A Private Enterprise
The Associated Press
In Iraq, private contractors do just about
everything a soldier would do. They sling Spam in mess tents. They tote
guns along base perimeters. They shoot. They get shot. Sometimes they
get killed. And its not just in Iraq, but around the world --
in conflict zones from Liberia to Kosovo to Afghanistan -- that the
United States is putting hired help behind the front lines to ease the
burden of its overworked armed forces.
By paying civilians
to handle military tasks, the Bush administration is freeing up U.S.
troops to fight. But the use of contractors also hides the true costs
Their dead arent
added to official body counts. Their duties -- and profits -- are hidden
by close-mouthed executives who wont give details to Congress.
And as their coffers and roles swell, companies are funneling earnings
into political campaigns and gaining influence over military policy
-- even getting paid to recommend themselves for lucrative contracts.
For the civilians
handling these soldierly jobs, the risks are high.
A contractor near
the Iraqi city of Fallujah died and an American engineer was wounded
when their vehicles came under attack Monday -- possibly by U.S. soldiers,
said the British-based company, European Landmine Solutions. U.S. officials
said their soldiers werent responsible.
The chief military
contractor in Iraq, Kellogg, Brown & Root, has had three workers
killed in Iraq, two of whom died in ambushes.
top U.S. military contractor, DynCorp, saw three of its workers killed
in an ambush by Palestinians in the West Bank this month.
two civilian contractors working for the CIA were slain in an ambush
And in Liberia,
contractors guarding the U.S. Embassy have fought like soldiers during
rebel sieges, at times lifting guns from slain rebels, said Horacio
"Hersh" Hernandez, a retired Marine with Intercon security
in Liberia. He owes his job, he says, to post-Cold War defense cuts
and a slew of new U.S. engagements.
a massive business boom for the private security field," Hernandez
As the United States
slashes the size of its standing army from 2.1 million in 1990 to 1.4
million now, the Pentagon began running out of soldiers to handle postwar
violence in Iraq and Afghanistan and peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo
while facing threats elsewhere.
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld argued wars could still be fought without
boosting the number of soldiers by outsourcing just about everything
except battlefield gunning.
Under U.S. employ
in Iraq, American companies turn profits while operating missile defense
batteries, piloting unmanned aerial vehicles and snapping satellite
pictures of bombing targets.
toting guards who shadow Afghan President Hamid Karzai and L. Paul Bremer,
the U.S. administrator in Iraq, are private-sector workers, as are those
who built and operate the cavernous white mess tent on the base of the
2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Baghdad.
There, a $3 million
contract with Kellogg, Brown & Root paid for the tents construction
and the Bangladeshi and Indian cooks who feed 4,000 troops daily. One
soldier breakfasting inside the tent, a nine-year veteran, said shes
been sent to patrol Baghdad since contractors took her job as a cook.
With Kellogg, Brown
& Root handling everything from mail delivery to bug control on
U.S. bases in Iraq and around the world, plenty of other soldiers are
finding themselves on the front lines.
Peter W. Singer,
a Brookings Institution military analyst, estimates there is one contractor
for every 10 foreign soldiers in Iraq -- 10 times the private involvement
in the Gulf War.
military companies earn about $100 billion in yearly government contracts,
Singer believes. Ninety private military companies are listed on the
Web site for the Center for Public Integrity. In comparison, the U.S.
defense budget is about $380 billion this year, excluding emergency
spending, and is expected to rise to more than $400 billion.
Involved: Some of
the firms working in Iraq are huge, politically connected conglomerates
like Halliburton -- corporate parent of Kellogg, Brown & Root and
formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. Others are little known,
like Erinys, a security firm chocked with former South African special
forces that will train 6,500 Iraqis to guard oil installations.
The world of military
contracts is a murky one.
In Iraq and Afghanistan,
important buildings in the capitals bristle with gun-toting Americans
in sunglasses. They favor khaki photographers vests and a few
military accoutrements, but lack the name tags and identifying patches
of a soldier.
Ask who they work
for and one often hears "no comment" or "I cant
tell you that."
deaths arent counted among the tally of more than 350 U.S. soldiers
killed in Iraq. No one is sure how many private workers have been killed,
or, indeed, even how many are toiling in Iraq for the U.S. government.
Estimates range from under 10,000 to more than 20,000 -- which could
make private contractors the largest U.S. coalition partner ahead of
Britains 11,000 troops.
Global Risks Strategies,
a security firm with about 1,100 workers on the ground -- mainly armed
former Nepalese and Fijian soldiers -- is among security companies that
have more personnel in Iraq than some other countries taking part in
the occupation, Singer said.
To the consternation
of U.S. lawmakers, there is little or no Congressional oversight of
contractors hired by the executive branch of government -- whether through
the State Department, Pentagon or the CIA.
like San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp., which
trains Iraqi journalists, police and soldiers, are privately held firms
employing ex-soldiers and spies.
from talking about things our customers dont want us talking about,"
said Science Applications spokesman Jason McIntosh. "Thats
just good policy."
Some private contracts
look like covert operations once handled by the CIA -- such as cocaine
eradication in South America now done by companies that fly crop-dusters
In September, a
contractors spray plane was shot down and its pilot killed in
Colombia. Then in February, three employees of California Microwave
Systems were captured by a rebel group when their plane crashed on a
U.S. anti-drug mission.
Had those been U.S.
soldiers, the public outcry and government response would have been
sharp, said Deborah Avant, a political scientist at George Washington
The connection between
companies and politicians in Washington raises the specter of executives
lobbying for a hawkish U.S. foreign policy since they profit from war,
appear to be pulling personnel out of Iraq despite attacks -- something
that has chased U.S. forces out of hotspots before.
More about the
A look at major
private military contractors and some of the countries in which they
have operated in recent years:
a division of Computer Sciences Corp., based in Reston, Va.: Iraq, Afghanistan,
& Root Inc., a unit of Halliburton, based in Houston: Iraq,
Afghanistan, Cuba, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia,
Uzbekistan, Turkey, Democratic Republic of the Congo
a division of Northrop Grumman, based in Fairfax, Va.: Iraq, Saudi Arabia,
Egypt, Pakistan, Taiwan, Turkey, Japan
MPRI, a division
of L-3 Communications, Alexandria, Va.: Iraq, Colombia, Croatia, Equatorial
Guinea, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kuwait, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana,
Senegal, Taiwan, Macedonia
based in U.S. and U.K.: Iraq, Angola, Mozambique, Democratic Republic
of the Congo, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation
Ltd., a subsidiary of ArmorGroup, based in London: Iraq, Algeria,
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Colombia , United
Arab Emirates, Jordan, Saudi Arabia.
Group Ltd., based in London: Iraq, Algeria, Bahrain, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, French Guiana, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Colombia,
based in London: Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea