As a professional (albeit, part time) Soldier, I’ve long been skeptical of the idea of large numbers of non-DOD contracted security forces in an American combat zone. While, I can certainly see a need for them in some circumstances, their widespread use is fraught with potential problems, since there is a separate chain of command, a different ROE, and no UCMJ.
In the Balkans, the use of contractors who operate outside of military law has resulted in some serious problems including the alleged prostitution of under-age girls. More recently, in Iraq, the killing of alleged civilians was said to have been unlawfully conducted by a contract security firm.
To be sure, the vast majority of contractors (many of whom are ex-DOD themselves) operating in these difficult theatres go there with the desire to help embattled peoples around the globe. Troubles, therefore, are likely just the result of a few proverbial bad apples. Still, the use of extra-legal contract security firms must be subject to the strictest and narrowest of scrutinies when evaluating their potential employment.
However, there is now yet one more reason to be wary of contract security firms: their employment unintentionally increases the rift between the two most important American agencies in Iraq: The Department of Defense and the Department of State.
Already, both departments often seem to be operating at cross purposes in the Globabl War on Terror as recently evidence by a little squabble that inadvertently proved fatal for one Sunni sheik.
It is absolutely essential that America speak with one voice on foreign affairs. That ideal, of course, has been shattered by a Congress seemingly more interested in political gain than in American unity. However, even worse may be the same obstinate attitude from a department within the same Executive Branch. Voices are bound to be more unified when both departments operate with the same rules, and under the same trials. Yet contract security forces give the two departments two different experiences:
The State department has long insisted on using Blackwater and other private security firms so that its convoys and legations would not be controlled by the Defense department.
Were it the case that State was dependent upon Defense for their security, while DOD needed DOS to help stabilize a fragile Iraqi government, the two mammoth departments might be doing a better job of working with, rather than against, each other in Iraq. Currently there are plenty of examples of that not being the case. Perhaps a good start might be for the SecState and the SecDef to agree that the two should be dependent upon each other for their individual success.