• Private Military Companies

    Contractor Sued for Charges to Army

    From the Associated Press yesterday, The federal government is suing KBR Inc., the largest military contractor in Iraq, over what prosecutors say were improper charges to the Army for private security services. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, charges that KBR knew it could not bill the government for private armed security for the company and 33 of its subcontractors, but did so anyway. This is an old issue that was long buried and ignored: that some, if not much, of the money spent on private security in Iraq was illegal. The reality of security contractors, despite the claims of so many that they are inherently outside the…

  • Defense Department,  Private Military Companies,  State Department

    One Nation Under Contract – A Book Review Essay by PHK

    From the first recorded use of mercenaries four thousand years ago, through the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and until the nineteenth century, mercenaries were regular features of war. It was not Westphalia that disarmed mercenaries, but a confluence of nationalism, technology, and increasing interstate trade that marginalized them. It would be another two hundred years after the birth of the modern state before states would effectively hold each other accountable for the actions of their citizens, started linking the projection of force to a specific geographic territory, and consolidated the decision to personally volunteer and fight in wars away from the people and into the hands of the governments…

  • Book Reviews,  Private Military Companies

    A talk with the author of Haliburton’s Army

    “It’s about chocolate covered bunnies.” That’s how Pratap Chatterjee explained the his new book, Halliburton’s Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War. In town for a book tour, we met Wednesday at my local Starbucks to catch-up, but mostly we talked about his book. I have to admit I haven’t read it, so I don’t know the details but our discussion about the core theme was so intriguing that while he was talking I started talking notes to post a kind of interview with the author.

  • ICT,  Intelligence,  Private Military Companies,  Psychological Struggle,  Public Diplomacy


    “Our ‘don’t hate me because I’m beautiful’ message isn’t working either.  Like Jim Glassman says, it’s not about us, it’s about them.  The sooner we recognize that, the better.” – Angela Trethewey and Joe Faina in talking about Sen. Lieberman’s Not-So-Straight Talk on Public Diplomacy “One of the problems with Open Source research is that most of it is farmed out to contractor [companies], who are just using it as unclassified work for people who are in the process of getting their clearance.  This is one of the reasons contractors will NEVER contribute to the field of Open Source.  Their analysts pick up some skills but then are ripped out…

  • Private Military Companies,  Psychological Struggle

    Outsourcing the fight to counter misinformation

    Briefly, success in the contemporary conflict environment, counterinsurgency or otherwise, depends on winning the struggle for minds and will. In this, information must conquer information. Perceptions must be met not by brute force, but the psychological equivalent. In Iraq, IO is being outsourced to private firms to bring support in the informational battlespace. From PRWeek: The US military expects to hire a firm to provide “information operations” support in Iraq to counter insurgent misinformation tactics. The bids were due on Friday, August 22. Army public affairs officer Paul Boyce said the reason for the RFP is primarily the military’s need to counter misinformation spread by hostile parties. Stopping rumors is…

  • Private Military Companies

    Contractors: the hundred billion dollar temporary fix

    Way back when, before most people were paying attention, there were warnings on the failure to provide adequate oversight over contractor expenses and action. Before he warned of the military-industrial-Congressional complex, President Eisenhower committed the U.S. government to increasingly “rely on commercial sources” started the outsourcing ball rolling. In 1966, Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76 formalized the preference for the private sector over the public sector provided the private sector could provide the service or product more economically.

  • Private Military Companies,  Psychological Struggle

    Contracting out foreign military training

    I am firmly opposed to contracting anything related to foreign military training on the basic belief that outsourcing prevents development of lasting military-to-military relations and inhibits military cultural exchange and personal relations.  Democratic ideals, whether from Americans, French, Germans, or British, rely upon an underlying premise that the military is subservient to the elected government.  Also, placing our own soldiers next to foreign militaries demonstrates a commitment that outsourcing does not.  On this topic, read Peter W. Singer’s recent article on this: Lessons Not Learned: Contracting Out Iraqi Army Advising One of the key questions surrounding the government’s escalating uses of military contractors is actually not whether they save the…

  • Peacekeeping,  Private Military Companies

    Beyond Government Accountability: a challenging look at Peacekeepers

    My article in Serviam, the magazine dedicated to “Stability Solutions in a Dangerous World,” is now available.  I mentioned it before, but now you can read the whole thing.  It’s intended to be thought-provoking.  By the way, it was vetted and approved by an international lawyer and a consultant to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  There will be more on the subject of the lack of accountability of peacekeepers by others.  In the immediate future, it sounds like you can catch more in the upcoming HBO movie The Greatest Silence (and listen to this NPR interview with the filmmaker).