• Military personnel
• Military equipment
• Security at US facilities overseas
• Support services for the military
Waging war and ensuring national security involve a wide range of privatized activities such as weapons procurement, the use of private military security companies, and intensive research and development in technology and sciences. The construction of military bases and housing often involves public-private partnerships, and even food service at mess halls is privately operated by large multinational firms. Defense consultants, too, are enmeshed in security, national intelligence, and information sharing.
National security privatization has raised concerns as far back as President Dwight Eisenhower's warnings about the Military Industrial Complex in 1961. But in the 21st century, private military contractors have come to play an increasingly central role in US national defense. According to research by the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, the ratio of private contractors on battlefields is growing significantly. During the first Gulf War in 1990-91, the ratio between contract employees and soldiers was 1 to 50. In the Bosnian War a few years later, the ratio was 1 to 10, and in Iraq today it is estimated at 1 to 6.
The immediate impact on the public interest is similar to that with many other areas of privatization: higher costs, poor quality services, and loss of accountability and openness. Congressional hearings and investigations over the abuses in Iraq by Blackwater and Halliburton and their subsidiaries continue as a new abuses come to light. Congress has repeatedly attempted to ensure quality goods and services procurement and to rein in massive cost overruns. However, a 2008 GAO study of 95 major defense acquisitions projects found cost overruns of 26 percent, totaling $295 billion over the life of the projects.
As Janine Wedel described in her 2009 book Shadow Elite, even policy decisions regarding national security and defense have been partially privatized, as consultants and other power brokers play overlapping roles in the private and public sectors. One example out of many is Bruce P. Jackson, a vice president of Lockheed Martin, the largest federal contractor, who also chaired a lobbying group called Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and acted as an envoy of the George W. Bush administration to eastern Europe. In that role, Jackson helped convince 10 nations to support the invasion of Iraq.
For see a listing of the top 100 private contractors and contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2004-2006, visit the Center for Public Integrity's Iraq/Afghanistan Contractors database and Contracts Database, both part of their Windfalls of War project.