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Contractors' Influence in War Zones

POSTED: 06:13 PM ET, 07/23/2008 by Derek Kravitz

More than 300 audits have been performed on contracts in Iraq since the start of the war in 2003 and of the $450 billion that has been obligated to support operations in Iraq, roughly $78 billion has been awarded through 103,000 contracts, Defense Department officials told a Senate committee today.

The Defense Department does not track the total number of contractors it employs, but the tally is substantial. For example, there are more than 163,000 contractors working in Iraq and some 36,500 in Afghanistan -- about the same number of troops in those regions -- a senior defense official told Congress earlier this year, The Associated Press reported.

During the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) repeatedly pressed Defense Department officials about whether the Pentagon's reliance on private contractors has prevented the government from aggressively pursuing cases of fraud and abuse, and prosecuting individuals.

The security industry's enormous growth in Iraq and Afghanistan contracting has been facilitated by the U.S. military, which uses the 20,000 to 30,000 contractors to offset chronic troop shortages. Armed contractors, such as Blackwater (the subject of The Post's Steve Fainaru's award-winning stories on overseas contracting) protect all convoys transporting reconstruction material, including vehicles, weapons and ammunition for the Iraqi army and police.

Fainaru wrote about how security companies, out of public view, have boosted manpower, added expensive armor and stepped up evasive action as attacks in war zones increase.

By Derek Kravitz |  July 23, 2008; 6:13 PM ET
Previous: Rosenberg Spy Case Files Ordered Unsealed | Next: Rangel Reverses Course on Ethics Investigations

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In the past only high ranking Generals could make full use of the revolving door between the military and defence contractors. Now with everything from convoy security to laundry outsourced low level military personnel have the power to award contracts in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process they assure lucrative second careers in the private sector when they retire from the military.

Posted by: marc | July 23, 2008 8:59 PM

It's really very simple: the War for Corporate Welfare in Iraq is just the latest Big Business gimmick to suck the treasury dry, instead of trying to actually compete for business with international companies, b/c they (US bisinesses) can't.

Neocon thinking goes like this -- Why should the billions of taxpayers' dollars sitting in the treasury be used for the people, when it could go right into the bank accounts of the CEOs -- where it belongs? Why should the rich have to work for their money? Isn't that what poor people are for?

So, you hire an army of lobbyists to make sure that laws are written which ensure that the public trough is open only for business interests, not the individual (like SS or Medicare, for instance), and that government agencies are gutted and replaced by private entreprenueres who are buddies of Dick & Dubya.

And having an unwinnable and unending conflict in Iraq is perfect -- it means unending government contracts, which equates to infinite profits -- all guaranteed by the US taxpayer.

Nice scam, huh? Is this a great country, or what?

Posted by: thesuperclasssux | July 24, 2008 7:19 AM

The current blank check for the military will not last forever. When it comes to deciding where to cut, pork going to private contractors will be the last thing to go. They can defend their access to the swag with high paid lobbyists, payoffs to congressmen, and lucrative PR positions for ex-executive branch personnel. This has always been the case with the big weapons producers but now it also applies to all sorts of "service" providers, from combat training and weapons maintenance right on down to laundry and hash slinging.

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