The Senate Homeland Security Committee, led by chairman Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) today held a hearing to examine whether the U.S. Government is over reliant on private security firms in overseas operations. The hearing included witnesses from the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the private sector.
In her opening statement Senator Collins said, “There are many valid reasons to employ contractors to carry out or augment overseas tasks. But as the Congressional Research Service has pointed out, never before have private-sector employees played such an extensive role in a combat zone. Furthermore, the heavy reliance on contractors without effective acquisition policies and contract oversight has led in some cases to wasteful spending, unsatisfactory performance, and failure to achieve mission objectives.”
She added, “Our increasing reliance on private contractors for overseas security work adds a new dimension to these concerns. When government agencies hire firms that place armed civilians in foreign countries, their actions can also have significant impact on America’s foreign-policy objectives.”
Senator Collins pointed out to the Department of Defense witness, The Honorable Jackson Bell who is the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Logistics and Material Readiness, that the Army manual dealing with standards for contractors on the battlefield was actually written by a contractor. “This raises questions of conflict of interest,” said Senator Collins.
Witnesses included: The Honorable Patrick F. Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management U.S. Department of State; The Honorable P. Jackson Bell, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness, U.S. Department of Defense; James D. Schmitt, Senior Vice President ArmorGroup North America; and Laura A. Dickinson Professor of Law University of Connecticut School of Law.