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Why Blackwater?

While many pundits, critics and reporters have covered Blackwater’s (recently renamed Xe) many controversies, including Blackwater’s disregard of the military’s rules of engagement (ROE) and their nebulous legal status, I can’t help but think of the question they are failing to ask: how can the State Department find it cheaper to farm out its security to contracting firms than US soldiers?

Military contractors make upwards of 350 to 1,500 dollars a day working in Iraq. A soldier on the ground can make as low as 80 dollars a day. When the State Department can pay contractors ten times as much as the Department of Defense pays soldiers, and those contractors still run a profit, then the DoD has a problem. Having lived and worked in the military for a few years, I understand why contractors are so affordable; the military is a massively inefficient bureaucracy. When looking at the situation, politicians can conclude only one thing, if they bring in contractors they will save money.


The Army is quite literally huge. With nearly 550,000 service men and women, the Army is by far one of the largest organizations in the country, and indeed the world. Few other government agencies or private businesses even come close to this size. Each of these employees multiplies the Army’s costs. The DoD is even larger with over a million employees.

Second, the U.S. Army does not fire anyone or remove positions unless congress mandates the change. The U.S. Army still speaks the name Bill Clinton with disgust for his “military drawdown” during the nineties. (This ignores the fact that Republicans controlled the Congress and Congress controls the budget.) Clinton’s critics in the military should also look at themselves. Congress restricted funds and forced the military to draw down troop levels. The Army could have chosen to keep up its number of maneuver brigades and slashed jobs at the Pentagon and other service-support jobs. Instead, the Army kept the Pentagon jobs and lowered its fighting capabilities.

Third, the Army’s large bureaucracy costs money in wasted time, paper and efficiency. Almost every officer at the Pentagon is an officer not leading soldiers. He supervises the Army. This costs money. With thousands of officers managing desks, but not troops, needless requirements and bureaucracy filter down to soldiers. This hurts the Army’s most valuable resource: time.

The result is Blackwater. Only employing a few thousand soldiers, every dollar brought in goes directly to the organization. The more they save the more the owners of the company can keep. By keeping an organization small, they keep it efficient and they can charge the State Department ridiculous sums of money, and still underbid the military.

The solution for the U.S. Army, and the Department of Defense as a whole, is to slash the highest costing jobs and cut down on the bureaucracy. Only by trimming itself to the bones can the DoD hope to survive against lean organizations like Blackwater. Our country needs a military, but it needs an effective and efficient one.

six comments

I would say there is a role for contractors, with in reason. The Army wastes a lot of man power on support positions which could be contracted out to private companies and become more efficient while at the same time freeing up more troops to fill combat roles, which is where they are needed. I mean, does the Army really need soldiers trained as cooks? I think contractors can also be posted as guards at the gates to bases provided they are held to the same standards and ROE as members of the military.

I think this is a good point. Recently a figure came out that echoed around the liberal blogosphere that America has “250,000” contractors in Afghanistan. The assumption was all contractors were soldiers; they’re not. Some are local afghani’s, others are cook and such.

I would especially agree that if we can hire local Iraqi’s or Afghani’s to pay them to help America in the war effort, then it is a win-win. Actually, I would say it is a must.

Yeah, one of the biggest problems we face is lack of employment for the local populations. Why then are we bringing in people from other third world countries to fill these jobs that should be filled by locals.

I think it’s clear why —- we cannot easily vet large numbers of locals from Iraq & Afghanistan nearly as well as we can TCNs from the Philippines, Pakistan, Turkey, Uganda, etc. I was @ al-Asad in 2008-2009 and they were prepping to transition over to more Iraqi labor on base, but things were still very preliminary. I can see why, for OPSEC reasons, we do not employ local Afghans and Iraqis on base. VC infiltration of American bases in Vietnam was a huge problem —- not necessarily because of terrorist attacks, of which there were few, but for intelligence reasons.

I think the best way to solve this problem is to not create massive super-FOBs that require huge numbers of TCN labor in the first place. We need more grunts, fewer pogues, and the grunts need to be out amongst the population rather than standing in line @ Cinnabon.

One of the major reasons why we have contractors doing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is that politicians, beginning with Bush, don’t want to institute a draft. Once a draft is instituted, protest will soon follow as will demands for serious news coverage of the wars in which we are engaged. We had such coverage in Vietnam. We have none today. Where are the bodies of our soldiers blown to bits? Where are the piles of body bags? Do don’t see them today as we did in the past. With contractors working for large sums of money, we maximize the cost of war but minimize antiwar sentiment, control public outrage, and allow the military to sanitize the wars in which we participate by embedding journalists in chosen companies, all to the detriment of our knowledge of what is happening in these wars, enhancing our ability to keep at bay the reality of the number of soldiers who died and how, or committed suicide or have come home cursed with depression or worse, PTSD, not to speak of the collateral damage and its ramifications for “victory” if such a thing exists. Where by the way is Bin Laden?

Hey Jaylo,

You’re totally right. A major reason for contractors is lowering the number of “soldiers” overseas, but also lowering the cost as well, as this article tries to explain.

we’re pretty anti-contractor, so check out our post this weds. for more, or check around the site.