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Privatizing Military Training.

During the post-cold war era, there has been a proliferation of private companies providing a wide array of security services ranging from military advice and training to operational support to security protection, logistics support, policing, drug interdiction, intelligence, and more. Western governments, developing countries, international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and private companies who operate in the world's hot spots have each purchased these services. Military advice and training has been one of the most significant areas of growth, particularly in the United States. It also comes closest to the core mission of the military. Private provision of military training thus merits particular attention. A few examples include the following:

* Hungary hired Cubic (an American firm) to help it restructure its military to meet the standards required to become part of NATO.

* In 1995 Sierra Leone's President, Valentine Strasser, initially hired Gurkha Security Guards (a British firm), then employed Executive Outcomes (a South African firm) to shore up and train its forces. Then, in 1997, deposed Sierra Leonean President Ahmed Kabbah hired Sandline International (another British firm) to train and arm his troops to retake the government after a coup.

* Croatia and Bosnia each hired Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI, another U.S. firm) to help professionalize, train, and equip their armed forces in 1995.

* The State Department and the Pentagon have outsourced portions of America's expanded military training in Africa to three U.S. companies--MPRI, DFI International, and Logicon--in order to ease the strain on U.S. forces stretched thin by increasing operations during the post-cold war downsizing of troops.

Hiring private firms to provide military training is not new. British companies were involved in the Middle East and Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, and the U.S. hired companies to train the Vietnamese forces in the 1960s. During the cold war, private U.S. firms were associated with tasks "too dirty" for the U.S. government. In Vietnam and Central America, reports of shady and illegal private military activities were rampant. In the wake of the Iran/contra scandal, for example, it was alleged that companies like Southern Air Transport and Setco Aviation facilitated the supply of weapons to the Nicaraguan contras after Congress cut off aid.

In the post-cold war period, however, the number of firms offering military services has grown, the scale of their operations has expanded, and their role has become more public and regarded as being more legitimate. Revenues from the global international security market are expected to rise from $55.6 billion in 1990 to $202 billion in 2010, according to private industry projections. The Pittsburgh Post Gazette (February 2000) reported that private security companies with publicly traded stocks grew at twice the rate of the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the 1990s. Private firms trained militaries in more than 42 countries during the 1990s. Although the older companies such as Vinnell, Booz-Allen, and Cubic are still active, many of the highest profile firms (including MPRI, which boasts that its 1997 volume of business exceeded $48 million), postdate the cold war.

As the industry has grown, private military companies (PMCs) have sought to polish their images. They establish websites, grant interviews, and appear at conferences. Sandline's website offers everything from British government documents regarding Sandline's activities to opinion papers on how the private security industry might best be regulated.

Foreign military training programs have expanded in the post-cold war period, offering greater opportunities for private military companies. Training foreign armies is a prime component of current U.S. engagement strategy, according to the Office of the President's 1999 document "A National Security Strategy for a New Century." Military training is said to further U.S. contact with other countries, to aid in the spread of democracy and good civil-military relations, and to enhance specific U.S. strategic concerns regarding, such issues as counternarcotics and counterterrorism. To achieve these objectives, U.S. Special Forces train with over 100 countries annually.

While major threats have diminished in the post-cold war period and U.S. forces have been downsized, ethnic conflict, humanitarian emergencies, and the desire to prevent further problems with the U.S. engagement strategy have boosted the number of operations involving the U.S. military. In scrambling to meet more requirements with fewer personnel and a more competitive labor market, policymakers have turned to private contractors to conduct some of their foreign military training programs. The current generalized push toward the privatization and outsourcing of government functions only abets this trend.

Key Points

* Private military companies (PMCs), performing an array of security services for a variety of clients, have proliferated.

* With the downsizing of the U.S. military and an expansion of overseas training programs, the Pentagon has increasingly hired the services of private military firms.

* Although private military companies have long performed covert and unsavory tasks, today's PMCs are seeking a legitimate public role.

Deborah Avant <avant@gwu.edu> is an associate professor of political science and international affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University.
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Article Details
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Author:Avant, Deborah D.
Publication:Foreign Policy in Focus
Date:Jun 15, 2000
Words:835
Previous Article:Toward a New Foreign Policy.
Next Article:Problems With Current U.S. Policy.


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