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November 27, 2005

Privatizing ROTC?
Posted by Lorelei Kelly

The privatization of many functions of the military has occurred without much discussion over the past 15 years--bouyed along, in part by the free-market fundamentalism peddled by so much of the idea industry here in DC.   This issue is ripe for Democrats and progressives as a cornerstone in a regenerated "philosophy of government" argument about what are essential public service roles that only government can perform (FEMA might be another one...) 

A good article on the subject can be found here, but you can read the abstract below.  Along the same theme, make sure to read this LA Times piece called The Journey that Ended in Anguish  about the suicide of a military ethicist in Iraq.

The Privatization of Military Affairs: A Look into the Private Military

By Kyle M. Ballard, Occidental College

In the push to revolutionize military affairs, governments are turning to private companies to conduct many tasks that were once undertaken by the military alone. Anything from  feeding troops to fighting on the front line can now be outsourced to highly advanced, corporate-structured  private military firms (PMFs). In the United States, for example, PMFs now "provide logistics of every major  US military deployment, maintain such strategic weapons systems as the B-2 stealth bomber and Global  Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle, and [are] taking over the ROTC programs in over 200 American  universities."1

Where the idea of nongovernmental actors participating in war is nothing new, the capabilities of today's  firms raise new questions and concerns while presenting innovative  solutions to an array of international dilemmas. Thus, as the private military industry enhances its  capabilities and becomes more frequently and deeply integrated in military affairs, its emergence remains highly controversial. Therefore, there must be public discourse regarding the issues surrounding private military  firms as their presence on the world stage  is already having a huge impact and will continue to do so far into the future.

First, PMFs are defined and a history of the private military industry is presented. Then, the increased significance of PMFs in the post-Cold War era is discussed. The tectonic shifts on the post-September 11th world stage are also discussed in route to weighing the benefits and shortcomings of PMFs in the current international climate. It is shown that the integration of PMFs is a  foregone conclusion and that the question is not whether PMFs should be used but rather how these firms should be used. In accord with these findings, this paper will address the implications of the rise of the private military industry and its capabilities while focusing on the relationship between PMFs and the central tenets  of international law. It will be seen that with the emergence of PMFs has come an increasing need to adjust  international law in order to better uphold the integrity of the world system.


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