Vermont's Junior Senator, Bernard Sanders introduced to the Senate the Stop Outsourcing Security Act S. 2398. The Stop Outsourcing Security Act will help solve the lack of oversight of contractors in Iraq by requiring that by June 2008, "the President shall submit to each specified congressional committee a report on the status of planning for the transition away from the use of private contractors for mission critical or emergency essential functions by January 1, 2009, in all conflict zones in which Congress has authorized the use of force" (s 2398). This bill will examine contractor activities and ensure that renewals will only happen if the president certifies that contractors have undergone background checks and are clear of any crimes that could lead to additional problems with their work in the future. It will also allow congress to have access to information of private military companies including, the number of persons working in Iraq and Afghanistan under contracts, the total costs of the contracts, total number of contractors who have been wounded or killed during their deployment, and a description of disciplinary actions that have been taken against contractors performing work under contracts. Jan Schakowsky is one of the many members in the house who support Sanders, who vows to ban private contractors on battlefield where American troops are present and put them out of business.
Presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama has been an active leader in private contractor reform. Obama has proposed that private contractors accused of misconduct should be tried under U.S. law and is urging the Pentagon to pursue such civilian prosecution. Following a Nisour Square shooting that infuriated the Iraqi government, Senate aides are working on adding parts of Obama's plan to the defense authorization bill. Scahill states, "If Barack Obama comes into office next January and our diplomatic security service is in the state it's in and the situation on the ground in Iraq is in the state it's in, I think we will be forced to rely on a host of security measures." can't rule out, I won't rule out, private security contractors." He added, "I will rule out private security contractors that are not accountable to U.S. law" (Scahill 2008) Obama's policy will seek to monitor war crimes and prosecute contractors who have abused their position and gone against the law. Scahill states that Obama's policy looks great on paper, but he does raise serious questions on how 180,000 contractors deployed over there can be monitored effectively. While there may be missing details Obama will have to fill in for his bill, at least he is trying to find solutions for the contractor problem instead of ignoring it. Primarily, the Bush administration is the chief opposing force to reform Blackwater and private contractors in general, instead they praise Blackwater for its outstanding work. It is also worth noting that the Bush administration has tried to privatize every aspect of the U.S. government it can, using taxpayers' money to give lucrative contracts to its friends such as Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater with strong Republican connections. "You might think that national security would take precedence over the fetish for privatization -- but remember, President Bush tried to keep airport security in private hands, even after 9/11" (Krugman NP). Support from International Peace Operations Association President Doug Brooks states, "We've used military contractors in the past and we will continue to use military contractors now' (Schor, NP) and Gordon Hammers, chairman of a county land-use planning advisory group in eastern San Diego County states that, "[T]hey were doing their job this week and doing it well" (Torreiro, NP). There is no doubt that private contractors are highly skilled and have a good record of protecting their convoys, and there is no alternative for that. Even if the contractors' jobs are handed to the U.S. military, the U.S. military would not even want to put their soldiers in the kinds of positions that Blackwater is willing to place individuals in (Scahill, PBS). Military officials and executives of other contracting companies have long complained about Blackwater's hiring of younger, financially strapped recruits, encouraging a shoot-first culture, and then using the company's deep political connections with the administration of President George W. Bush to shield its guards from punishment when they kill innocent people. Clearly, one flaw of continuing this is that while the Republican Party is having a grand time praising Blackwater for keeping their status quo, the Bush Administration is not directing any action to propose a solution for the problems Blackwater caused the Iraqis as if they prupose there is no problem, that casual deaths are supposed to happen in a chaotic war-zone.
If that means shooting up a civilian vehicle because you said, "Oh, well, it could have been al Qaeda or it could have been Mahdi Army," and it turned out to be an Iraqi family, well, that's just part of the job. And so you realize a benefit for Bush is having a force that is effectively above the law, that operates, for all practical purposes, in a zone void of any effective congressional oversight, and the crimes of these individuals don't get prosecuted at all. (Scahill, PBS).
Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq represents the outrage of the Iraqi civilians stating that Blackwater forces have to leave and be prosecuted. Yet, the fact of the matter is, Blackwater's contract was renewed by Bush for yet another year until April, 2009. It won't be until the next president gets elected that the world will see any reform or changes to correct the private contractor dilemma.
Transpernacy is an essential need in the development and awarding of contracts. Renewing the traditional system of open bidding would likely also strengthen the system as open bidding has often created a greater need for better provision of service as well as lower cost contracts. Hence the U.S. taxpayer would be paying less for better services. In a prolonged war such as Iraq it would seem ridiculous that time is not taken to produce contract competition, rather than simply awarding contracts to whomever the administration believes can most rapidly deploy the services. Senate Bill S2398 may be a little extreme but clearly it speaks of changes within security contracting, and eventual elimination including issues that should be approached and answered in future contracts, such as criminal record screening as well as psychological stability screening, similar to what would be conducted on any U.S. soldier. Taking away all contract possibilities is illogical as it will likely continue to be in the best interest of the U.S. military to privatize services it simply cannot do within the confines of limitations of soldier deployment. Operating within a better controlled environment with greater oversight and higher leaves of accountability is essential not only to the success of the privatized system but also to the whole of the war. Accountability in a civil and criminal sense is also essential to make sure that security contractors retain the demands of their contract as well as stay within the confines of the law in the future.
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