In 2008 it was estimated that the U.S. Government paid more than one hundred billion dollars to private contractors, half of these contractors were private mercenaries for combat and “security”. In a June 2009 interview with Bill Moyers, journalist Jermey Scahill reported that private war companies or “contractors” have risen 29% in the past three months. Today, these private contractors, which include companies like KBR, DynCorp, Halliburton and Xe (formerly Blackwater), outnumber the troops currently in Afghanistan, and will continue to outnumber them with the latest increase of President Obama’s 30,000 troops. These private contractors are hired to provide food, transportation, construction, and security. There are 104,000 private contractors that are currently being supported by the Defense Department in Afghanistan. People hired by these private contractors are often non-American citizens and well over sixty percent of the contractors are Afghan locals, leaving questions of security.
This issue is scarcely reported and the majority of U.S. citizens do not know the real number of people employed in this war. The increase of troops in Afghanistan also questions the government whether the thirty billion dollar estimate for increased troops will go towards the private contractors as well. It is estimated that the U.S. government has paid slightly less than two hundred billion dollars for contractors in Afghanistan and the number could jump to half a trillion dollars.
Specific projects given to private corporations are often left incomplete or unsafe for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq the private company, KBR, was given an 80 million dollar bonus for the completion of wiring thousands of buildings for our American troops; however, the wiring was faulty and U.S. troops died by electrocution. In addition, the Army’s own electrician claimed this work was, “The most hazardous, worst quality work he’d ever seen”. Private corporations hired by our government have provided incomplete services, but because of political connections there is little being done to solve the problems. This corporate cover-up should outrage Americans, yet received no mainstream media attention.
The number of fatalities of American private contractors is also on the rise with other over 1,000 contractors killed in Iraq and Afghanistan so far and over 35,000 injured. This means that for every three American troops killed one private contractor is killed, again skewing our perception of death toll for Americans.
Finally, hundreds of billions of dollars are being paid to private contractors and companies for services and protection for our troops. Money paid is often under-reported as well as the death toll. Incomplete and unsafe work practices are ignored because these companies not only increase their numbers, but their wallet size is also increased. Americans need to ask questions about private contractors, their reckless jobs, the amount of money they spend, and the number of deaths they will cause before their behavior will be fixed.
Student Researchers: Claire Apatoff, Erin Kielty, Tom Rich
Faculty Evaluator: Clarissa Peterson, Associate Professor of Political Science, DePauw University
Faculty Instructor: Kevin Howley
Scahill, J. (2007). Flush with Profits from the Iraq War, Military Contractors See a World of Business Opportunities. Alternet.org
Fisher, W. (2008). One Fifth of Iraq Funding Goes to Private Contractors. Alternt.org.
Scahill, J. (2009). Report: Billions of Dollars Lost to Contractor Fraud, Waste and Abuse. Alternet.org
Isiria Press. (2009). Scahill, J. monologue. Private Contractors: 250,000 mercenaries fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Isiria.wordpress.com
Grier P. (2009). US use of private contractors in war hits record high. CSMonitor.com
Vlahos, K. (2009). The Private Contracting Surge Into Afghanistan. AntiWar.com
Christian Miller, T. (2009). Civilian Contractor Toll in Iraq and Afghanistan Ignored by Defense Department. ProRepublica.orf
Elliiott, J. (2009). How Many Private Contractors Are There In Afghanistan? Military Gives Us a Number. TPMMuckraker.com