Private military contractor

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Iraq administrator L. Paul Bremer flanked by private military contractors

Private military contractors or private military companies (PMCs) are companies that provide logistics, manpower, and other expenditures for a military force (although on the logistics side, companies may be described more generally as defense contractors instead). Contractors are civilians authorized to accompany a force in the field and, generally, cannot be the intentional object of military attack (1949 Geneva Conventions). Contractors cannot be engaged in direct support of military operations (otherwise, they may be targeted). Some critics consider private military contractors to be mercenaries legitimizing their trade behind the veil of a corporate entity.

There has been a recent exodus from many special forces across the globe towards these private military corporations. The United Kingdom Special Air Service, the United States Army Special Forces and the Canadian Army's Joint Task Force 2 have been hit particularly hard. Operators are lured by the fact that entry level positions with the various companies can pay up to $100,000 a year, which is 2-3 times more than what an average special forces operator is paid.


United States

The United States State Department employs several companies to provide support in danger zones that would be impossible for conventional U.S. forces. The military employs many of them as guards to extremely high ranking U.S. government officials in hot spots all around the world. The term most often refers to the two dozen U.S. firms that provide services for The Pentagon and indirectly assist in overseas theaters of operation. Some contractors have served in advisory roles that help train local militaries to fight more effectively instead of intervening directly.

The Center for Public Integrity reported that since 1994, the Defense Department entered into 3,601 contracts worth $300 billion with 12 U.S. based PMCs. Some view this as an inevitable cost cutting measure and responsible privatization of critical aspects of a military. However, many feel this is a troubling trend, since these private companies are not directly accountable to a legislative body.


Among the companies in the United States mentioned as PMCs:

Other international firms include:

Contrast and compare: arms trade, mercenaries

Criticism of the growing role of military contractors

Nicholas von Hoffmann, writing in the June 2004 issue of Harper's (p.79-80), gives a brief but strong statement of the case against the growing role of military contractors to provide personnel on or near the front lines:

In theory, private contracting creates competitive pressure to reduce costs, but in practice the bidding process can be so opaque and distorted by favoritism that it becomes an empty formality... The financial savings have turned out to be highly debatable. The costs and attendant risks are not. The government's monopoly of violence -- its role as the guarantor of civil peace and the rule of law -- has been diluted by the new arrangements.

He also argues that we should not take false security for the fact that these contractors have so far stayed obediently in their assigned roles, writing, "[T]he praetorian guard protected the Roman emperors for a long time before it started killing them."

It is notable, however, that much of the criticism of private military contractors seems to focus on largely theoretical issues with free use of arguments based on historical precedents whose relevance is to many non-obvious. Analyses usually make the radical claim that the practice is fundamentally flawed and has to be rejected. There has been little publicized effort made to actually go into details to try to pinpoint and suggest corrections to the actual flaws of the system, thus reaching an optimal middle ground.

Significant events

In 1999, an episode with DynCorp in Bosnia was particularly embarrassing for the U.S. military. A Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit was filed against DynCorp employees stationed in Bosnia, which found:
"employees and supervisors from DynCorp were engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior and were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and participating in other immoral acts."

Employees of private military contractor CACI were involved in the Iraq Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2003, and 2004.

On March 31, 2004, 4 American private contractors belonging to the company Blackwater USA were ambushed and killed by guerillas as they drove through Fallujah. They were dragged from their car in one of the most violent attacks on U.S. citizens in the conflict. Following the attack, an angry mob mutilated and cremated the bodies, dragging them through the streets before they were hung on a bridge. (See also: Operation Vigilant Resolve)

On March 28, 2005, 16 American contractors and 3 Iraqi aides from Zapata Engineering, under contract to the US Army Corps of Engineers to manage an ammunition storage depot, were detained following two incidents in which they allegedly fired upon U.S. Marine checkpoint. While later released, the civilian contractors have levied complaints of mistreatment against the Marines who detained them.

List of private military contractors

N.B. This list is currently incomplete

See also

External links

fr:Socit militaire prive id:Kontraktor militer swasta ja:民間軍事会社 nl:Particuliere militaire uitvoerder


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