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.