This study argues that when political leaders chose to reduce their nation’s military force structure, they may face conflicts beyond their anticipated scope and duration. Such decision- makers are left with no choice but to legalize and legitimize the use of PMCs resulting in the increased use of PMCs as a deliberate tool of foreign policy.

A big hat tip to David Isenberg for finding this paper and posting his commentary about it. What makes this so significant is that the author of the paper is actually using qualitative and quantitative analysis to prove exactly what the reason is for the rise of the use of private security contractors. It is this kind of analysis that can be pointed to as ‘empirical’ evidence for what is really going on with this industry. Here is what David had to say about the paper:

Considering how many times over years I have critiqued the private military and security (PMSC) industry for making claims without providing evidence to back it up, it is always noteworthy to find that rare person who tries to fill that empirical evidence gap.

Absolutely. This is important stuff, and especially for those that are policy makers in government. It is also important information that companies can use for strategic business planning.

I also really enjoyed the use of economic theory in this paper. In essence, this model of dissertation is pretty close to what I would use for something like Offense Industry.  It is also interesting to point out that the author did come across some speed bumps when it came to incomplete data.

To be accurate in analysis, you need good data. Because the US government didn’t record as well as they could of, all of the contractors involved with this war and what they did, that studies like this one can suffer a little. The author pointed this out, but he was able to come to some interesting conclusions.

Summary
This dissertation was framed around the question of why there has been a rapid growth in the reliance on the private security industry in US foreign policy in the past two decades. More importantly this dissertation sought to demonstrate: first, that the use of private security contractors by the United States is not a new phenomenon; second, that the recent increased use of private security as an instrument of military policy or foreign policy may in fact be a consequence of deliberate policy decisions of successive presidential administrations; and third, that the security environment in the target state of an intervention is a factor that results in an increase of private security contractors. The goal of this dissertation was to move beyond most of the extant literature which describes the phenomenon, and develop theory that helps explains why there has been a rapid growth in the reliance on the private security industry.
This study argues that when political leaders chose to reduce their nation’s military force structure, they may face conflicts beyond their anticipated scope and duration. Such decision- makers are left with no choice but to legalize and legitimize the use of PMCs resulting in the increased use of PMCs as a deliberate tool of foreign policy. Using “supply-demand” theory as the theoretical approach, this dissertation built upon the three key influences emphasized first by Singer (2003) and then by others: the decreasing supply of national troops, decreasing national defense budgets, and the rising demand from global conflicts and humanitarian emergencies.
As the previous chapters demonstrate the basic theory and thus insights from the descriptive literature have value, however they failed to provide a fully exhaustive explanation of this important phenomenon. The additional elements added to the relatively spare theory resulted in a more convincing explanation of the increased use of PMCs. In sum, this study added precision to our understanding of the causes of the increased use of PMCs.
This chapter examines the findings of my dissertation, a few methodological problems, and suggests some areas for further research. The next section presents the theoretical discussion and empirical findings and conclusions from the qualitative and quantitative section. The section that follows provides a few suggestions on how to improve the research design. The final section offers a few policy prescriptions and areas for further research.
Findings
This study asserted that the private security industry fills vacuums created when the US government does not have the means or the will to fully provide domestic and international security. To understand the broader context of the private security industry’s relationship to mature democracies this dissertation focused initially on five hypotheses:
H1: When military outlays decrease there is an increase in the use of private security.
H2: When the size of a national military decreases there is an increase in the use of private military security.
H3: When the number of a military disputes, military engagements and militarized conflicts increases there is an increase in the use of private security internationally.
H4: When the duration of a military conflict increases there is an increase in the use of private security.
H5: When there is a decrease in bureaucratic controls and regulations there is an increase in the use of private security.
Three additional hypotheses were added to this study upon completion of the case studies. They are:
H6: When there is a force cap placed on the size of the military force there is an increase in the use of private security.
H7: When there is no host nation supporting the intervention there is an increase in the use of private security.
H8: When the security environment is non-permissive there is an increase in private security.
Using a mixed methods approach, the hypotheses were tested using both a qualitative and quantitative approach. The qualitative approached relied on the case method, using a series of structure focused questions to compare the outcome of three historical cases where the US used private contractors. As a result, the controlled comparison helped identify the outcome of the dependent variable, private contractors, and provided a historical explanation of private contractors in relation to a set of independent variables. In this instance, structured, focused comparison helped to tease out exactly how supply, demand and other pressures help to stimulate the rise of PMCs.
The quantitative approach relied on a statistical method, using interrupted time series to examine the use of private contractors by the US from 1950 to 2010. The quantitative component analyzed a larger time period and increased the generalizability of the findings. It also provided insight on the relative explanatory weight of different causal influences.
The findings of this research demonstrates that the three key influences asserted in the extant literature the decreasing supply of national troops, decreasing national defense budgets, and the rising demand from global conflicts and humanitarian emergencies are very important to understanding the rise of the private security industry in the past two decades. Yet as this dissertation shows the nature of the security environment in the target state and the reduction (or elimination) of bureaucratic controls in the acting state are also important to explaining the increased reliance of the private security industry. Two other variables that were prevalent in the case studies that may be a factor in the increased reliance on private contractors: limitations on the number of troops committed to an intervention, and the duration of the intervention.

So that is is pretty interesting. A company can literally look at the current situation and say that if their country decreases the size of their military force, the size of that military’s budget decreases, and there is a dramatic increase in conflict/emergencies, that the demand for force will more than likely point towards the use of PMSC’s. And you can see that going on throughout the world as we speak.

But the thing that I look at is the strategic uses of PMSC’s. I have always argued that this industry is a strategic asset, and not a liability–regardless of the few hiccups this industry has had over the years. We are what made the concept of an ‘All Volunteer Force’ work. Here is the quote that grabbed my attention.

Policy Implications
State policy makers may be able to use the results of this study to inform decisions on military budgeting, structure, or civil-military relations. As the worldwide economic crisis continues, policy makers faced with budget choices will look to reduce their military expenditures and possibly their military force structure. However, if they are faced with foreign policy problems requiring military intervention, then it should not be surprising if they substitute national military forces for private security forces. It is likely that more state policy makers may move towards the legalization of private security companies. Thus, the trend towards legalization leads toward further legitimization of the use of private security contractors. The US has certainly set the example in the past twenty years for other nations to follow.

This legalization process is the one thing that I am always on the look out.  The Letter of Marque is probably the most significant legal mechanism out there for authorizing companies to wage war in the name of the state.

As to current legalization processes, I would have to say that it has been slow and tedious. But we are seeing movement, and the Commission on Wartime Contracting is a prime example of that effort. I point to the recent legislation that members of this commission put forth–which helps to further legitimize this industry.

As the industry is further legitimized by lawmakers seeking better controls over it, then the comfort in using such a force for foreign policy increases.  Most of all, it allows this nation to enjoy their ‘peace dividend’ at the end of wars, but at the same time have a mechanism in place that can support a call up of force for whatever emergency or conflict that may come up.

The use of the ICoC and the standardization process that is currently going on throughout the world is another example. Efforts like this will further legitimize the use of private security and will help to increase it’s use. Even with the current grey areas of legal use, we are seeing the maritime security industry grow at an incredible pace. Armed guards on boats is definitely another example of this increased use of private security.

As for actual strategy, sometimes private force is the better option. It gives politicians the ability to quietly buildup or draw down for a conflict. Private forces fill in the gaps as the use of force is debated, depending on the current political environment. Meaning one day, a President might have a specific strategy for a conflict that a nation is involved with, and then within a month when that President is voted out of office by a President with a different strategy, then that military must be able to flex with that.  Private security is what allows for that flexibility.  Likewise, PMSC’s have been used by two Presidents of different parties, both with different strategies, and in multiple wars over the last ten years. Obviously someone likes us. lol

In fact, we have actually reached a point in the war where there were more contractors than military force in places like Afghanistan. Or that contractors became the primary force representing US interest in places like Iraq.

In closing, it is amazing to me that we have this massive officer corps for the military, numerous think tanks, and plenty of military colleges that all focus on the use of ‘military force’.  And yet, private force is making this much of an impact on the way we do business? Does anyone else see the imbalance here? Where are the think tanks dedicated to the use of PMSC’s?  Where are the PMSC colleges and universities? What institutions other than the military or business schools produce the future leadership of ‘private security and military companies’?

It is also odd to me that there are so few voices talking about this.  I can count on my hand, the number of blogs or journalists that purely focus on PMSC’s. It is nice to enjoy a niche like this as a blogger. But for how significant this industry is, and how fast it has grown, I would have thought that more folks would have come into the mix to analyze and synthesize about this industry. Interesting stuff, and it really makes you think. A big hat tip to Bruce Stanley for the work he put into this! -Matt

Link to paper here.