Patriots for Profit: Contractors and the Military in U.S. National Security

By Thomas C. Bruneau | Go to book overview

5
THE SCALE AND POLITICS OF CONTRACTING
OUT PRIVATE SECURITY

This chapter’s discussion moves from the military’s implementation of the roles and missions assigned to it by elected officials to the private firms that make a profit by doing work in the security sector. This will expand the analytical framework that has been presented and illustrated in earlier chapters to include the private security contractors (PSCs). Table 4.1, near the end of the last chapter, shows that, among the reform initiatives discussed in that chapter, only the Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) made a very brief mention of private contractors. None of the others went even that far (though to be fair, security contracting was not nearly as widespread in 1986, at the time of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation, as it was even ten years later). When I asked James R. Locher III, the director of PNSR, about this in our interview on February 23, 2009, he responded frankly that, while his staff had “flirted” with the issue of the contractors, the project had more than enough areas of interest to tackle in the official government sector without getting into contracting.1

I had met earlier with Professor Christopher Lamb, director of research for PNSR, at which time he told me that, in addition to the already daunting scope of the project, he believed that such an important and complicated topic would exceed the capacity of the Human Capital working group.2 That comment confirmed my own observation that the extant scholarly work on the PSCs lacks a readily adaptable and convincing framework for analysis. PSCs already make up a significant proportion of the total defense and security force, are involved in operations alongside active and reserve forces, and, most importantly, have assumed a number of the missions that previously were the exclusive responsibility of uniformed military personnel.3

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