The infantryman’s only private sector equivalent job is mercenary. One downside to the merc good money gig is risk. Back in the day, Blackwater shooters were approximately 8 times more likely to be killed than our uniformed personnel; and although data is not completely reliable, contractors (conducting direct military type assistance vice cooking and cleaning) probably suffered more KIAs and WIAs than did any single Army Division.
The pros & cons of the “Blackwater” phenomenon have not been rigorously debated. Do we really want our State Department to bid against the DOD to hire some of the best uniformed trigger-pullers (ladies need not apply) to go over to the dark side. I suppose with Obama throwing in the towel in the Middle East that this is no longer an issue; but if we don’t implode first, it will be the next time around.
Having worked for Blackwater, I stand firmly on both sides of the fence on this issue; but I never felt comfortable with the State Dept. fielding an army of mercs. Here are just a few of my concerns:
1. Makes it harder for DOD recruiters to get some of our most highly skilled to re-up. The DOD becomes a farm league for Blackwater.
2. What is the impact on morale or other significant issues regarding the difference in pay between front line troops, who are running similar levels of risk, and contractors?
3. In the early days as companies like Blackwater were quickly building capacity, a number of sketchy (French Foreign Legion) types were hired who should not have passed the screening process.
4. State Dept. contracting for a small army of guns for hire.
5. No recognition for contractors’ service, sacrifice, and patriotism. They are more likely to be viewed only in the negative. Do they deserve our respect or our scorn? Since when did we stop honoring the sacrifices of a “different” type of patriot? Is that a concern?
6. Was the Blackwater affair a net positive or negative impact on the US’s image? Should we care either way?
7. Should Blackwater have been required by the State Dept. to hire females? (actually I don’t care about this, just throwing a bone to the feminazis)
I suppose we should ask ourselves this question: When a legitimate requirement for Blackwater type services exists, should our government contract for it or is it be better for the State Department to create its own small army?
After the al-Qaida attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney began using large numbers of private security contractors for the first time. The mercenaries were intended to make up for a lack of manpower, especially in the area of personal security, as well as to perform the dirty work, such as interrogating detainees, thereby leaving US military personnel untainted. Erik Prince’s company turned into an empire practically overnight, collecting more than $1 billion (€700 million) in revenues from US taxpayers. Seventy percent of Blackwater’s contracts with the government were no-bid contracts.
The company’s most important personnel, its fighters, who were known internally as “shooters,” were recruited around the world, including from places like the Philippines and Latin America. In 2007, the company proudly changed its name to Blackwater Worldwide.The advantage of privatizing the war was obvious for the Bush administration. Blackwater contractors are cheaper than regular US soldiers. When they were killed, their widows received only minor compensation, while the US military pays lifelong survivor benefits. Besides, Blackwater employees died quietly — in other words, they were never part of the official death statistics, which was convenient for the president.