The Road to Blackwater, Paved with Contracts

These guns are contractors, like most Federal employees

If Federal buildings are not thoughtfully planned, well executed, well-maintained, if century-old Federal buildings are not in good repair, the General Services Administration is accountable. GSA knows the rules, knows that if rules are broken more than jobs will be in jeopardy, for those rules are U.S. laws and regulations. 

But most Federal agencies today are in private, rented space, some of it built-to-order under “Public-Private-Partnerships” where government avoids a large one-time construction expense by renting a new building for a decade or two at a price that could have purchased the building several times over. 

The developer has no incentive to maintain the building, only responds when things go badly wrong, and the government tenant has little recourse since lines of authority are unclear. When the lease expires the developer may give the clapped-out building to the Feds who are stuck demolishing it, disposing of the rubble, and figuring out what to do with the lot, which they probably own anyway.  

This is how credit furniture companies get rich and poor people stay poor, right? Brace yourself: it gets worse. Most employees in that Federally-rented building are rentals, too.

 For forty years the Federal government has fired or not replaced civil service employees, hiring contractors instead, theorizing that full-time employees are expensive and “on-demand” contract employees are economical. Certainly it is mere coincidence that you can’t give Civil Service jobs to political contributors but you can give them contracts. 

Years ago a senior senator tried to find out the ratio of full-time Federal contractors to Federal employees. No one knew. Estimates were three to five full-time contractors per employee, a low figure then, absurdly low now. Federal employees who managed contracts, mid-level mangers, had been fired first; now many agencies even contract-out contract management. Really. 

People in blue uniforms safeguard the rented Federal employees and rented buildings. They resemble police officers but they are rented, too. Some carry pistols, often revolvers. Enter a rented building for meetings and the security drill changes day-by-day and hour-by-hour, indicating poor communications within the security company, between security and building management, between building management and developer, between everybody and the Federal tenant. 

There are dozens of uniformed Federal police forces in the District of Columbia (Capitol Police, Mint Police, Federal Protective Service, National Park Police, Secret Service Uniformed Division, etc.) as well as MPD, the city’s department. They have something in common besides badges, guns, and professional operational training. They are all sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, have been trained to do so, are under legally-constituted discipline to make sure they do, and face severe consequences if they do not.  

The 700,000 sworn governmental police officers in America are far outnumbered by over two million private uniformed security contractors who have one chief sanction: loss of contract. Of course if the private uniforms are caught and convicted of breaking State or local law they may go to prison, perhaps a contracted private one with private security guards. Wackenhut, the largest private prison firm, also provides contract police to guard the Statue of Liberty.

Remember those New “Action” Army ads on TV?  Smaller, leaner, faster, expensive equipment, fewer people, smartly-uniformed young folks twiddling dials of beeping electronic futuristic weapons, nobody driving trucks, digging holes, peeling potatoes. Wonder how they would move that gear and feed those troops? 

That smaller New Action Army has proven wishful thinking and Reserves and National Guard have been mobilized and exported to Iraq and Afghanistan. Civilian contractors load, drive, and unload thousands of trucks for them and “civilian security contractors” protect trucks, drivers and loaders.

These security contractors look just like soldiers but are not under military discipline, are not answerable to U.S. or Iraqi law, and have only one interest: fulfilling their contract before running out of ammunition. And they have lots of ammunition.

How could this have possibly happened?

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