Now this is a better product and I can tell they actually listened to their contributors.  So bravo to CNAS for putting together a great report.  If you look at the cast of contributors, you will also see that they took advice from guys like Doug Brooks, David Isenberg and a whole bunch of private military companies and military professionals. For the record, I was not a direct contributor, but I know some of the ideas of FJ made it out there in one way or another.

     For one, they actually brought in Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution as a counter to Max Weber’s definition of the state. (the Second Amendment could also be looked at as a counter as well) I was beside myself when I read this in their ‘inherently governmental’ section, and I had to read it a couple of times to make sure they actually went there.  They did and bravo to them for having the courage to challenge this sacred cow of thought.

     This kind of sets the pace for the entire publication, because CNAS and all of it’s contributors were actually making the argument for the use of contractors in war time.  It is an acknowledgement of that ‘elephant in the room’ called contractors, and it is an excellent first step towards combining private industry and government for the good of the nation and the wars it fights. To me, it has always been about unity of effort and command, and ensure private industry only helps government, not hurt it.  If we can figure out how to achieve that unity of effort and command, I think the next step is what will really be radical.

     I have argued on this blog that today’s war planners, leaders and strategists should make an effort to at least acknowledge that elephant in the room called contractors or private industry.  We are getting there and I am enthused about the process.  But to me, the next level of discourse about private industry is how do you turn that animal into a war elephant?

     To me, it is not enough to just acknowledge our existence and say ‘oh well, private industry is that big dumb animal that we all have to get used to’. That is like using a pistol to hammer nails.  I would make the argument that instead, private industry should be looked at from a strategic point of view and the question should be asked is ‘how do we use private industry to help win our wars and maintain a position of strength in the world today’?  That is the next level of discourse about this subject, and that is the kind of thinking that could possibly lead to victory in our current wars. I say this, because there is a tremendous effort taking place to actually figure out how to regulate and utilize private industry during times of war, and this paper and current legislative action is proof of that process. So once we figure out how to shoot the pistol, as opposed to using it to hammer nails, we can then start discussing how to use that pistol in warfare.

     Now on to the paper.  Below I have listed some of the issues that popped up as I was reading it. Just little things that came to mind, that could help refine the product.  Ideas are cheap, and I throw them around freely here. I have also listed some interesting portions of the paper to give the reader a taste. Be sure to check out all of the contributors, to include Allison Stanger (she provided the forward). Enjoy and let me know what you think.-Matt


Contracting In Conflicts: The Path To Reform

By John Nagl and Richard Fontaine



In both Iraq and Afghanistan today there are more private contractors than U.S. troops on the ground. This exploding reliance on contractors costs U.S. taxpayers tens of billions of dollars and has grown with inadequate government oversight.   This report – authored by Richard Fontaine and John Nagl – details the urgent need for comprehensive reform. The United States must embark on a path of ambitious reform that will require: new laws and regulations; an expansion of the government’s contracting workforce; a coordination mechanism within the executive branch; greater scrutiny, more transparency and clearer standards for private contractors; a strategic view of the roles contractors play in American operations; and a change in culture within the government.

Download the paper here.

Link to website here.


Political Costs and Commitments(from the paper)

The use of private contractors has reduced the political costs associated with U.S. deployments and global commitments. American politicians and policymakers routinely make reference to the number of troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan but almost never to the over 200,000 contractors currently on the U.S. government payroll. American troops, diplomats and other government workers killed in combat zones are listed in casualty totals and featured in “faces of the fallen” tributes; American contractors killed in the same zones barely register – to say nothing of local or third-country nationals. (Through 2009, an estimated 1,757 contractors have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, and nearly 40,000 wounded.) Had U.S. presidents been required to deploy only American troops and federal employees to carry out all duties in recent conflicts, it seems likely that these operations would have garnered less public support. There is another way in which the United States could reduce its employment of private contractors in combat and in stabilization and reconstruction operations: limit the number, scope and duration of such operations. While there is a growing body of opinion suggesting that the United States will not carry out major, multiyear operations on the scale of Iraq and Afghanistan again in the near to middle term, it is exceedingly unlikely that the number of even much more limited operations will drop to zero. Post-Cold War U.S. presidents, both Republican and Democratic, have engaged in dozens of overseas contingency operations; the current U.S. president, like his predecessors, continues to define American security interests as global in scope.


The “Inherently Governmental” Conundrum

Critics of the greater use of ES&R  contracting object to outsourcing functions intimately related to the public interest – that is, those deemed “inherently governmental.” u.S. law has long aimed to protect the core functions of government by prohibiting anyone other than federal employees from performing such tasks. Arguably, nothing is more “inherently governmental” than the legitimate use of violence which, as German sociologist Max Weber famously noted, defines the state itself.

At the same time, Article 1, Section 8 of the u.S. Constitution confers power on Congress to “grant letters of marque and reprisal” which, while no longer used, at one time played a key role in the contracting out of violence.



-Ensure that senior managers and in-theater supervisors are familiar with relevant U.S. and local law, Status of Forces Agreements, the law of armed conflict and the applicable rules of engagement.

-Precisely define the way in which legal obligations and rules of engagement apply to their contract employees, including local nationals.

-Enforce existing rules that require key employees (such as those who will carry weapons or are likely to see hostile fire) to have basic training in the law of armed conflict (e.g., the Geneva Conventions) and the rules of engagement for a particular theater of operations.

-Institute enhanced vetting procedures for third-country and local contractors to ensure that those with criminal pasts, a history of human rights violations or connections to enemy forces are prevented from obtaining employment.

-Work with Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State and the USAID Administrator to establish and mandate compensation mechanisms for victims of contractor abuse.

-Establish a trade association that includes as members firms specifically engaged in ES&R contracting (as opposed to private security contracting).

    Such an association should:

    Establish an accreditation program and licensing standards for firms.

    Serve as an interlocutor with the government on ES&R contracting issues.

    Establish a database of contractors working for licensed firms and put into place a process for receiving and investigating complaints.

    Promulgate education and training guidance for contractors working for member firms.

    Encourage the development of, and participate in the design of, an international code of conduct to which firms, both         American and foreign, may voluntarily commit and which spells out specific repercussions for severe violations.


Deborah Avant

University of California, Irvine

Fred Berger

The Louis Berger Group

Doug brooks

International Peace

Operations Association

Colonel Ross brown

U.S. Army

John Brummet

Special Inspector General for

Afghanistan Reconstruction

Major General Julian Burns, Usa (Ret.)

BAE Systems

Tom Callahan

Lockheed Martin

Pablo Carrillo

Senate Armed Services


Phil Carter

Mckenna Long & Aldridge, LLP

Kristi Clemens Rogers


Carole Coffey

U.S. Government

Accountability Office

Jock Covey


Ginger Cruz

Special Inspector General for

Iraq Reconstruction

Colonel Jack Cunnane, Usa

U.S. Army Contracting


Margaret Daum

Senate Homeland Security

and Governmental Affairs

Committee Subcommittee on

Contracting Oversight

Bob Dickson

Commission on Wartime


Dominick Donald


Major General Charles

Dunlap, Usaf (Ret.)

Former Deputy Judge

Advocate General

andrew erdmann

Colonel Jay farrar, UsMC



Herb Fenster

Mckenna Long & Aldridge,


Richard Fontaine

Center for a New American


John Gastright

DynCorp International

The honorable Pete Geren

Twentieth Secretary of the

U.S. Army

Kristen Gilley

Special Inspector General for

Afghanistan Reconstruction

Bill Greenwalt

Lockheed Martin

General Ron Griffith, Usa


L-3 Communications

Ambassador John Herbst

Office of the Coordinator

for Reconstruction and

Stabilization, U.S. Department

of State

Major General Pat Hickerson, Usa (Ret.)


David Isenberg

Independent Analyst

Rob Jenkins

Office of Transition Initiatives,

U.S. Agency for International


Ed Laughlin

BAE Systems

Howie Lind


Kristin Lord

Center for a New American


Linda McKnight


J.J. Mesner

International Peace

Operations Association

Gary Motsek

Program Support, Office

of the Assistant Secretary

of Defense (Logistics and

Material Readiness)

Jeb Nadaner

Lockheed Martin

John nagl

Center for a New American


Rebekah Nottingham

BAE Systems

Kevin O’brien

Innovative Analytics &

Training LLC

Dr. Ken Oscar


Brigadier General Craig Peterson, Usa (Ret.)

Former Chief of Staff, Multi-

National Division North,

Operation Joint Guard, Bosnia

Richard Ressler

Booz Allen Hamilton

Moshe Schwartz

Congressional Research Service

Mark Silverman

International Committee of

the Red Cross

Allison Stanger

Middlebury College

Chris Taylor

Mission Essential Personnel

Bill Walter


Jamie Williamson

International Committee of

the Red Cross

Colonel Henry Zimon Usa


MPRI L-3 Communications


My personal notes on the paper.


-Highlighted the lack of attention on contractors in the QDR. Recommended that we are dealt with in future QDR and QDDR.


-They talk about integrating contractors into command and control, but nothing mentioned about basic communications like radios? A simple thing like radios can insure commanders in the field are able to talk with and track contractors in their areas of operations.


-No mention on how contracting could be used strategically to actually win wars.  I felt that it was just a paper designed to address the current state of contracting, but there was nothing forward leaning in it.


-No mention of how to gain atmospherics about the industry, like engaging with new media. (blogs, facebook, youtube, twitter, etc.) No mention of millennials–the huge proportion of todays contractors that are operating out in this war as we speak.  They have a voice, and today’s new media is how you reach them.  They are also the ones who will be implementing private industry policy, rules, and strategy in this country’s wars.


-The Montreux Document was embraced and I liked that.


-The contingency contracting reserve corps should be inserted into the Incident Command System that the federal government already uses for disasters.  That would be the easiest way of implementing something like this, and it will make easier for government to organize such a thing.  No need to reinvent the wheel.


-Nothing mentioned about SPOT being used to track contractor deaths or injuries.  Do contractor deaths and injuries even matter?  And should a nation recognize their fallen contractors with inclusion into national monuments, if in fact we plan on acknowledging their sacrifice and contribution to the war?


-No mention of early privateers in the history section, which would have directly tied in with the mention of Article 1, Section 8 of the constitution.


-No mention of the possible use of the Letter of Marque as a means to make private industry more accountable.  Or that the LoM could be a way for Congress to directly provide oversight of private industry, as opposed to depending on departments and agencies to individually control companies. It would also be a way for congress to punish bad companies, and turn their actions into truly criminal actions instantly, all through the violation of the LoM. (this falls under transforming that elephant or ‘private industry’ into a war elephant) [the LoM can also be an ‘elephant chisel’ as well]