Private Military Companies and Private Security Companies

Discussion Questions: Compare and contrast the pros and cons of the rise of Private Military Companies (PMCs) and Private Security Companies (PSCs) and their operations in conflict zones. Should profit-driven PMCs and PSCs be entrusted with critical military and governmental functions as opposed to leaving such functions in the hands of traditional governmental entities? Be sure to consider the long-term impacts.


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The Use of PMC’s in Military Operations and Planning

Prior to September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the United States Military used outsourced some of their operations to Private Military Companies (PMCs) and Private Security Companies (PSCs). However, after September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were the catalyst for these types of security organizations to expand exponentially. The organizations began to provide global security operations to both the federal government and the private entities overseas. The drain and demand for security enhancement operations in both Iraq followed by the Afghanistan wars created a need and demand.


While the use of PMCs is less costly than the use of military personnel, the Congressional Research Service has supported the use of PMCs as relative advantageous to the U.S. Government. One of the most advantageous elements is the ability to deploy security personnel swiftly in conflict zones and readily re-deploy the personnel once the conflict deescalates. Consequently, the cost of continual military personnel is diminished.


As the demand for PMC’s in conflict war zones around the world grew, the public and American press began to report on the operations of PMCs. Anti-sourcing groups contended, the use of public funds to security private companies in conflict war zones is not documented and without accountability. Furthermore, PMCs were free to spend the taxpayer’s funds as they see fit without U. S. government oversight. Limited inquiry by the United States Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO) on distributed funding to PMCs has revealed funds provided were primarily spent on security and support functions, while a substantial amount was directed to personnel and equipment. Furthermore, the lack of fund oversight by PMCs may lead to the abuse of taxpayer funds. In addition, the lack of oversight will shed a negative light in conflict zones and may lead to civil rights violations. Consequently, unqualified personnel and the lack of properly trained civilian personnel in conflict zones will lead to inadequate interoperability between the PMC personnel, military personnel, and the host nation members.


The sizeable salaries of Private Security Companies in conflict zones entice the competition for personnel. The significant salaries paid to security personnel also entices local Afghans to seek employment with PSCs. Consequently, the regulation of PSCs in conflict zones will enhance the recruitment and hiring of adequate security personnel.


For example, On September 16, 2007, PMC personnel assigned to the formerly known Blackwater Consulting firm (currently titled Academi), in Iraq, shot at innocent Iraqi civilians injuring 20 and slaying 17 civilians. As a result, the incident strained the relationship between the U.S. Government and the Iraqis. Consequently, Blackwater’s license to operate in Iraq was suspended. The U.S. State Department, in their investigative findings, revealed the act was hostile in nature and without cause.


The PMC (Blackwater) contended the armed conflict was the result of an ambushed on their convoy. Consequently, various investigations were initiated between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.


In 2014, four Blackwater personnel members were eventually convicted (after various appeals) in the U.S. Federal Court. One individual was convicted of murder and three were convicted of manslaughter along with firearms charges. One individual was sentenced to murder and three others received a 30-year sentence.


The sentencing of the of Blackwater guards set the precedent for legal proceedings against international civil rights violations committed by U.S. contracted Private Security Companies operating overseas. However, legal opinions to prosecute PMCs overseas contented a loophole in the U.S. Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Legal scholars argued, while members of the military and civilians in the U.S and deployed overseas may be prosecuted under the code, the code was enforceable only under U.S. Congressional war declaration. Since the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan were considered contingency operations and not a Congressional declaration of war, the military code did not apply to personnel under the guidance of PMCs.


The loophole in the UCMJ code was enhanced and reformed to provide a provision dictating the inclusion prosecution of U.S. Contractors in both contingency operations as well as U.S. Congressional war declaration. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held hearings on the use of Private Security Contracts by U.S. Armed Forces. As a result, PMC and PSC reforms were adopted. External oversights and accountability of PMCs and PSCs were adopted in an effort to minimize another Bagdad type incident. Please be mindful, that while many contracted personnel in conflict zones have been injured and fatally wounded while supported by our armed forces. Their sacrifices should not be overshadowed by the actions of a few immoral contracted personnel.


In conclusion, for-profit military and intelligence companies will continue to be an integral part of our national defense. After the withdrawal of the U.S from Iraq in 2011, media attention of Private Security Companies also diminished. However, as technology continues to play a vital role in military operations, Private Security Companies are being utilized to assist in drone missions, training police forces in unstable countries such as Afghanistan, and intelligence gathering.

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