What are the pros and cons of private contractors, such as Blackwater and Halliburton, in Iraq?

PRO (yes)

Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq, stated in a Sep. 11, 2007 testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

"There is simply no way at all that the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security could ever have enough full-time personnel to staff the security function in Iraq. There is no alternative except through contracts...

The capability and courage of the individuals who provide security under contract is worthy of respect of all Americans...

...[O]ver 30 of our contract security Americans have been killed keeping the rest of us safe."

Sep. 11, 2007 - Ryan Crocker 

Virginia Foxx, EdD, MA, member of the US House of Representatives (R-NC), stated in a prepared statement for a Feb. 7, 2007 hearing titled "Iraqi Reconstruction: Reliance on Private Military Contractors" before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

"Many contractors operating in Iraq have been subjected to a great deal of scrutiny. While I understand there may be some waste as contractors operate in a war zone, a vast majority of the work done by our military contractors is praiseworthy. American contractors deliver critical supplies, infrastructure and security in an incredibly hostile environment.

One of these contractors, Blackwater USA, is headquartered in my home state of North Carolina. Today they are facing accusations of negligence and profiteering. But I see another side of this company that often remains unmentioned in the media. For example, many Blackwater security personnel were previously honorable law enforcement and military personnel, professionals.

These folks are well trained and well equipped, as they work tirelessly side-by-side with our military as they pursue victory over vicious, heartless attacks of violence.

Furthermore, in response to emerging threats arising in the war on terror, Blackwater is developing a number of technologies which can serve to protect our brave servicemen and women fighting overseas."

Feb. 7, 2007 - Virginia Foxx, EdD, MA 

Albert T. Church, III, Vice Admiral and Director of the Navy Staff, stated in an unclassified Mar. 10, 2005 "Executive Summary":

"It is clear that contract interrogators and support personnel are 'bridging gaps' in the DoD [Department of Defense] force structure in GTMO [Guantanamo Bay], Afghanistan and Iraq. As a senior intelligence officer at CENTCOM [US Central Command] stated: '[s]imply put, interrogation operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo cannot be reasonably accomplished without contractor support'...

Overall, we found that contractors made a significant contribution to U.S. intelligence efforts. Contract interrogators were typically former MI [Military Intelligence] or law enforcement personnel, and on average were older and more experienced than military interrogators; many anecdotal reports indicated that this gave contract interrogators additional credibility in the eyes of detainees, thus promoting successful interrogations. In addition, contract personnel often served longer tours than DoD personnel, creating continuity and enhancing corporate knowledge at their commands."

Mar. 10, 2005 - Mar. 10, 2005 "Executive Summary" (539 KB)  
Albert T. Church, III 

Steven Schooner, JD, Associate Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School, stated in a May 19, 2005 interview on PBS's Frontline program "Private Warriors":

"...[I]t's important to keep in mind that whether or not it saved money, there's no question that KBR [Kellogg Brown & Root] was able to provide more services more quickly to the battle area than the United States military was capable of providing when we went into Iraq or today...

Under the circumstances, I give KBR unbelievable marks...

Regardless of the marginal dollars involved, KBR has fed our troops, housed our troops, provided showers, water, laundry and the like. They've lost a staggering number of personnel...And if you had a son or a daughter who was over there in Iraq and they were feeding your son and daughter, my guess [is] you'd be awfully darn appreciative of what they're doing every day."

May 19, 2005 - Steven L. Schooner, JD 

Doug Brooks, MA, Founder and President of the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), stated in a May 12, 2005 Financial Times letter to the editor titled "Private Security Contractors are Key to Making Recovery Efforts Possible in Iraq":

"By the very nature of their work IPOA members [private contractors] expect to be held to higher standards - as our association’s public code of conduct will substantiate. They are critical to relieving the strain on coalition forces and enabling them to concentrate on their core military functions including combating the Iraqi insurgency. From infrastructure reconstruction to armed security, the private sector is providing controllable, efficient, cost-effective services in Iraq that make post-conflict recovery efforts possible.

Our members have taken a leadership role ensuring that governmental oversight and lawful accountability is an integral part of these efforts."

May 12, 2005 - Doug Brooks, MA 

George Seagle, Director of Security for the Government and Infrastructure Division of Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), stated in a prepared statement for a Feb. 7, 2007 hearing titled "Iraqi Reconstruction: Reliance on Private Military Contractors" before the US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

"We support U.S. and Coalition troops at 55 sites in Iraq, and 70 other sites in the region. Since 2003 we have:
  • served more than 490 million meals;
  • transported more than 675 million gallons of fuel;
  • delivered more than 220 million pounds of mail;
  • washed more than 30 million bundles of laundry;
  • and hosted more than 80 million visits to Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities.
Whether building mess halls, providing food service, or setting up housing, our goal is to provide the soldiers with the basic necessities – a hot meal, clean clothes – when they’re back on base, returning from dangerous missions. The feedback we have received from our military and the troops on the ground has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are proud of the work of our courageous employees."

Feb. 7, 2007 - George Seagle 

CON (no)

Nouri al-Maliki, MA, Prime Minister of Iraq, was quoted by Sabrina Tavernise, a New York Times Foreign Correspondent, in a Sep. 20, 2007 article titled "Maliki Alleges 7 Cases When Blackwater Killed Iraqis":

"A lethal shooting on Sunday [Sep. 16, 2007] that involved an American diplomatic convoy and left at least eight Iraqis dead infuriated the Iraqi authorities and has prompted them to threaten to evict Blackwater, the company that provides security for the most senior American diplomats here...

'This act, which I call a crime, has created a state of tension and anger among all of us,' he said. 'It is better for this company to freeze its activity, and the embassy can drive out with other companies.'

The Ministry of Interior has registered seven cases of Blackwater’s guards’ killing Iraqis, including the one on Sunday, he said, without providing details. He said the government was working to rewrite the rules that regulate private security companies, which have immunity from Iraqi law.

'This company should be held accountable for these violations,' Mr. Maliki said, 'because we will never allow Iraqi citizens to be killed in cold blood by this company that is playing with the lives of the people.'"

Sep. 20, 2007 - Sabrina Tavernise 
Nouri al-Maliki, MA 

The Congressional Progressive Caucus, a US House of Representatives organization, stated the following in a Sep. 22, 2005 letter to President George W. Bush:

"Based on its track record, we believe Halliburton cannot be considered a 'responsible' company, and should be suspended from any hurricane damage assessment and reconstruction contracts until the many ongoing investigations into the company arecompleted. As you know, suspension is permitted if a contractor has a 'history of failure' or 'unsatisfactory performance' in carrying out contracts, which is clearly the case with Halliburton. Suspension is also permitted 'on the basis of adequate evidence, pending the completion of investigation or legal proceedings, when it has been determined that immediate action is necessary to protect the Government’s interest.' As outlined below, Halliburton’s record clearly constitutes the basis for suspension:

* An Epidemic of Waste in Iraq:
- The inspector general for the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) found Halliburton charged the government $2.85 million for hotel costs in Kuwait even though cheaper housing arrangements were available.
- A former logistician with Halliburton in Kuwait reported that the company and its subcontractor had been charging U.S. taxpayers $100 per 15-pound bag of laundry and $45 per one-pack of soda.
- The Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) found Halliburton had overcharged on the fuel supply contract by $212.3 million...

In January, the U.S. embassy in Iraq threatened to terminate Halliburton’s contracts because of serious cost overcharges and what it called 'poor performance.'"

Sep. 22, 2005 - Congressional Progressive Caucus 

Peter W. Singer, PhD, Foreign Policy Studies Director at the Brookings Institution, stated in a Sep. 12, 2004 Washington Post article titled "The Contract the Military Needs to Break":

"Sixteen of the 44 incidents of abuse the Army's latest reports say happened at Abu Ghraib involved private contractors outside the domain of both the U.S. military and the U.S. government. Army investigators have reported that six employees of private contractors were involved in incidents of abuse, but potentially more may have been involved in other crimes in Iraq and elsewhere...

Hiring private contractors comes with another hidden price: corporate practices that would not pass military muster. Well before the Fay and Jones [Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones and Maj. Gen. George R. Fay 2004] investigations, former employees of CACI [CACI International Inc.] had alleged that many of their fellow interrogators lacked proper experience or training. They asserted that in the rush to fill the billable interrogator jobs, the firm had conducted five-minute phone interviews with applicants and hadn't bothered to check their résumés, fingerprints or criminal records. The firm denied this, but the Army investigators found that 35 percent of the contract interrogators 'lacked formal military training as interrogators.'"

Sep. 12, 2004 - "Investigation of Intelligence Activities at Abu Ghraib" by Lt. Gen. Jones and Maj. Gen. Fay (920 KB)  
Peter W. Singer, PhD 

Julie McBride, JD, MA, former Halliburton employee, testified before the US Senate Democratic Policy Committee in a Sep. 18, 2006 hearing on the "Accountability of Contractors in Iraq":

"Those who worked closely with the firm Custer-Battles have come forward to report shocking levels of bribery and kickbacks amounting to untold millions. Halliburton (and subsidiary KBR [Kellog Brown & Root]) accepted bribes for handing out subcontracts from their posh villa in Kuwait, digs they had staked out well before the invasion of Iraq even began.

With the invasion quickly over and the long and costly occupation begun, KBR proceeded to vastly overcharge the U.S. government to transport fuel into Iraq and to provide meals to soldiers. The profiteering in this case climbed to more than $150 million.

Vinnell Corporation did such an apparently poor job of training Iraqi forces that the entire first battalion walked off the job, and the U.S. Army had to take over. Employees from the security firm CACI International were deeply entangled in the prisoner abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib facility. These and other companies remained virtually unaccountable."

Sep. 18, 2006 - Julie McBride, JD, MA 

Rory Mayberry, former Food Production Manager for Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) at Cape Anaconda in Iraq, stated in his testimony at the June 27, 2005 US Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing titled "An Oversight Hearing on Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in U.S. Government Contracting in Iraq":

"Food items were being brought into the base that were outdated or expired as much as a year. We were told by KBR [Kellogg Brown & Root] food service managers to use these items anyway. This food was fed to the troops -- a lot of these frozen foods, chicken, beef, fish and ice cream.

The trucks that were hit by convoys, firing and bombings -- we were told to go into the trucks and remove the food items and use them after removing the bullets and any shrapnel from the bad food. We were told to turn and remove the bullets over to the managers for souvenirs.

When I had the military check some of the food shipments, they would turn the food items away, but there wasn't any marking on the record, so KBR just sent the food to another base for use...

KBR also paid for spoiled food. When Tamimi [Catering] dropped off food, there was often no place to put it into the freezers or refrigeration. Food would stay in the refrigeration and freezing trucks until they ran out of fuel. KBR wouldn't refuel the trucks, so the food would spoil. This happened quite a bit."

June 27, 2005 - Rory Mayberry