Bill would prohibit use of private security contractors in war zones

Published 23 February 2010

Two U.S. lawmakers introduce a bill which would prohibit the use of private security contractors in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan; one-fifth of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq consists of private contractors, while in Afghanistan that number reached one-third

Last month, a report (PDF) from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that one-fifth of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq consists of private contractors (PSCs), while in Afghanistan that number reached one-third by September of 2009. The report found that there were some 22,000 “armed private security contractors” in the two war zones, and that the number in Afghanistan is likely to keep growing.

Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) says that while “[m]any analysts and government officials believe that DOD would be unable to execute its mission without PSCs,” the report stated that the “use of armed contractors has raised a number of issues for Congress, including concerns over transparency and accountability.”

Schakowsky wrote to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, following the report’s release, that “It is inexcusable that as much as one-third of our military’s armed force in Afghanistan may be contractors…. These men and women are not part of the U.S. military or government. They do not wear the uniform of the United States, though their behavior has, on numerous occasions, severely damaged the credibility and security of our military and harmed our relationship with other governments.”

The RawStory’s Daniel Tencer writes that two congressional lawmakers — Schakowsky and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) have announced legislation that would effectively remove military contractors from war zones. The “Stop Outsourcing Security Act” was introduced last Tuesday and, if passed, the would force the United States to phase out its use of private security contractors in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. “The legislation would restore the responsibility of the American military to train troops and police, guard convoys, repair weapons, administer military prisons, and perform military intelligence,” the lawmakers’ offices said. The bill also would require that all diplomatic security be undertaken by US government personnel,” they added.

Tencer notes that Schakowsky has a history trying to end the practice of private contractors fighting public wars. In 2007 she introduced a bill, with the same name as the current one, but the bill never made it out of committee.