The LA Times has a story on the outsourcing of the Iraq War:
The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government’s capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.
More than 180,000 civilians — including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis — are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Including the recent troop buildup, 160,000 soldiers and a few thousand civilian government employees are stationed in Iraq.
The total number of private contractors, far higher than previously reported, shows how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of Iraq — a mission criticized as being undermanned.
“These numbers are big,” said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written on military contracting. “They illustrate better than anything that we went in without enough troops. This is not the coalition of the willing. It’s the coalition of the billing.”
The numbers include at least 21,000 Americans, 43,000 foreign contractors and about 118,000 Iraqis — all employed in Iraq by U.S. tax dollars, according to the most recent government data.
I’m actually quite OK with the idea of hiring Iraqis… they’re there and pretty inexpensive.
But there are also signs that even those mounting numbers may not capture the full picture. Private security contractors, who are hired to protect government officials and buildings, were not fully counted in the survey, according to industry and government officials.
Continuing uncertainty over the numbers of armed contractors drew special criticism from military experts.
“We don’t have control of all the coalition guns in Iraq. That’s dangerous for our country,” said William Nash, a retired Army general and reconstruction expert. The Pentagon “is hiring guns. You can rationalize it all you want, but that’s obscene.”
The article continues:
But critics worry that troops and their missions could be jeopardized if contractors, functioning outside the military’s command and control, refuse to make deliveries of vital supplies under fire.
At one point in 2004, for example, U.S. forces were put on food rations when drivers balked at taking supplies into a combat zone.
Adding an element of potential confusion, no single agency keeps track of the number or location of contractors.
In response to demands from Congress, the U.S. Central Command began a census last year of the number of contractors working on U.S. and Iraqi bases to determine how much food, water and shelter was needed.
That census, provided to The Times under the Freedom of Information Act, shows about 130,000 contractors and subcontractors of different nationalities working at U.S. and Iraqi military bases.
However, U.S. military officials acknowledged that the census did not include other government agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department.
Excuse me? The number doesn’t include the State Department?
And how about the contractors? How many sub-contractors do they have?
The companies with the largest number of employees are foreign firms in the Middle East that subcontract to KBR, the Houston-based oil services company, according to the Central Command database. KBR, once a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., provides logistics support to troops, the single largest contract in Iraq.
Middle Eastern companies, including Kulak Construction Co. of Turkey and Projects International of Dubai, supply labor from Third World countries to KBR and other U.S. companies for menial work on U.S. bases and rebuilding projects. Foreigners are used instead of Iraqis because of fears that insurgents could infiltrate projects.
What about the Blackwater types?
The most controversial contractors are those working for private security companies, including Blackwater, Triple Canopy and Erinys. They guard sensitive sites and provide protection to U.S. and Iraqi government officials and businessmen.
Security contractors draw some of the sharpest criticism, much of it from military policy experts who say their jobs should be done by the military. On several occasions, heavily armed private contractors have engaged in firefights when attacked by Iraqi insurgents.
Others worry that the private security contractors lack accountability. Although scores of troops have been prosecuted for serious crimes, only a handful of private security contractors have faced legal charges.
The number of private security contractors in Iraq remains unclear, despite Central Command’s latest census. The Times identified 21 security companies in the Central Command database, deploying 10,800 men.
However, the Defense Department’s Motsek, who monitors contractors, said the Pentagon estimated the total was 6,000.
Both figures are far below the private security industry’s own estimate of about 30,000 private security contractors working for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, media outlets and businesses.
Given how much outright disinformation we’ve been provided about this war so far, my bet is that even these FOIA numbers are waaay understated, even taking into account that they don’t include State Dep’t figures.