United States. Military officers in the field have said that private contractors operate like "cowboys," using unnecessary and excessive force uncharacteristic of enlisted soldiers. In 2007, guards working for a firm then known as Blackwater were accused of killing 17 Iraqis, damaging the U.S. mission in Iraq and hurting our reputation around the world. Later that year, a contractor employed by DynCorp International allegedly shot and killed an unarmed taxi driver. Incidents like this demonstrate that we should leave warfare to the military rather than delegate it to private corporations.
This legislation would also save money. High pay for contract workers in war zones burdens taxpayers and saps military morale. While some soldiers who risk their lives for their country struggle to support their families, private security company employees are often paid two or three times as much as U.S. military personnel doing the exact same work, sometimes pocketing as much as $1,000 a day. By some estimates, every position converted from a private contract to federal employment saves on average $44,000 per year.