The recent $50m deal between TopCat Marine Security and Somalia has apparently opened some eyes to the world of private military companies. Two leading experts / authors in the field today, Deborah Avant (The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security) and P.W. Singer (Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)), refer to these private enterprises as Private Military Companies and Private Military Firms, respectively (there are other authors and resources I’d recommend, see my reading list on the right). What many people do not understand, not through lack of caring but through a cloud of understandable and encouraged ignorance, is the private sector has long been involved in providing private tactical military force. Personally, I prefer to use the phrase "private military force" to separate legal and moral accountability and utilization questions away from for-profit motives and from other modes as logistics, training, and assistance. However, in the TopCat Marine Security and Somalia deal, money and service are inextricably linked.
A long time ago the prevailing military doctrine dictated a strong officer corps to lead men into battle. With the rise of nationalism, improvements in tactics and technology, and increasing institutionalization (or bureaucratization) of the state, new ways ofpositioning the military within civil society appeared. Instrumental to this was an advanced officer corps reinforcing and promulgating the
hierarchy of the civil authority over the military through the
enshrinement of professionalism and ethics. Pledges to the state and/or nation and/or tribe were exceptionally important in the field of honorable men (and now women, of course).
The friction between soldiers of the state and contract soldiers issimilar to that of information technology departments over
a decade ago. The difference between stuff of Dilbert cartoons and Marines vs Zapata Engineering is neither Dogbert nor Ratbert carry an M4.
Just as the airline industry was poaching US Air Force pilots in the seventies and eighties, the private military companies have been not so quietly doing the same today. From a USA Today article (courtesy Military.com):
military explosives specialists can earn $250,000 a year or more
working for the private companies. In the military, an enlisted man
with 10 years’ experience can make more than $46,000.
The article goes further to mention the heat between contractors and soldiers working together. This problem is going to get worse before it gets better.