The SAS and SBS have fewer than 600 "shooters" between them and all have already served several times in Iraq and Afghanistan since the war on terror was launched in 2001.
Part-time volunteer reservists from 21 and 23 Territorial regiments of the SAS have also been called up to ease the strain.
Between 40 and 60 experienced regular troopers have abandoned their roles over the last year to earn up to �500 a day – about five or six times their army pay – as mercenaries with private security firms in Iraq.
A joint SAS-SBS detachment is based in Basra with a second contingent operating out of the US base at Balad north of Baghdad. They amount to about a third of the manpower of the UK’s special forces.
Friction between politicians and the military is age old, but in the United States today it is getting hotter. Back in November there was an interesting exchange between the new Joint Chief Gen Pace and SecDef Rumsfeld. In today’s NYT, the "Marine infantry platoon commander currently assigned as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" (General Peter Pace) gave a belated and rather lame explanation of the month old exchange.
Changes in enlistment motivation from institutional to occupational and back can be found in the advertisements for the military service. Consider the purpose of the Army of One, the Navy’s Accelerate Your Life, and the Air Forces program (which was what again? obviously it didn’t track well with this demographic). The JMSDF has apparently two recruiting videos. One is clearly institutional and the other, well, I’m not sure what the other is. Look for yourself and determine (this link has both videos playing simultaneously). Thank to Glimpse of the World for this. See note: see this English-language Japanese news story on SDF / JMSDF recruiting changes (not quite the Army of One or Be All You Can Be).
I will be offline 23 Dec – 2 Jan due to the holidays. Please continue to read this site, post comments, send email directly to me, use it at resource, etc. I will be back after the first of the new year.
News from the Horn of Africa is diverse and found along many paths. To start, US troops in the Ogaden area rescued two abused and endangered cheetah cubs late last month (Nov 2005) while the Taipei Times is reporting the Chinese navy is "flexing its soft power" as part of an "assertive foreign policy…connecting Chinese seaports with the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. Its strategy: to build up sea power, measured in ships, bases and alliances. Energizing a populace accustomed to thinking of China as a land power is one crucial element of Beijing’s new maritime diplomacy." The sea-based public diplomacy is integral to Chinese expansion in the Middle East region as Iran seeks to seal a deal with China next month (Jan 2006):
How does the South African Ophir Corporation has recently announced a 75% stake in the Rova Energy Corporation figure into all of this? The maritime diplomacy of the Chinese, Yemini fields accessed from Somalia, and the general lawlessness of the region certainly makes for some interesting reading. More investigation on this surely to come. Comments, leads?
The Chinese state media has highlighted an interesting point as part of their growing public diplomacy campaign to win the hearts and minds of the world, and not least of the impovrished and non-G8 that have important resources China needs. In the last six months, China has had generally 1,000 troops or police on United Nations peacekeeping missions.
A Chinese scholar said Tuesday that China has sent out more than 3,000 troops and policemen to United Nations peacekeeping missions since the late 1980s, reflecting its firm support of the UN’s role in maintaining world peace and security.
"China has contributed the largest number of troops to UN peacekeeping operations among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council," said Yang Mingjie, a Chinese researcher in international relations…
Chinese peacekeepers have won extensive accolades because of their
strict discipline and high work efficiency. In January 2005, Chinese
peacekeeping riot police in Haiti were awarded a UN peace medal for
their outstanding performance in the crisis-torn country, the highest
honor granted by the UN to peacekeeping missions. [emphasis added]
By the way, the Chinese seem to prefer to participate in African PKOs (peacekeeping operations).
Just a brief note that I am travelling and unable to post in the manner I wish at this time. Out of town 11 Dec through 19 Dec, I am working on a few things while offline which I’ll post later. As always, I welcome comments both online and offline to anything appearing on this blog. Any errors are mine and corrections are welcome. Any suggestions or tips are also welcome. Back to enjoying winter in Vienna…
Somalia is a priority for the U.S. State Department, which is engaged in "quiet diplomacy" to help buttress its fragile transitional government, a key state department leader said Wednesday night at the University of Minnesota.
Also, Horn of Africa "security briefing" from a regional news source.
…the US Department of States Bureau of Arms Control has issued a Cease and Desist order to Top Cat Marine Security on their pirate-fighting contract with Somalia….
But so what?
From the region are BBC reports of Eritrea ejecting UN peacekeepers monitoring the border with Ethiopia. This comes as a possible reaction to threatened UN sanctions resulting from a lack of compliance with a five year old peace agreement. Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council gave an unusually strong rebuke in response: "The Security Council unequivocally demands that Eritrea immediately reverse its decision without preconditions." The most recent flash point was Badme, far from the contested Horn areas and the coast. Is this related or coincidental? Keep reading for a lesson on complexity systems (you’ll have to read my other posts… at some point I’ll do another, overview).
The region has a lot going on right now. Rumors of something happening before Christmas seem to be gaining traction with reality.
However, some key questions yet to be answered:
Was a "cease and desist" actually issued, assuming that is the appropriate legal remedy in this case? If not, will it be? Will it be a paper tiger?
Does this mean the dissolution of TopCat Marine Security for either the purpose of protecting Somalia’s coast or for good?
Will those involved with TopCat regroup, if the haven’t already, and continue on their planned path?
If this was a clandestine operation, will USG do a better job next time? (Based on the participants in this fiasco I highly doubt this was a USG-sponsored adventure. If it was, somebody should be demoted or fired.)
Lastly, will there be similar fanfare in the media over the termination of this coast protection solution? I doubt it because I doubt the validity and legitimacy of the whole TopCat endeavor.
Will there be another public attempt at a private or public solution? Will the EU, AU, UN be more involved the next go’round, especially as a result of the publicity?
OR was this all a complete shame by a criminal (see Kathryn Cramer’s post on Casini & TopCat, the "man" behind TopCat Marine Security) and Somalia is no closer to security or will good things result from the publicity? Based on certain rumors and suggestions, I question the likelihood of this path… it seems like a lot of mobilizing went in behind the scenes to stop a scam artist and a lot interest from people other than District Attorney’s (lawyers working for municipalities in the United States) and Attorney’s General (lawyers working for states in the United States).
My money is on the last option AND the third option. This puzzle isn’t complete, just one of the pieces has been dropped (kicked?) to the floor. While we don’t have confirmation yet, Casini may be getting called on his failure / inability to deliver product to (shady) buyers and compliance with US Code (and apparently bankruptcy courts, etc). However, what is the real importance of the "cease & desist"? Does it not just legally halt TCMS’s involvement? What was their REAL participation anyways? Providing some boats, making some wonder how long before the pirates are cruising on COBRAs, to the region, possibly some teeth? The change of scope from littoral anti-piracy to seeking the "mother-ship" and back was either a lack of discretion by the in-over-his-head Casini or ?
Information / feedback I have received and reviewed indicate TCMS was simply part of something larger and not a lone wolf out to make a few bucks. With TCMS out, will the underlying effort it was clearly providing cover for cease, burrow, or disperse? The access to natural resources (including Yemeni fields accessed from Somalia), the Chinese, and armed factions inland are at most related to the piracy problem and not direct consequences of privateering. The land-bound warlords obviously have at least some control (are there sealords in the area? Kevin Costner, are you out there? sorry…) over the pirates, but they aren’t the whole game.
More to come for sure as the security situation of Somalia is dire. A reality underscored by the reporting from Kenya of another hijacking of a ship of "unknown ownership and registry was seized in the pirate-infested waters of Somalia early Tuesday".
:: See also the Somalia and Africa categories for additional information, include Chinese and energy implications
Without getting into details here, but Kathryn Cramer has done some interesting investigative work on those associated with TopCat Marine Security, which makes for an interesting read. Her information paints TopCat more like an Executive Outcomes / Sandline mercenary outfit than a respectable private military firm providing security services, of which there are many. Her research indicates a Fox News link to TopCat. Definitely worth the read.
To start, Hale pointed out a contradiction found on the Global Exploration and Product News website
(aka "Oil and Gas Investor" in my previous post, or E & P) regarding the validity of Range Resource’s
agreement with the Transitional Government, of which Prime Minister
Gedi (Geedi) is the (nominal?) head. The exact wording of the text I posted contains the contradiction Hale points out:
Mixed messages are being sent about licensing in Somalia with a Dutch firm taking acreage but an Australian firm, which thought it had won a block, being told it had negotiated with the wrong people. [Holland’s] PexCo exploration has signed up for with the Ministry of Mines and Energy for exploration in the Ogaden area, according to reports in Ethiopia.
As Hale points out, there is apparently a valid agreement signed by Prime Minister Gedi and Range Resources. The contradiction is possibly just in the reporting, as the Ministry of Mines and Energy is Ethiopian, as Hale points out referencing the Alexander’s Gas & Oil Connection announcement of 19 October 2005.
So, with the Ogaden area in Eastern Ethiopia and not actually in (anymore) Somalia, what gives? Is there some rumbling fallout from the 1977 war when Somalia invaded Ethiopia to "liberate" Ogaden? (This was ultimately led to Somalia agreeing to American use of "naval ports and airfields at Berbera, Chisimayu, and Mogadishu.")
There seems to be a flurry of interest in Ethiopia and Somalia and the region. So why the "mixed messages" in E & P? Was it simply a mistake? Somebody misreading Range Resources claim with Somalia and thinking it was Somali? I don’t think so.
There is an overall deterioration in security in the region with Ogaden "rebels" claiming civilian deaths at the hands of Ethiopians. Between ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front) and the recent public statement about al-Qaeda in Mogadishu, Ethiopia is lining us reasons to move eastward. Fighting AQ is always a crowd pleaser and wiping out pesky ONLF while lining up routes to the sea would seem like a by-product when it is the real purpose.
Hale also commented on the agreement between Puntland and HAFZA, specifically in regards to the suspension of work due to security issues. Hale correctly points out this suspension, which I had already commented on in Puzzle Pieces when I first researched HAFZA. This security problem could be Ethiopian stocked, but that is speculation. What is not speculation is an increase in arms shipments into the Transitional Government’s capital that may or may not be intended for the TG.
The cooperative agreement signed between Somalia and Ethiopia
on 1 Dec 2005 came with pledges of assistance to calls "upon the
international community to extend financial and political support to
the transitional government and take measures on those forces who attempt to hamper peace
in Somalia" [emphasis added]. Further, the "African Union, European
Union, UN, World Bank and other donors pledged for their continued
support to the Transitional Government of Somalia."
Something else I noticed during this additional research was the both
HAFZA (left) and Range Resources (right) used an identical map with
identical dot-styles to indicate place. [Update 9 Dec 05: still believe the web designer for both are the same, which has pretty much been proven; add’l info: this map graphic is found at State.gov]
Based on this information, I think the scenario painted by Donna is going to be accurate. The details are fuzzy and contradictions do appear, but I believe the weight of the evidence points toward war breaking out in the region. With Chinese, American, and other interests heavily involved over the natural resources in the area, it would seem likely that at least one government is involved. Unfortunately, based on the TopCat starter (possibly with the luxury cruise ship w/ military grade hardware conveniently on-board… violation of the Geneva Conventions anyone? The media never questioned that, just fascinated by its use), it appears the United States may be involved.
Looking back at a previous post, I’m struck by a statement by a minister of the Transitional Government, Abdalla Haji Ali: "Besides donating assorted weapons to favored factions, unfortunately Ethiopian military personnel crossed deep in to Somali regions of Bakol and Bay in the last 48 hours."
The timing of Ethiopia’s recent announcement of what may seem like public knowledge — "We have a very active terrorist cell in Mogadishu, which has been involved in terrorist activities in Kenya" — is curious. Both Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s statement and Ali’s statement were reported the same day.
Ethiopia’s offer to "help" comes during ongoing African Union peace
talks last week. The AU was apparently discussing plans to send troops
to Somalia to guarantee the safety of the Transitional Government.
Ethiopia has said that "should the process collapse, we very much
hope it doesn’t but if it does, we plan to protect ourselves, not sort
out the mess in Somalia."
It sounds to me like preparation for putting boots on the ground in
Somalia, if they have not already moved in as Ali claims they have,
through proactive action.
The TopCat-led or fronted "mission" could be coming under the cover
of Tim Spicer’s hope (cover? hard to not question Spicer w/ the current
problems of AEGIS) of humanitarian intervention through private forces
since governments “won’t make a decision to intervene…or [delay] until
it is too late”. Use of PMC’s (private military companies) for HIs
(Humanitarian Interventions) is something many have written about, even in the NGO world of peace and serenity.
A side note: a paper listed in the previous link by Christopher Spearin, is located on the Sandline website. A reference Mr Spearin used is Col "Bernie" McCabe (ret.), the same as in my recent post. Only then, he was a Director for Lifeguard. He provided the information to David Isenberg, now of BASIC, on Plaza 107 (see "Background" and note 94).
Col McCabe, as Sandline rep, once said "we don’t work for white powder gangs or rebel groups", preferring to work more noble causes, apparently. But Lifeguard was linked to supplying arms to Sierra Leone rebels and employed by mining companies for security. While on its face simply a security arrangement, it cross past the boundary of propriety as it was part of SL’s working both sides (Sky Air Cargo) of the conflict. The region has a long history of working with private military companies. Puntland hired the Hart Group to protect its shores (why not hire them again? or are they…) in the past. Overall, listing the companies with previous engagements in the region currently connected to TopCat personnel (e.g. Lifeguard, Sandline) could make for an interesting map. Anyone going to do that chart?
This backgrounder by "Donna Somala" is interesting in its tracing and similar path my research has taken me. Of most interest is this (emphasis added on parts I’ve heard rumors of before): "It is evident that a US intelligence team will back Ethiopian troops when they invade Somalia in order to ensure the planned works of the Caluba oil pipeline project toward Somali ports. The interest of Ethiopia is purely economic and has nothing to do with IGAD’s so-called plan to disarm the militia."
In the end, I am confident boots will be marching in Somalia sponsored by this state or that state (Ethiopia and others), and probably including the United States in some direct or indirect manner (remember the $50m ITAR / AECA etc limits). Rumors indicate such, as does the news.
A recent public opinion poll shows an increasing concern that Washington is too quick to use a military response, including private security companies that augment “real” military force, to foreign policy challenges in lieu of soft
power alternatives. Falling outside of normal legislative oversight,
private military forces are contracted, deployed, managed, and paid
through the civilian leadership of the Defense Department and State
Department and other civilian departments (CACI, the Abu Ghraib
interrogators came in through a Department of the Interior contract).
Much of what the article says has already been written about here on this site, including
“critics say, the contractors are expensive, reckless mercenaries who complicate the U.S. mission in Iraq” … see Consequences
“The private guards’ sometimes aggressive behavior has created a wellspring of anger at the U.S. presence in Iraq…Countless Iraqis have had to endure the humiliation of being forced to stop or pull off the road as a convoy of unmarked SUVs races past, filled with men waving guns and making threatening gestures….”This is not a particularly effective way to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis,” said Joshua Schwartz, co-director of George Washington University’s government procurement program. “The contractors are making the mission of the U.S. military in Iraq more difficult.” … see Potential Cost and the rest of the Private Military company section on this site.
Afforded perceived deniable accountability back to the White House for private military activities allows a freer hand in engagement policies extending military options in foreign policy without Congressional or public oversight. Clumsy attempts by the civilian leadership to use private military forces as indirect ambassadors and instruments of American foreign policy are paid back with public and embarrassing actions such as those portrayed in the Los Angeles Times article, among many now appearing with increasing frequency in mainstream media.
This Administration really does not get it, as this story about how undersecretary of state for public diplomacy Karen Hughes “believes that how we treat prisoners in the ‘global war on terror’ is unlikely to have a serious adverse effect on how people think of the United States.” The war, as the Morocco Times puts it, “has entered a new phase”:
The US and its allies must learn to separate al-Qaeda from its base of support. I am referring to the base that is not made of terrorists but of millions of ordinary Muslims and Arabs who feel disfranchised and marginalized in their own societies while the US happily supports and makes deals with their oppressors. If it really wants to win over this base, the administration must change its terms of engagement with the Muslim world and begin an honest dialogue. Washington must make serious efforts to alter the common view of decades-long of American exploitation and manipulation….
The administration has systematically ignored the multiple root causes of terrorism and as a result the US will end prolonging the war indefinitely at a terrible and debilitating cost. For this reason, the administration must begin immediately an earnest campaign, as extensive as is necessary, to win the hearts of the masses who now form the essential support for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. Concurrently, the administration must establish a time-table for complete withdrawal from Iraq and in doing so abandon the illusion that it can bring order there or cripple any terrorist group operating there before it permanently departs.
This should be on Hughes’ reading list, but it probably isn’t. It should be on Rice’s too, but she clearly is not concerned with other points of view, believing foreign policy stems for isolated national interest and “not from the interests of an “illusory international community”
How do we promote our beliefs if we pick and choose very selectively?
Question: is the media using the FOIA enough? Possibly, but possibly not.
City News Service November 23, 2005 Wednesday Iraq FOIA LOS ANGELES
The Los Angeles Times filed a lawsuit today seeking U.S. government records related to the presence of private security firms in Iraq. The Times asked in April for a database of reports contractors in Iraq submit when they are involved in a violent incident.
"Ethiopia’s prime minister said on Thursday that he believes it iscommon knowledge that an al-Qaeda terror cell is operating in Somalia’s
capital, Mogadishu…The African Union, also based in Addis Ababa, was meeting late on Thursday to discuss plans to send troops to Somalia to guarantee the safety of the government-in-exile, which was formed after three years of peace talks in Kenya."
A group of Somali lawmakers in-exile on Tuesday accused Ethiopia of smuggling weapons to militias in Somalia in violation of a 13-year-old UN arms embargo on the war-shattered Horn of Africa nation.
Abdalla Haji Ali of the group said: "Besides donating assorted weapons to favored factions, unfortunately Ethiopian military personnel crossed deep in to Somali regions of Bakol and Bay in the last 48 hours."
He said: "It is a matter of hours or very few days before an Ethiopian-masterminded war breaks out in Baidoa."
The US may still have a presence at Camp United, established Feb 2004. Related to piracy, TopCat, Marathon, etc? Something is clearly coming up…
More information on McCabe and Marathon oil is found in a lengthy document about "the new world order’s mercenaries" has more food for thought:
…old-boy network had put him in touch with oil entrepreneur Anthony Buckingham. Buckingham, also ex-military, has been described in some press accounts as a former member of Britain’s naval special forces, the Special Boat Service, although the description has never been confirmed. After working in the North Sea oil industry as a diver, Buckingham moved into the oil industry, working initially with Ranger Oil of Canada….
Buckingham later founded his own company, Heritage Oil, which he ran from the modern, glass-fronted “Plaza” building at 535 King’s Road, Chelsea…"Plaza 107"…a single receptionist handled incoming calls to more than 18 different companies. From the Plaza suite, Buckingham, Mann and others ran businesses that included oil, gold and diamond mining, a chartered accountancy practice, and offshore financial management services. To this, they would add military ground and aviation companies.
[FYI: Tim Spicer and Buckingham were both involved in PNG through Sandline, the repacked EO…]
A November 1996 memorandum from Buckingham announced the appointment of retired U.S. Special Forces Col. Bernie McCabe as director for the Americas. His task was “to develop Sandline business, and exploit opportunities for other group companies where appropriate in North, Central, and South America. He is also to develop our image/contacts with U.S. government agencies.”…
There is also mention of Marathon Oil and bribe money. The realist says this would be expected in a corrupt region, so no big deal, right?
On July 15, 2000, the Marathon Oil Company sent $13,717,989.31 to an account in Jersey, an island in the English Channel with stringent bank secrecy laws. The owner of the Jersey account was Sonangol, Angola’s state oil company. The sum represented one-third of a bonus that the Houston, Texas-based company agreed to pay the Angolan government a year earlier for rights to pump the country’s offshore oil reserves. That same day, Sonangol transferred an identical sum of money out of Jersey to another Sonangol account in an unknown location. Over the course of that summer, large sums of money traveled from the Jersey account to, among others, a private security company owned by a former Angolan minister, a charitable foundation run by the Angolan president, and a private Angolan bank that counts an alleged arms dealer among its shareholders.
At 64,000 words, it is a lengthy read, better to search for keywords.
TopCat now linked to Marathon… (see previous post on Marathon in Somalia). A tangled web has indeed been weaved.
More information on the Somalia, Oil, and possibly TopCat continue. Reporting from Oil and Gas Investor indicates Marathon Oil, of Texas, and possibly other firms have taken over the Conoco claims, or at least is moving in on them, and bumping yet another company to boot.
4. Mixed messages are being sent about licensing in Somalia with a Dutch firm taking acreage but an Australian firm, which thought it had won a block, being told it had negotiated with the wrong people. [Dutch] PexCo exploration has signed up for with the Ministry of Mines and Energy for exploration in the Ogaden area, according to reports in Ethiopia. The company has taken the Ferfer and Abred blocks covering 18,546 sq miles (29,865 sq km) and has agreed to spend US $5 million in the initial term.
However, Range Resources [an Australian firm] has had its claim over the Puntland region put in doubt. Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said the deal with the regional government was invalid as only the country’s transitional federal government could negotiate the sale.
This contradicts Range’s statement on its website (picture at left in case site changes) that it received in written approval for the deal from the Somali government. Gedi had said that foreign companies and investors that local administrations could not legally negotiate contracts over natural resources.
“Foreign companies should desist in attempts to deal with local authorities … without prior written consent from the federal government,” he said.
On 19 October 2005 it was announced Petronas (Malaysian) and PexCo (Dutch) (More here and also here, but very little on PexCo), had signed deals with the Ministry of Mines, giving them rights to some of the same regions as Range, also reported on 15 November 2005.
On 6 October 2005, Range Resources eyed "Puntland as one of the remaining under-explored areas in the world that has a high potential for vast reserves of hydrocarbons." Their PowerPoint presentation [also stored locally here] indicates a positive co-operative relationship with the indigenous population, with the intent
to facilitate the exploration and commercial development of the State’s natural resources (farm in, joint venture) to bring the commensurate benefits to the people of Puntland and shareholders of the Company
Range believes this is possible because the "Political situation in Puntland is stable with a respected President with no civil unrest like that currently affecting Mogadishu".
The logical, but possibly coincidental, connection is with the Australian / Canadian HAZFA partnership (read more here). The Range Resources Code of Conduct, prominently available on their website, is clear and straight-forward. The Marathon Oil Code of Conduct, has a different feel and tone. Much of this difference is undoubtedly the result of Marathon’s far greater size.
The cooperative agreement signed between Somalia and Ethiopia on 1 Dec 2005 came with pledges of assistance to calls "upon the international community to extend financial and political support to the transitional government and take measures on those forces who attempt to hamper peace in Somalia" [emphasis added]. Further, the "African Union, European Union, UN, World Bank and other donors pledged for their continued support to the Transitional Government of Somalia."
It seems maybe some oil resource competition is happening. Is there payback for Malaysia for its assistance in GWOT (PETRONAS is wholly government owned)? Or is there something else because of a Chinese connection (PETRONAS contracted Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau)?
The Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPEB), a powerful subsidiary of China’s second largest national petroleum consortium, the China Petrochemical Corporation (SINOPEC), appears to be the principal oil firm operating in Gambella at present, under subcontract to Malaysia’s national oil company PETRONAS. The base camp for ZPEB equipment and petroleum explorations is located approximately 1.5 kilometers from the center of Gambella town on the Abobo-Gambella road. The Ethiopian site manager, Mr. Degefe, is a highlander who tersely describes himself as "responsible for making all operations and security." The base camp is under tight security and heavily guarded by EPRDF troops. PETRONAS and the China National Petroleum Corporation currently operate in Sudan. A recent report by Human Rights Watch raises charges that the Asian oil giants have provided cover for their respective governments to ship arms and military equipment to Sudan in exchange for oil concessions granted by Khartoum.
Is this why Rumsfeld has asked the IG probe Feith and the Pentagon? The IG is a direct report to the SecDef and if Feith was working for Rumsfeld, why would he call this? As CYA if something blows up? Or, here’s the Black Helicopter version (are no more Black Helicopters since FEMA has been gutted?): Rumsfeld calls the IG probe to placate Congress as cover for another internal investigation that he is not happy with? There are serious differences between the civilian elite and military elites.
The recent AEGIS video possibly showing inappropriate behaviour (allegations until proven) is further opening the eyes of the public on private military companies. One proported reason for the expanded use of these companies is that private enterprise can provide services quicker and at lower costthan public enterprises is rooted in the American corporate experience.
However, the “low-cost” advantages of private military forces fail to
provide net cost savings when the entire engagement is included in the
calculus. Consider the value of military procurement when the two
options are private firms or public agencies and the private pitch is
high efficiency at a lower face value than public agencies.
Not included in this first level of analysis is the loyalty and trust of the public agency, for example the US Marine Corps and soldiers on kitchen duty. Additionally, dollar for dollar comparisons oversimplify long-term costs of private markets which fail to be perfectly competitive with hidden and substantial transactional costs. Hidden costs of the private-public partnership include higher finance costs (the government can always can borrow money at lower rates), vendor incentives to skimp on quality or adhere to the letter of the contract not the spirit, future public costs to return outsourced skills in-house, and transactional costs of writing, enforcing, and monitoring contracts. Most important is a lack of committed loyalty to the project or consequences of under-performing. Further, the private business may seek contractually-allowed alternatives when uncertainty is likely in any war situation when other outcomes are desired by the client. This, along with unpredictability of warfare, results in expensive cost-plus contracts.
The cost of returning the outsourced task to the public agency is actually two-fold. The obvious expense of retraining aside, once the private sector has the ability to conduct war operations (especially large scale war) without the state it is likely to seek clients and projects for its skills, a dangerous situation as the larger the private firm grows, the more influence it wields and the more its is able to shape policy and further inoculate themselves from oversight. Military equipment and training has little value in alternative civilian uses, limited their marketability and companies must seek revenue streams to make a profit and diplomatic costs of this new private ability are likely to be very high in the long run.
While at least one private military company now requires an oath of allegiance of its employees for United States’ paid missions, the company is still for-profit, still outside of military control, a vendor to the civilian leadership, and more frequently, not wholly or even partially infused with US Armed Forces trained and indoctrinated professional soldiers. Missions may now be performed in the name of the state but short-staffed not because of tactical concerns, but because of contractual limits and profit motives. The four Fallujah contractors killed in March 2004 allegedly died in part because their employer did not provide a fifth man for rear cover to save money, did not provide adequate situational intelligence, and did not allow the contractors to become familiar with the territory. The decision of a private military force to withdraw from a combat zone because of rising interest rates, leverage for contract negotiations, or loss of the contract may seriously damage and reduce military capacity with virtual impunity. Outsourcing to private parties shortens the decision making horizon into immediate “commercial concerns and lobbying rather than real gains to the nation and citizens” that encourage the use of companies that “lack verification and mandatory evaluation safeguards to deliver promised results”.
As the accountability tests illustrates, an additional cost is lack of accountability through the military command structure, military legal system, or in-country legal system of the private military force. Hidden costs from the accountability issue includes the impact on moral of public troops, lack of steadfastness in time of need, and public diplomacy and image problems resulting from conduct.
That being said, there are valuable uses of private military companies. They simply should not be used willy-nilly but for specific purposes, with oversight and monitoring. The opportunity for abuse is too substantial but their value is too great to ignore.