Four years and $500 billion into the Iraq war, the U.S. military still has no idea how many U.S. contractors are at work there.
The commander of U.S. Central Command said as much to Congress last week, and a new report from the Government Accountability Office highlighted the problem.
“I couldn’t give you an accurate figure on that, sir,” said. Adm. William Fallon, the new commander of CENTCOM. “I know that we have a lot of people. I’ve seen a lot of Americans. I have no idea how many are actually there.”
A number often tossed around is 100,000. Since the DoD is one of those tossing that particular number around, my guess is that the real total is significantly higher. It’s simply the nature of the business and of government accounting.
We are in the early phases of a return to a world where private armies and private contractors play a major role on and around the battlefield. It’s going to take many years for things to settle down and get sorted out. A bit.
An excellent, excellent read on this is PW Singer’s Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry. Very good stuff.