Date: June 22nd. 2005
Sent to "Frontline"
According to Frontline there are 120,000 contract employees working in Iraq in support of
the coalition forces. Let us be blunt there is a second army of mercenaries working for the
There are four problems with this state of affairs:
First, there is the pay inequity between regular troops and the $1000-a-day mercenaries who are doing the
same work as the soldiers. Underpayment inequity leads our troops to be resentful of their better
paid colleagues. Resentful troops cannot be expected to put in as much effort as those with high morale.
- Second, there is a lack of flexibility. A soldier doing KP can be turned out in the night to
take up a defensive position or go out on an aggressive patrol. You cannot make contract employees
do that. So we don't have enough people do to the job properly.
- Third, there is an appalling lack of coordination. Contractors and their employees aren't under
the direct control of the military so inadvertently they may interfere with the operations of
the army. This does not make for good tactical presence on the ground. It is hard enough
coordinating the regular troops; it is virtually impossible to coordinate their activities with
- Finally, we are not getting what we are paying for. As well as the overbilling, we have the hygiene
problem: according to NBC news late in 2003, "Pentagon inspections of mess halls run by KBR are
finding a mess in some of them... In the main Baghdad dining facility where President Bush
surprised the troops on Thanksgiving, inspectors found filthy kitchen conditions in each of
the three previous months. Complaints filed in August, September and again October report problems.
Blood all over the floor of the refrigerators, dirty pans, dirty grills, dirty salad bars,
rotting meats and vegetables. In October, the inspector writes that Halliburton's previous
promises to fix the problems have not been followed through and warns the company serious
repercussions may result, due to improper handling and serving of food." [NBC News, 12/12/03]
In the old days, a good hard-boiled Mess Sergeant would have got a mess like that cleaned up
in a day or so -- and the whole crew would have been on extra detail until the kitchen
equipment shone like the Excalibur sword.
It seems that we have lost a great deal with the privatization of the military's support
functions to the likes of Halliburton who obviously do not care about doing a good job.
It is unconscionable that coalition troops should be at risk from the lack of flexibility, lack of
coordination, and food poisoning that are the downside of privatization.
Solving this with regular troops will not mean we need to double the boots on the ground; it
will mean tripling them -- an appalling prospect.