Today’s Wall Street Journal notes that the number of private military contractors (PMCs) current outnumbers the number of military personnel serving in Afghanistan, and the numbers are extremely close in Iraq:

A few points to make:

  1. The data illustrate that with the troop surge in Afghanistan has come a slight uptick in the number of PMCs, but overall contractors have far outnumbered troops in that theater. What the article does not discuss is the distribution of duties and roles for PMCs and how that may have shifted over the past few years. I’d be interested to see how fallout from various incidents (i.e. Blackwater [Xe]), while not decreasing the number of PMCs, has altered the kinds of tasks contractors are performing
  2. Given the reduced size of the military since the Cold War and current US commitments, there is likely to be (and continue to be) a tight correlation between the number of US personnel and number of PMCs, as many PMCs serve service and logistic roles necessary to support combat personnel. This creates a problem for the Obama administration as it’s stated goal was to reduce reliance on contractors. Unless they alter current structural conditions (i.e. increase size of military and/or reduce commitments abroad) they won’t really have a choice but to continue to rely on PMCs.

via iammilitary

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