Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Although not new by any means, the privatization of the military was foreseen as early as 1993 by futurists Alvin and Heide Toffler in their book WAR & ANTI-WAR:

The idea is nothing new - no army in history has ever marched one step without private enterprise providing everything from boots and uniforms to meals, weaponry, tires, spare parts and maintenance - in an earlier era horseshoes - and of course the horses themselves and the feed they ate.

Berlin, 1961, height of the Cold War.

The Toffler's book was timely because it coincided with the immediate end of the post-Cold War Era; hallmarked by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Soviet Union two years later. The First Gulf War against Saddam Hussein - a long-time client of the Soviet Union - was viewed by many historians as an epilogue of the Cold War.

Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989.

At that point in history it was immediately evident that there was no longer a requirement for a huge standing military; the Communist Block had imploded and the commonly-held belief was that a kind of World Peace would ensue.

The need for a standing military along the lines of World War II armies was over; the United States had long since dispensed with the draft and had gone with a conscription-free, all-volunteer professional army. To streamline operations, to enhance the flexibility this new army requires, many functions have been contracted out. While the Army still has cooks and mechanics, most overseas messhalls are staffed by locally hired civilians, and military motor pools include qualified technicians representing commercial suppliers such as Land Rover.

I joined the US Army in 1983. Infantry, Airborne, 11 Charlie. Our squad leaders and platoon sergeants were professionals, and they told us horror stories of serving amongst draftees of the Vietnam era; drugs, rampant crime within the ranks, disciplinary problems in garrison AND in combat.

We listened and learned; whatever the Army threw at us, we were willing to deal with, because we wanted to be there. What we DIDN'T want; was to be with people who didn't want to be there. We were professionals.

Everywhere I served overseas, our operations were enhanced by civilian contractors. They ran the mess halls, fixed our radios, issued boots and uniforms, and in very extraordinary circumstances served in a paramilitary role, providing us with security details, training resources and even sources of intelligence. Of these activities there is nothing unethical, illegal, unorthodox or new in any way.

It is my professional opinion that it is better - and CHEAPER - to hire civilian contractors to perform service functions - to include personal security details - than to add these "garrison" duties to troops who should be out on patrol, taking the fight to the enemy.

Byron Cousin, an instructor of battlefield forensics, briefs students of his class. Cousin spent 18 years with the 82d Airborne Division, where he retired in 2006 as a first sergeant. On this day, his students were 82d Paratroopers.

Consider; a uniformed soldier has to be recruited, uniformed, armed & equipped, fed, paid, kept healthy, trained, paid, housed, educated (and his FAMILY has to be housed, fed, medically taken care of & educated) and then paid retirement for X # of years. A contractor just has to be paid, point blank & simple.

Since I retired from active duty I have provided goods and consulting services to the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and to various state and local law enforcement agencies. At this time I am a professional security consultant. There is nothing unethical, irregular, or illegal in any of these activities. I provide a service, and a perspective, that an active duty soldier simply could not perform. I am paid well for what I do, and this is exactly what I am worth - less than, if anything.

To anyone out there who suggests the United States should revert to involuntary conscription, populate the Army with unwilling draftees who don't want to be there, and tie up the military performing chores outside of the military role or mission, I ask: what are the details of your honorable military service?



  1. Ah, conscription-free. I like that phrase. If we could only leave the world "conscription-free". That would be something.

    For more on conscription please visit www.draftresistance.org

  2. USAF brat who was 4F medically but watched loads of other people serve adds:

    Don't forget, half of Lockheed's important works since Korea, if not more, have been primarily maintained and at times flown by Lockheed. Grey area as to CIA-USAF overlap but it's true on the flying.

    Wouldn't have had the success of the U-2 and SR-71 and A model variants, as well as the F-117 without them. USAF tried to run SR-71s most entirely on their own for a bit and it didn't work out very well as far as general mission readiness and maintenance turnaround.

    North American aviation had pilots, including Bob Hoover, that flew combat and training missions in Korea as semi-non-combatant-ex-military or something.

    LONG HISTORY of aviation using commercial outsourcing, why would the other branches not do the same at times? The goal is success, not making sure everybody wears the same uniform in theatre.

    Showed up earlier in aviation than other fields, but I'd say it's true across the board today:

    AS military systems get more complex you need experienced people capable of supporting them. One hitch or more people that transfer into civilian contracting are especially needed in the era of semi-unpopular wars with an all volunteer army. Be it air assets to tanks to office phones, you want somebody wet behind the ears in charge of something for lack of somebody better or a civilian that may have invented the youngster's job? Same could be said of trainers. From what I've seen reported on ETT activity in Afghanistan/Pakistan, a lot of people have been retained that might not still be there otherwise.

    As for draftees, forced labor is rarely efficient labor or particularly useful. It is often destructive too. Nobody wants sleeping on watch and fraggings, do they?

  3. Excellent post. I often do stories about the history of contractors in America, and my readership is always surprised by what I am able to present.

    The history that surprised me the most was the use of privateers during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 and the use of the Letter of Marque and Reprisal. Privateers are the guys that brought colonists to the new world and they are the ones that defeated British merchant vessels and even war vessels during the war. Pure privatised naval warfare, and yet it gets very little mention in the history books. Even Thomas Jefferson was impressed with privateering, and George Washington actually invested in privateer companies.

    During the Civil War, the Pinkertons protected Lincoln and acted as his personal intel agency. The are the precursor to the secret service. During the Indian Wars, William Cody was a civilian contractor and scout to the Army, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in combat. Not to mention the thousands of contractors that worked on the stage lines and pony express, protecting goods and people as they travel through 'indian country'. Not to mention the hired guns and law men, that offered their services throughout the west, to be the answer to stop criminals.

    Another one that kind of raised my eyebrow, was one of the founding fathers of the Boy Scouts, was Frederick Burnham. Now that guy was a soldier of fortune in the truest sense, and fought many wars in the US and in Africa. His scouting skills were learned by fighting indians and working with other mountain men and civilian scouts during those wars. Then he learned stuff in Africa, while also fighting those enemies. He also met all sorts of interesting characters--to include Baden Powell (the founder of the scouts), and he was very influential to Baden.

    Then of course there is all the other more recent history that people are aware of. Good work and I look forward to future posts. -matt

  4. Excellent post. I was active duty USMC from 86-93 and many times wondered how many of the non-combat jobs could have been done better and cheaper by civilians. More privatization would not only reduce the costs of the fighting force, but would serve as an excellent place for troops at EOS to find their first civilian jobs. Maybe actually give Obama a chance to Save or Create a real job.
    Keep up the good work!

  5. Hampton's RedshirtJanuary 5, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    Here is the problem
    there is a class of individuals who believe that because you joined the military that you offered to give your life.

    and they have no respect for the value of that life - that should it be expended - it does not have to be in fair trade

    and fair trade in my opinion is several tens of thousands of the enemy for every one of ours

    i was in the military during the draft era and love our men who volunteered and serve today

    and they should be treasured as the professionals they are

  6. Excellent post...in Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers he wrote "Civilians are like beans, you buy as many as you need...what you can't buy is fighting spirit" and he was right. The only thing worse than being deployed is being deployed with folks who are there "so the government would pay for my college...they never told me I could get sent away!"

  7. Great post and comments. It kind of p`s me off that I learn about the history involved here .. here. This should be a section in every history book in North America.