Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Contractor Problem

Blackwater. Halliburton. Blah dee blah. We all know who (or at least what) they are; most of us know what they do. But what we don't know is why they are even here.

The short answer is the one answer most of us turn to, since we lack the knowledge and interest to be able to answer the question in detail: corrupt government.

Unfortunately, this is not the accurate answer, nor is it even a relevant one (despite some truth behind it). Contractors exist because of the American way of life. And that is, for lack of better term, one of capitalism. For those of you who didn't know, our country runs on a business model in which any industry or service can be turned into a lucrative venture with which a clever entrepreneur can exploit.

In this case, it is known as the military-industrial complex. A complex, somewhat ironically, that we were warned against embracing by a former 5-star general and President, good ol' Ike. Unfortunately for Ike's successors, there were no laws governing the limitations of such a complex and now our military is paying the price.

Let me back up for a moment and posit a thesis: any military that is not entirely self-sufficient is doomed to fail.

And therein lies the problem.

We all know (or at least should) that our military is currently far too small. The Navy is comparitively small for our needs and continues to shed its logistical duties to (gasp) civilian contractors. The Army is undeniably tiny and is at its breaking point, and also continues to shed logistical duties in favor of civilian support. Additionally, however, the Army is even losing some of its tactical duties to civilian contractors. I know this is a few years late, but... what?

Obvious problems aside, private armies such as Blackwater look great on paper (at least in the pamphlets), but in practice are a horrific waste of money and a terrifying transfer of what used to be typical military duties. This entry is not the place to get into the minutae, but, in essence, taxpayers are getting screwed. For a job that a standard, disciplined soldier would have done 30 years ago, we are paying exhorbitant salaries for civilian contractors who, by the way, don't have the same accountability as a servicemember. $60,000 a year for an unaccountable "bodyguard" versus maybe $30,000 a year for someone who answers to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice? That's like firing your child who lives with you for mere room and board and hiring a replacement for room, board, and a $30,000 per year allowance. Oh, yeah, and a replacement who doesn't necessarily have to do what you tell him or her to do.

I don't know in what world the theater oversights are doing business, but that arrangement can't possibly sound good under any amount of propaganda.

Not only that, these very same private armies are recruiting our best and brightest soldiers and sailors out of our armed forces. In other words, the government is paying these companies to compete with itself. Which, as everyone should be able to figure out, drives up costs continuously and astronomically.

I could keep going, but the bottom line is: we're fucking ourselves.

I'll return to this subject again in the future, but on a closing note, I do need to point out that this phenomenon is not only the fault of the government and these greedy corporations, it's also the fault of the American people. It's no secret that finding people who actually want to serve is becoming harder and harder every day. Kids these days feel like they're owed something, and that's bullshit. Disagree? Then why are all these self-serving punks whining about not having free college?

JFK said it best: "Ask not what your country can do for you..." Well, you know the rest. And if you don't, you obviously don't give a shit anyway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Aren't we always fucking ourselves as a country? The scale has gotten bigger, but we're always doing that. ;)

Posted by Geoffry on May 29, 2008 - Thursday - 8:37 PM

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