MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

How Private Contractors Disguise the Real Costs of War – Inkstick

Posted by M. C. on January 15, 2022

Beyond wasting billions, private contractors are enablers of war.

https://inkstickmedia.com/how-private-contractors-disguise-the-real-costs-of-war/

Words: William D. Hartung

Pictures: Tapio Haaja

It’s well known that waste, fraud, and abuse were widespread among contractors working for the US government in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the negative consequences of the heavy reliance on contractors to help wage wars go well beyond that to the question of whether and how the United States wages war.  

The issue of waste in America’s endless wars should certainly not be ignored, given its immense costs to taxpayers. As early as 2011 — ten years into the Afghan war — the congressionally-mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting estimated that there had already been between $31 billion and $60 billion in waste related to contracting in the two war zones. There has been no comparable analysis since, but it’s safe to say that there have been tens of billions more in waste — including criminal fraud — in the most recent ten years of war. The Special Investigator General for Afghan Reconstruction has produced scores of reports documenting waste in Afghanistan, even as it has helped convict 160 companies and individuals of fraud and saved taxpayers $3.8 billion in the process.

Hiding the full costs of war, from the number of casualties to the true size of the force, makes unnecessary conflicts more sustainable.

All of this occurred in the context of the record surge in Pentagon spending that accompanied and was publicly justified by what was originally known as the Global War on Terror. As I noted in a joint report of the Center for International Policy and the Brown Costs of War Project published in September 2021, the post-9/11 surge in Pentagon spending resulted in $14 trillion in Pentagon spending from 2001 to 2020, up to half of which went to contractors. Among the report’s findings were that the biggest beneficiaries by far were the top five weapons contractors, namely Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman. These five companies alone have split $2.1 trillion in contracts since 2001. To give some sense of scale, Lockheed Martin alone received $75 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2020, which was more than one and one-half times the combined budgets of the State Department and the Agency for International Development. If the Biden administration is truly to put diplomacy first, this extreme militarization of our budget must be corrected.

So, war and preparations for war are big business, on an almost unimaginable scale.  But the use of contractors has an even more pernicious effect: It makes war more likely and makes it easier to extend wars long beyond the point at which they should have been ended. In short, the use of private contractors enables war.

HOW WE GOT HERE

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