A call to investigate war outsourcing

Published April 30, 2004 9:23PM (EDT)

Two weeks after Peter Singer's articles were published in Salon examining the outsourcing of military work in Iraq to private firms -- which ran a week after four military contractors were killed and their bodies mutilated in Fallujah -- several U.S. senators are asking the U.S. General Accounting Office to investigate. The private firms, which employ as many as 20,000 people in Iraq and operate on U.S. taxpayer dollars, go largely unregulated. Senators Chris Dodd, Russ Feingold, Jack Reed, Patrick Leahy, and Jon Corzine have asked the GAO to conduct an extensive survey of the firms' role in Iraq, asking questions such as: What was the contract award process like? How many employees of these firms have been killed, wounded or captured? How many are doing "mission critical" work? What happens when private firms suspend work because it gets too dangerous? What is their security screening process like? Who has jurisdiction over these employees if they commit crimes? What oversight exists for the firms' activities?

Singer's work shows that while private military firms are central to the military operation in Iraq, there are no standard operating procedures for their work. Since Singer's articles were published, the outsourced military issue has received more attention. Recently, Sen. Hillary Clinton cited Singer's work in Salon when criticizing the Pentagon for not being forthcoming about the costs of paramilitary forces.

By Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

MORE FROM Geraldine Sealey

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room