It is the bodyguards, or personal security details (PSDs), that have attracted the most attention and engendered the greatest controversy. Although comprising only one percent of all contractors, they are responsible for virtually all of the violent incidents appearing in the media. These PSDs come from a handful of specialized companies—Triple Canopy, DynCorp International, Aegis Security, and the now-infamous Blackwater, USA. Frequently portrayed as “rogue mercenaries” they are, in fact, highly professional. Nevertheless, the nature of their function is problematic.
A key issue is that most of these PSDs work for the State Department and have been, until recently, outside military control. Historically, the State Department has had three layers of security for its personnel. The outer layer is the host nation, which is responsible for the protection of all diplomats and diplomatic facilities in its territory. The inner layer is the Marine detachment, which guards the core of the fixed facility. Between these two layers has always been a layer of contract guards. The State Department’s security arm, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, coordinates, plans, and trains but does not, with a few exceptions, provide security forces. Thus, in Iraq this contractor layer expanded as diplomats required protection whenever they left the diplomatic facility. These large groups of armed personnel operated independently, with almost no coordination with the military. The 2004 ambush of Blackwater guards in Fallujah, where four guards were killed and their bodies hung from a bridge, occurred in part because Blackwater had not coordinated with local military authorities.
Another major concern is what many refer to as the bodyguard mindset. To a bodyguard the mission is to protect the principal at all costs. “At all costs” means just that; costs to the local populace, to the broader counterinsurgency effort, to relations with the host government all appear to be irrelevant. If the principal’s car is stuck in traffic and that delay poses a risk, then these contractor bodyguards will smash their way through the intervening cars of local civilians in an effort to escape the danger. If traffic is too slow and that poses a risk, the bodyguards will often switch into the oncoming lanes and open a way by threatening cars with their weapons. Blackwater, for example, prides itself on never having lost a principal. For bodyguards this is the only measure of effectiveness.
The lack of coordination and the bodyguard mindset led to the shooting incident of 16 September 2007 in which a number of Iraqi citizens were killed and wounded. In response, Congress held hearings, and Blackwater was vilified in op-eds across the country. The Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department finally issued new guidelines that brought contractors under military control, required State Department security officials to accompany every convoy, installed video cameras in contractor vehicles, and clarified the rules on the use of force.
Lots of great info, including the observation that virtually all of the Army’s expansion is going toward combat troops. This will only increase the dependence upon contractors.