Feb 13, 2011

the necessity of private military firms

Why might the U.S. be justified in employing Private Military Firms (PMFs) to attain its overseas military objectives? In "Contractors: The New Element of Military Force Structure," found in the Autumn 2008 edition of Parameters (a publication of the U.S. Army War College), Mark Cancian outlines the ways in which PMFs have become not only useful, but entirely necessary.

1. Reconstruction
Cancian dispels the myth that PMFs are mostly mercenaries; in fact, the vast majority of military contractors are unarmed support personnel involved in diverse tasks. The largest group of contractors--nearly half--are involved in reconstruction efforts, with manifold benefits. Not only does it keep troops focused on military missions, but it establishes long-term stability in the occupied territory.
Work removes the bored and unemployed from the streets. Men who might otherwise join the insurgency for ideological or economic reasons now have a stake in maintaining stability. A job also has significance in traditional societies such as Iraq and Afghanistan, a fact that is sometimes difficult for westerners to appreciate. A job means that a man can get married and leave his family's home. Traditionally in these societies, unmarried children do not move out and get apartments on their own. This transition to independent living makes a young man an adult, thereby giving him a stake in the stability of his neighborhood or town.
2. Logistics
The military's own functioning depends heavily on PMFs for logistical support.
Most of the US personnel involved in these functions are blue-collar technicians (truck drivers, electricians, maintenance specialists), the people who keep materiel flowing and bases running. They are unarmed and often highly skilled in their areas of expertise, frequently more so than their counterparts in the military who are often much younger and, in effect, apprentices in their trades. Traditionally, military personnel performed these functions, but the high cost and relative scarcity of experienced uniformed personnel in the all-volunteer force made use of contractors an attractive option. Why use military personnel for a job that a civilian is willing, able, and often better qualified to perform?
For an example, Cancian focuses on food service, an area in which private firms outshine and have largely replaced their military counterparts.

3. Interpretation
Communication makes private support an absolute necessity.
Conflicts overseas, especially counterinsurgencies, require a large number of interpreters so US forces at every level can communicate with the local populace. Although the military is expanding its number of linguists, large-scale operations require thousands of interpreters. The military will never have enough personnel skilled in any particular language (except Spanish) to cover more than a small proportion of its total requirements. Contractors will always provide the bulk of this capability.
4. Security Details and Bodyguards
Admittedly the most problematic PMFs, armed security details and bodyguards draw the most attention, despite their relative smaller scale. Regarding the former,
About three-fourths of these security contractors protect fixed facilities inside major bases and never venture outside the wire.... The main function of these security guards consists of screening personnel entering facilities by checking identity cards. The majority of this group has never fired a shot in anger. They are more akin to the security guards one sees in the United States guarding banks or shopping malls.
Bodyguards, on the other hand, have ignited the most controversy, due to their involvement in violence. Yet according to Cancian, they represent fewer than 1% of all PMF personnel. A lack of coordination with and oversight by military forces, and what Cancian calls the "bodyguard mindset," in which the bodyguard will engage in disproportionate force in order to protect the client at all costs, combined to precipitate the infamous Blackwater incident in 2007. Since then, Cancian argues, necessary changes have been made.
The Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department finally issued new guidelines that brought contractors under military control, required State Department security officials to accompany every convoy, installed video cameras in contractor vehicles, and clarified the rules on the use of force.
The full impacts of these changes remain to be seen, but it's an exaggeration to argue that PMFs are rogue elements operating entirely outside the control of the government.

5. The Future
The evolution of conflict, which I'll discuss further in a future post, demands an expanding military.
The Army is currently expanding from 482,400 to 547,400 soldiers. This expansion could have reduced dependence on contractors by channeling all the additional personnel into support units. But it has not. Although some of this additional manpower is being integrated into support units, the majority is going to combat units. The purpose is clear-reduce stress on personnel by increasing the number of units in the rotation base. Army leaders have repeatedly cited the need to lengthen the time units spend in the continental United States. In all their testimony related to expanding the force Army leaders have never expressed a desire to reduce dependence on contractors.

The Army is developing a strategy based on a future of "persistent conflict" where every combat unit, active and reserve, deploys on a regular basis. Indeed, the Army's planned force structure does not make strategic sense without the implicit expectation of continuous deployments. As a result, the Army will continue to depend on contractors in support of deployed forces.
6. The Absence of a Realistic Alternative
What of those who would advocate replacing PMFs with military personnel? Cancian dismisses this as impractical, bordering on impossible:
Replacing the 113,000 contractors in the security and logistics arenas (excluding interpreters and all those in reconstruction) would require a minimum of 250,000 additional military personnel, and when the rotation base and training pipeline are considered the number quickly swells to more than 400,000 as a high-end estimate. With the Army struggling to meet the more modest target of its current expansion, an increase of 65,000 active-duty soldiers, such a large expansion would appear impossible without reconstituting the draft. Since a draft is opposed by the military leadership, politicians, and the American people as a whole, reinstituting conscription is infeasible, whatever its attraction for op-ed writers.
Cancian's article, which goes into much more depth regarding the legal status of military contractors, is well worth reading in full, especially for Affirmatives building the case for PMFs.


Conrad said...

So, using this post as evidence, could you use something like:

V: Realism
VC: Safety

Because it's implausible to completely abolish PMF's because they provide such a broad range of 'safety' or 'defense' or just simply actions. And, because of their use, they provide safety to troops, people, and domestic/foreign governments.

I think this would be a good argument if AFF defined 'military objectives' in a broad way. I'm not sure if things like bodyguards and escorts are encompassed in 'military objectives.'

Any feedback on this would be appreciated. Thanks again for providing evidence like this.

Jim Anderson said...

Actually, a narrow definition might be more useful to the Aff, and would align with the argument that PMFs used for non-military security/bodyguard details are simply outside the scope of the resolution, so the Aff doesn't have to accept those particular harms. (In those instances, the PMFs would be the agents of another entity--a corporation or a foreign government.)

Conrad said...

After reading up some more, I wanted to prompt another V and VC.

V: Constitutionality
VC: Safety

The Constitution states in the first article that Congress has the power to "grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal," which at the time basically meant hiring privateers to deal with foreign naval threats.

I think if the AFF plays it off right, PMF's are most certainly justified by the Constitution. Terms like "general welfare" and "common defense" are very open, so it allows the AFF more of a chance with a Constitutional basis.

Any thoughts?

Jim Anderson said...

The "letters of marque and reprisal" certainly establish a precedent for private mercenary operations. Furthermore, private firms (in a support/logistics capacity) have been used since the Civil War, and their Constitutionality is pretty much certain.

One thing: if the value is the "end" you advocate, shouldn't you flip your V/VC in both cases, like so?

V: Safety
VC: Realism


V: Safety
VC: Constitutionality

Conrad said...

Yes, you're right, thank you. I know you usually do V and VC pairs, but I wanted to get a headstart on this one since it's districts.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr.A

Is it possible for you to post some v/vc [airs please. Also is it possible for you to post some observation or theory shells on this topic.


AFanOfThisBlog said...

Are there any specific resources I could use to research for this topic? The main library in my city does not have any books on PMFs or mercenaries (as far as I know).

Any internet databases? LexisNexis and Jstor dont have anything.

Anonymous said...

So, how would you respond to solid analysis about how PMC's have special technologies and capabilities that the US govt. just isn't able to develop (probably due to monetary constraints)?

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, I'll probably have a formative set up soon.

A Fan, nothing on JStor? Do you have full (i.e., institutional) access? And what search terms are you using? Because if you're searching with the right terms, there are probably a good number of articles available. (I haven't had a chance to check yet, since I have to head over to The Evergreen State College to get access.)

ProQuest, if you can get it, is a great resource.

Second Anonymous, it would really depend on what those technologies / capabilities were--their scope, their significance, etc.

Also, one could argue that easy access to technology--the facilitation of conflict--has created its own momentum, perpetuating U.S. involvement in conflicts that it should really stay out of.

Anonymous said...

Jim- Thanks for the help.
The argument I am referring to essentially says that because PMCs are private and have a lot of money (other countries hire them too), they consistently lure away the best talent in the security industry, and therefore will always have an advantage over a state military. Therefore, the US must use them or be at a disadvantage in future conflicts and risk losing wars. Basically, this position advocates it is better to have unecessary wars that we win than have less wars, but risk losing. -2nd Anonymous

AFanOfThisBlog said...

I have got this research thing figured out now, thanks Jim.

I'm willing to share evidence again for this topic with people in other states. My e-mail is TradingEvidenceHere@gmail.com

Tell me what state you debate in so we don't hit each other.

C said...

How about this for the neg

V: Safety
C: Pacifism

Case: Military objectives inherently bad; implies conflict with foreign entities.

Jim Anderson said...

C, as long as you can defend against the Aff who argues that we're debating the inherent value of PMFs, regardless of specific military objectives--that the objectives under consideration are neutral, providing context rather than having to be defended as valuable.

C said...

What do you think about running specific military objectives (Afghanistan, North Korea)? My aff is three seperate objectives so far.

I think the advantage is that you've researched the objective much more than the opponent likely has, but I'm not sure if judges will buy it if my opponent says I have to uphold pfms in general.

I say at the top of the AC that focusing on specific nations/objectives is good because it allows for a more in-depth discussion and prevents advocacy shifts. But do you think I can ultimately get the judge to allow me to focus on specifics?

Anonymous said...

Jim i think you need to get out of your house. You debate about stuff with great passion, but nothing you say actually matters. Please better yourself and propose some of your ideas to Congress, your local government, or even your mother. Don't be such a loser! Be a winner. Like Floyd Landis!

Anonymous said...

What would you define realism as?
And how does it work on this subject? I'm fairly new at this and would like some help..thanks!

Jim Anderson said...

C, it partly depends on how progressive your judge is, since you're running something close to a plan. To steer away from that, you could argue something like this: "Currently, the United States has X number of key military objectives. Since they are not only central to national security, but are typical of U.S. military objectives for the foreseeable future, we can use these as a lens to focus the discussion." Would that work?

Anonymous, I am, and always have been, 100% steroid free.

Second Anonymous, for an introduction to (political) realism, you should read Morgenthau's "Six Principles of Political Realism." The gist is that prudence, not grand political agendas, ought to guide foreign policy.

VarshaVeggie said...

What are some good V/Cs for neg
i want to point out that PMCs ar enot held accountable, makes the govt. and military dependent on shortcuts, and it how it hurts perceptions abroad

(i have state quals in a week and i made a horible mistake of procrastinating, so i thank you SOO MUCH for replying soon :D)

C said...

I've heard some people are running hegemony based arguments. How exactly does heg tie into this topic?

Also, what is neoliberalism? I wiki'd it but I still dont quite understand.

Thanks for the help.

Anonymous said...

C, heg ties in because of a few main reason. First, PMFs solve for overstretch of the military, allowing us to keep our military worldwide. Since they are around 1/2 of our military, image how our power(heg) would decline when our military gets that much weaker and becomes unable to sustain global operations. Furthermore, PMFs have better tech, also leading to a stronger military, and thus more heg. Also, you can say they're cheaper, so we can have more. However, I wouldn't suggest running this position, since there are plenty of great neg impact turns on this arg, like PMFs unreliable excedera. Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and neolib is basically what you'd think of as conservatism. Very free market cap good type args. Neolibs want to privatize a lot.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr.A,

For this topic is there any unique arguments that will stick out and make you win for aff?

Anonymous said...

What are some good traditional aff arguments for this topic? My state is very traditional, but my current aff ideas are all seem to link to hedge to justify war, which would undoubtedly be viewed as to policy-ish.

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymouses, thanks to the snow day, I'll have a V/C post up later this afternoon. That might help answer your questions.

moriahjayy said...

Is privatized peace keeping the same thing as privatized military firms?

Anonymous said...

Not to nitpick, but if you could tag this with the "private military firms resolution" label that would great. I'm trying to link all the info you've written on the March resolution so far to some people I know. Thanks!

Jim Anderson said...

moriahjayy, it could be one form of PMF activity, and would fall under the scope of the resolution whenever private peacekeepers were employed by the US in pursuit of its military goals.

anonymous good catch, and it's fixed.

Pakman said...

Mr. Anderson,

If I specified what kind/type of private military firm the US is justified to use, while not being justified to use another type, would that still be negating the resolution ? I know there are different types of PMFs out there, and I also know a lot of the Aff cases will be based solely on the PMFs that are technological/logistical. Would it be too tricky to build my neg on allowing these tech PMFs but avoiding security ones ?
(sorry if I'm not making any sense.) But thanks anyway.

Jim Anderson said...

The burden for the Neg is to prove the resolution false "as a general principle."

You can attempt to limit the discussion to "security firms" in a couple ways:

1. Argue that PMFs are PMCs as certain writers define them, as a subset of the larger pool of "private contractors."

2. Argue based on impacts / moral significance: that there's no significant debate about non-security PMFs (such as logistics providers), and that the harms of PMFs providing security are thus the locus of debate.

Anonymous said...

Why do non-security PMFs not present a moral significance while security ones do?

Jim Anderson said...

They're just not as morally controversial, since they're primarily unarmed and only acting in supporting roles, as opposed to private security firms (such as Blackwater) that have become embroiled in conflicts of their own.

firething said...

According to 32 CFR 11.5 [Title 32 -- National Defense;Subtitle A -- Department Of Defense;Chapter I -- Office Of The Secretary Of Defense ;Subchapter B -- Military Commissions ;Part 11 -- Crimes And Elements For Trials By Military Commission] Military objectives are those “potential targets during an armed conflict which, by their nature, location, purpose, or use, effectively contribute to the opposing force's war-fighting or war-sustaining capability and whose total or partial destruction, capture, or neutralization would constitute a military advantage to the attacker under the circumstances at the time of the attack.” This means we can only consider the PMF's hired as mercenaries. The reconstruction groups, and other PMF employed personnel are irrelevant, since the resolution states "to pursue military objectives", we can still negate the resolution and support the PMF's who do things like reconstruction and other non-combatant involvement.

Jim Anderson said...

Interesting interpretation, but it seems to have a very narrow definition of "pursue." If your military objective, for instance, is to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden, then you'll be in pursuit for the long haul, and logistics / supply / etc. will be an integral part of your mission.

anna said...

so if my case goes something like this
r.a.- justified=practicality
framework-meet all military objectives outlined in 2011 National Militant Strategy
Ct.1-pmfs essential to national security
ct.2-essential to international stability
ct.3- essential to military effectiveness (involving logistics, expense, troop welfare, etc.)
What could be my value? Also any critiques or arguements against it that I could block would be much appreciated. Thank you so much for all you do!

Jim Anderson said...

Your value would be national security; your criterion, it would seem, is pragmatic, but more specific--"meeting all the military objectives outlined in the 2011 National Military Strategy." You would then argue that PMFs are essential to our NMS. It'd be a bit of a policy-ish case, but the topic lends itself to that.

Contention 3 seems to be the foundation of your case, as if it weren't true, your C1 and C2 would likely be untrue as well.

anna said...

thanks so much! also while we're at it if on the neg i were to run a sort of K based case/counterplan rejecting u.s. foreign policy all together. is there some sort of framework i can use to ensure my ability to run this type of arguement

Jim Anderson said...

There are several ways to handle that.

1. With an RA that the Aff owns the status quo (because currently PMFs are used to attain military objectives). Not a fan, personally, because the retort--that this is a debate about general principles, not specific objectives, and that neither side is beholden to the status quo--is just too easy.

2. Kritik-wise, to argue that the Aff inherently adopts the U.S.'s militaristic mindset, which is harmful from a Marxist, anarchist, libertarian, feminist, pacifist, or other perspective. Whichever perspective you choose becomes the framework of your kritik (or can be used in a more traditional format to reject the resolution as a whole--if U.S. military objectives are rejected as a general principle, by default, so are PMFs that attempt to attain them).

Anonymous said...

Okay I have been considering this V/C pair

V--nat security
c--fast mobilization
Note: in case faster= better
con1 PMF's mobilize fast
con2 Pmfs speed US standing army mobilization
con3 US can't mobilize fast w/o Pmfs.

Jim Anderson said...

Seems too narrow--the three contentions could be collapsed into one, "effective mobilization." Throw in training, interpretation, and the many other roles of PMFs in the modern military, and you could have a solid case (with an overall criterion of military effectiveness).

Anonymous said...

I personally love this combination:
V: national Security
C: Maintaining US hegemony

I found it perfect for both the aff and the neg.

This and the Thayer analysis justifying that the US's hegemonic stature is required in upholding national security is unbeatable.