Privatizing Military Training

Article excerpt

Key Points

* Private military companies (PMCs), performing an array of security tasks for a variety of clients, have proliferated.

* In pursuing its war on terrorism, the Pentagon is increasingly relying on the services of PMCs, as overseas training programs expand.

* Although private military companies have long performed covert and unsavory tasks, today's PMCs are seeking to polish their image as legitimate firms.

The use of private military companies (PMCs)--based mainly in the U.S., England, and South Africa--has proliferated in the post-cold war era. Today these companies provide a wide array of security functions ranging from military advice and training to operational support to security protection, logistics support, policing, drug interdiction, intelligence, and more. The U.S. and other governments, the United Nations and other international organizations, NGOs, irregular armies, and private companies that operate in the world's hot spots have all purchased these services.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, U.S. forces were downsized, but they were not sufficiently reorganized to meet the demands of regional and ethnic conflicts, humanitarian emergencies, and new missions such as counternarcotics and counterterrorism. In scrambling to meet more requirements with fewer personnel in a more competitive labor market, the U.S. government has turned to private contractors to carry out logistical support, site security, foreign military training, observation missions, and other functions. Today, at least 35 PMCs are based in the United States. Although older companies such as Vinnell, SAIC, and Cubic have expanded into new services, some of the highest profile firms (including MPRI, which L-3 Communications purchased in 2000) are products of the post-cold war.

One of biggest growth areas for these companies has been in providing military training. During the 1990s, U.S. private firms trained militaries in more than 42 countries. For instance:

* Hungary hired Cubic to help it restructure its military to comply with NATO standards.

* Croatia and Bosnia each hired Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) to help professionalize, train, and equip their armed forces in 1995.

* The U.S. has hired MPRI, DynCorp, and other PMCs for military training and other drug war missions in Colombia.

* The State Department and Pentagon have out-sourced portions of military training in Africa to SAIC, MPRI, DFI International, Logicon, and other U.S. companies.

Training foreign armies is a prime component of current U.S. engagement strategy, according to A National Security Strategy for a New Century, published in 1999. Military training is said to further U. …