Privatizing Military Training

By Avant, Deborah D. | Foreign Policy in Focus, June 15, 2000 | Go to article overview

Privatizing Military Training


Avant, Deborah D., Foreign Policy in Focus


During the post-cold war era, there has been a proliferation of private companies providing a wide array of security services ranging from military advice and training to operational support to security protection, logistics support, policing, drug interdiction, intelligence, and more. Western governments, developing countries, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and private companies who operate in the world's hot spots have each purchased these services. Military advice and training has been one of the most significant areas of growth, particularly in the United States. It also comes closest to the core mission of the military. Private provision of military training thus merits particular attention. A few examples include the following:

* Hungary hired Cubic (an American firm) to help it restructure its military to meet the standards required to become part of NATO.

* In 1995 Sierra Leone's President, Valentine Strasser, initially hired Gurkha Security Guards (a British firm), then employed Executive Outcomes (a South African firm) to shore up and train its forces. Then, in 1997, deposed Sierra Leonean President Ahmed Kabbah hired Sandline International (another British firm) to train and arm his troops to retake the government after a coup.

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

* The State Department and the Pentagon have outsourced portions of America's expanded military training in Africa to three U.S. companies--MPRI, DFI International, and Logicon--in order to ease the strain on U.S. forces stretched thin by increasing operations during the post-cold war downsizing of troops.

Hiring private firms to provide military training is not new. British companies were involved in the Middle East and Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, and the U.S. hired companies to train the Vietnamese forces in the 1960s. During the cold war, private U.S. firms were associated with tasks "too dirty" for the U.S. government. In Vietnam and Central America, reports of shady and illegal private military activities were rampant. In the wake of the Iran/contra scandal, for example, it was alleged that companies like Southern Air Transport and Setco Aviation facilitated the supply of weapons to the Nicaraguan contras after Congress cut off aid.

In the post-cold war period, however, the number of firms offering military services has grown, the scale of their operations has expanded, and their role has become more public and regarded as being more legitimate. Revenues from the global international security market are expected to rise from $55.6 billion in 1990 to $202 billion in 2010, according to private industry projections. …

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