Forecasting the private security industry

As Bush, as well as the Pentagon, reverses some of the former SecDef Rumsfeld’s plans for the military, what will happen with what has become routinized outsourcing of shooters? Based on the President’s response to a question on private military companies in April 2006 and declaring changes to the military in his mea culpa last night that completely go against Rumsfeld’s vision (upsizing the force, so-called “nation-building”, and basic understanding and requirement of counterinsurgency), something should change with regards to the ad hoc, loosely monitored, possibly illegal, and maybe nothing more than ghost and rumor:

Tina Ballard, an undersecretary of the Army, testified in September that the Army had never authorized Halliburton or its subcontractors to carry weapons or guard convoys. Ballard testified that Blackwater provided no services for Halliburton or its subcontractors.

Not too surprisingly, President Bush did not mention the contractors in Iraq. It’s too much like a line item issue, politically hot, and unnecessary to bring into the discussion from the Administration’s point of view. However, I suspect that without Rumsfeld, along with a Congress that’s getting its balls back and looks to see to its responsibility of military oversight.

In 1812, both were in short supply when the US went to war against Britain. With a navy outnumbered by almost 10 to 1, Congress granted the President the authority to “issue to private armed vessels of the United States commissions or letters of marquee and general reprisal, in such form as he shall think proper, and under the seal of the United States.” Congress, in granting the President this authority, gave specific instructions on compensation and, more importantly, monitored the privateers as Congress was keenly aware of the impact on public diplomacy and foreign policy these raiders would have. We need to have this participation and awareness today to return to a democratic use of force.

Between the oversight Congress may reclaim, reactions to contract abuse, the further erosion of the “surge” argument, smart counterinsurgency taking root, and other “distasteful”, in the mind of the former SecDef, things, I would be surprised that the next go ’round we have the same heavy reliance on contractors, but I don’t think we’ll see a wholesale cut back in Iraq now. While some contractors have expressed joy with the President’s speech, hopeful for more contracts, I doubt these will materialize. But that will be the test, won’t it?