Well, I started out with an article on the contracting out of military logistics and it morphed into a fisking part-way through, so bear with me.
I saw this NY TIMES Magazine article titled "Nation Builders for Hire" by Dan Baum. It talked a bit about Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), subsidiary of the oil-services giant Halliburton, and its role in the contracting out of military logistics. It has a few nuggets of good information about contracting out, but it also has a great deal of Rainesian style leftist spin. The following paragraphs sum it up from the reporter's point of view....
Outsourcing military missions also lets the Pentagon do things Congress might not approve. Congress, for example, has said the military can have only 400 U.S. soldiers in Colombia, an oil-rich country destabilized by guerrillas and the cocaine trade. But for years, civilian pilots employed by DynCorp, a KBR competitor, have been flying what amount to combat missions in Colombia under contract to the State Department, spraying coca crops with defoliant and occasionally getting shot at. Representative Janice Schakowsky, Democrat of Chicago, has been trying to put a stop to this kind of end run around Congressional oversight, but in the bellicose post-9/11 atmosphere on Capitol Hill, she can't get traction. Congress would never authorize the U.S. military to perform such a politically explosive mission as the Colombian spraying, Schakowsky argues, and if an American soldier was killed in Colombia it would be Page 1 news.and
''Is the U.S. military privatizing its missions to avoid public controversy or embarrassment -- to hide body bags from the media and shield the military from public opinion?'' she asks. Iraq, Schakowsky says, is no different. ''We talk a lot in Congress about how many U.S. troops are there and for how long, but not at all about the contractors,'' she said. ''They don't have to follow the same chain of command, the military code of conduct may or may not apply, the accountability is absent and the transparency is absent -- but the money keeps flowing.''
"The revolving door that spins at the top of the military-industrial ziggurat spins at the bottom too. On my way out of Arifjan, I looked more closely at the heavily armed soldiers guarding the gate and found they weren't soldiers at all, but rather civilian employees of something called Combat Support Associates, a joint venture of three obscure American companies that provide the Army with security, logistics, ''live-fire training'' and maintenance. In southern Iraq I ran into four big men in full combat gear and Robocop sunglasses whom I also took to be soldiers until I noticed the tape over the left shirt breasts; instead of US ARMY, it said EODT. That stands for ''Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology,'' not an Army unit but a company based in Knoxville, Tenn. The Web site says EOD Technology ''applies leading-edge geophysical technologies to provide documented efficient solutions to environmental challenges,'' and what that translates to is: these guys dig up minefields for a living. Their challenge the day I saw them was an unexploded American artillery round that had crashed through an oil pipeline and was buried who-knew-where underneath. All four used to be soldiers; now they do the same work at private-sector wages."What crap. You can tell when the NY TIMES is spinning when it damns a Clinton Administration policy without mentioning the word "Clinton" once in the entire article.
There are two things Congressmen want most in the world. The first is the opportunity to grandstand for their constituents. The second is to obtain campaign contributions. The use of military contractors rather than uniformed military robs Democratic Congressmen (and newspapers) of a certain political stripe, like Representative Janice Schakowsky, of the ability to do either. This is because the marks, I mean constituents, don't have their hot buttons pushed when Dynacorp loses a plane full of employees rather than uniformed American servicemen.
This is exactly why the Clinton Administration started the contracting out policy in Bosnia see here and here as well for peacekeeping operations in East Timor here, here, here and here. And, oh by the way, this is why big defense service companies like Haliburton started to give money to the DNC in 1996.
Information on contracting out military logistics is readily available at the US Army's Army Logistician professional journal and its on-line back issues here. I suppose NY TIMES Magazine reporters don't have to know how to use the Google search engine.
Anyway, from the military's point of view, the issues with contracting out are a lot different. The biggest issue is that of trading off maintenance done within a unit versus that done by contractors. In the field survey visits I have participated in for the FMTV truck program, the Army cannot maintain enough personnel stability, even with the warrant officer system, to keep highly trained technical specialists. This means the Army has given up three level maintenance with primarily its own mechanics for two level maintenance where Army mechanics go for quick and dirty repairs while contractors handle manhour intensive periodic maintenance and depot level repairs/overhauls.
You also see the Army worrying how to make sure Contractors on the Battlefield are taken care of and integrated into planning. This doesn't seem to be the problem that it first appears because many of the contractor field service representatives are ex-military and are in many cases reliving their salad years of being in the service without the pains of being in the chain of command. In short, they don't run because they bonded with the soldiers they work with. "We won't run out on our kids" sums it up nicely.
There are also other issues that are not openly discussed due to DoD budget war implications. I regularly E-mail a group of people that includes science fiction author, former paratrooper and sometimes New York Post columnist John Ringo. He sent me the following on the issue of military contracting out:
"Buddy of mine is a "prime power operative" in the Army. He's also a civilian high power electrician. I asked him one time about the Engineers getting in there and "doing the job right" (in reference to some charity construction in Latin America). And this was the...lecture he presented me with.Putting on my DoD quality bureaucrat green eye shades, I will quibble with the world "efficient." I think it will cost more using contractors than using troops in the long run because contractors can lobby Congress and the Brass to pay them more while the Army maintainers & logisticians can't. There is no denying that current contracting out methods are *EFFECTIVE* and substituting money and physical capital for American troops is an old and honored American military tradition.
"There's two speeds for the engineers in the Army: war speed and peace speed. In war speed, they work 24 hours per day if necessary to get the mission done. In peacetime, though, it goes like this.
First call formation 0600-0615. The mission is briefed for the day. Fall out for individual PT.
Recall formation 0900-0915.
Safety Briefing: 0915-0945
Mission briefing: 0945-1015
Equipment draw: 1015-1045
Begin mission: 1045 (five minute break at the top of every hour)
Lunch recall formation: 1330-1345
Recall formation: 1700-1715
Start over again the next day.
Length of mission: six months.
On jobsite (with all necessary equipment, cup/thermos of coffee in hand): 0700
Begin work: 0705
Lunch break: 1200-1230
Quit work when forced to (over eight hours is time and a
half, over twelve double time and that is on top of over 40
being time and half so doing over twelve after over forty is...)
Repeat until job is completed.
Length of project: six weeks.
Just hire Haliburton or Knudsen. It's the most efficient method."
The big issue with contracting out in the war on terrorism is how to use it in uncertain security situations where the contractors hire a bunch of unscreened locals. That is one we are about to find out the hard way in Iraq and elsewhere. It would be a nice thing if the "Paper of Record" would bother itself with such real world, life and death, details rather than V.P. Cheney/Haliburton snipe hunts.
UPDATE: To keep going to the even more extreme $200M Congo mercenary proposal mentioned in Glenn's Instalink, head to Noah's DefenseTech.org.