By Bruce Alexander
This article was originally written by Bruce Alexander on October 11, 2007, the article is entitled Security Contractors; A Necessary Evil. It’s an interesting read particularly the sections regarding the scope of the Diplomatic Security Service (DS) mission worldwide. Read the article yourself but the gist of the article is that, things being the way they are, security contractors are a necessary evil. An interesting way to put, but in my opinion, wrong.
It’s clear that DS is stretched thin around the world. Resources, both personnel and budget are not limitless. There’s no ready supply of DS agents available to fill the role of security contractors even if the financial means existed to replace private security contractors. All of those arguments are very valid but where I take issue is the “better the devil you know” response as justification for keeping private security contractors.
The fact that private security contractors have been used extensively by DS in other places ignores the fact that the other countries where private security contractors support DS are not war zones involving the protection of U.S. diplomats. Success in Liberia with private security contractors does not translate to success everywhere else.
The Rules of Engagement, the scope of the protective mission, and the operational oversight by DS, are much different in every other country where private security contractors are performing personal security duties than in Iraq. As we have seen with virtually every aspect of the war in Iraq, the cookie cutter model simply does not apply.
Secondly, the implications as a result of misconduct by private security contractors is much more serious in Iraq than anywhere else. Unfortunately DS agents throughout the world will be left feeling like the guy responsible for cleaning up after the elephant act at the circus as a result of private security contractor misconduct.
DS agents will be on the firing line when it comes to responding to violent acts around the world inspired by the perceived targeting of unarmed Iraqi civilians by U.S. Embassy security forces. Ironically, DS agents work very hard to foster good relationships with their foreign counterparts and in foreign nations. It would be a shame if DS were perceived to be in the same category as those private security contractors who are engaging in misconduct.
I also have to take issue with the characterization that the U.S. military doesn’t have the “specialized training” required to protect diplomats. Excuse me? The U.S. military has the resources, skill, expertise and infrastructure to conduct all aspects of training required to perform such duties. In the U.S. Army for example, the Military Police Corps has trained for more than 20 years in tactical security skills that could easily be adapted to protecting U.S. diplomats.
Every function now performed by private security contractors could be performed by members of the Marine Security Guard (MSG) with minimal train up time. Let’s not kid ourselves, where do you think these private security contractors got their skills? I dare say that there are relatively few former DS agents, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals etc… among the private security contractors.
It’s only after someone is brought on with a private security contractor that they attend the requisite Personal Security Detail (PSD) training. When you start looking at the background of some of these private security contractors, relatively few of them had PSD backgrounds to begin with.
The stakes are so high in Iraq that the normal status quo is not the way to go. The U.S., and especially U.S. diplomats, deserve a stable protective force, that is trained, accountable, responsible and with an equity in success of the U.S. mission beyond a business contract.
We can not expect the Iraqis, nor any other country in the Middle East, to develop any value for human life, when we permit the individuals responsible for protecting our most visible and active symbol of what the U.S. represents, our diplomats, to operate without impunity. We do not tolerate that of our soldiers serving anywhere in the world. Why should we permit that from private security contractors?