04 December 2007

Blackwater, Contractors, Mercenaries oh my!

Gage posted a great question re: Blackwater/other mercenaries in Iraq, as follows:

Hi, I.Vet. I have another question, off the subject that I'd like to ask. I'm
wondering about how the average GI feels about outfits like Blackwater. I know
that in Nam there were some Australian mercinaries, but to my knowledge, the
U.S. hasn't ever used private armies in a theatre of war before now. (Maybe we
have, but I don't know of any.) I know the mercinaries are very well paid
compared to an enlisted man, and I can imagine the GI's grouse about that, but
the money isn't really what I'm asking about. I'm wondering in general how the
GI's feel about the presence of private armies in Iraq. How do they feel about
the fact that these armies aren't accountable to the same chain of command that
the enlisted are, and do the mercinaries make things easier or harder for them?
Just wondering. Blackwater's been in the news a lot lately and it seems that the
Iraqis hate them a whole lot more than they hate the regular GI's. To me,
though, it seems outfits like Blackwater make life a hell of a lot more
dangerous for our guys in Iraq. True or not?
Gage, first my apologies for the late reply.

Next, excellent question. I never had to deal with those guys in Iraq myself, and I admit that my perspective is a few years old (3 as of 29 DEC 07). However, as a taxpayer and a vet, I'll give you my unvarnished opinion, as always....

First, it never made sense to me that our nation would rely on mercenaries - paid upwards of $80,000/year - to do the same job we pay $30,000-$40,000/year to do. I'm not talking about care and feeding of anyone, just straight up salary. Our nation has a rich tradition of charging the government a lot more than a part/service/humanoid costs, so who's to say Blackwater and their peers aren't doing the same now?

What I'm getting at is this: Say a Blackwater guy costs $100,000 in wages. There's also care and feeding/housing...there's also equipment (weapons, ammo, kevlar, vehicles, IBA/flak jacket, clothing, electronics, etc...). Per peson, I'd wager this comes to a total of maybe $200K/person (wages plus feeding plus supplies).

So we're paying $200K for someone we already trained (most are ex-military) to do something that the military pays about $80K-$100K to do (again, total costs) over a one-year tour.

(That said, I always had problems with KBR contractors who got paid five times as much as me - while they worked 4 hours a day and did what they pleased.)

Furthermore, Blackwater, etc., is not beholden to military Rules of Engagement (ROE) or Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This leads to - as we saw recently - paid mercenaries acting outside the stated goals of the military's justification/ground rules for conduct in Iraq, possibly with little course for retribution.

The short answer: If we are going to fight this war, we fight with the professionals who are trained to fight AND are subject to a high standard of conduct....all at the same general price.

The administration has erred greatly (depending on who you ask...the Blackwater Corp. is making TONS of money) in hiring others to do the jobs the military should be self-sufficient enough to do.

BOTTOM LINE: If the administration felt it would come up that short in terms of enough soldiers to fight the war, it should have taken steps BEFORE the war to fill the ranks out and go in with enough to do so.

The current administration - and its enablers of both parties in Congress - have been remiss throughout in guarding this nation's blood and treasure, and it has resulted in great detriment to both our military and our economy.

Hope that answers your question.