Privatization of the Military

I’m reading about Donald Rumsfeld’s declaration of war on the Pentagon that he issued on September 10th, 2001. He basically said he was going to gut the military and outsource everything to contractors.

Now this is interesting because I realize now that all these weird things I witnessed while in the Army were weird precisely because of the privatization movement that was taking place.

For instance, one of the first things I noticed was that we didn’t have to do KP duty, or Kitchen Patrol, in basic training. While in the past, soldiers would have to serve all the food to the other joes, by the time I got to Ft. Leonard Wood, soldiers were only helping to hand out some foodstuffs at the end of the line.

Later I would see that we were put on task for mowing lawns and picking up garbage far less often around post, as lawnmowing is now mostly outsourced. Soldiers still have to go around base and pick up trash though, if contractors can’t do it or if the new contract is awaiting budget approval.

But it wasn’t until I got to Iraq that I saw the biggest change. We were issued brand new uniforms with digital camouflage patterns on them. We were issued tan boots that didn’t require any polishing. This meant that all soldiers who would enter the Army afterwards would never know the joys of laboriously polishing their black boots anymore (except for jump boots). All our gear was replaced with gear that matched the new pattern, which must have cost the US government a fortune since even simple rucksacks cost easily over $150 each.

KBR, then a subsidiary of Halliburton, ran the show in Iraq. From billeting to food to construction to cleaning, they ran all the logistics. You could get Subway and Pizza Hut in Iraq easily. Massive chow halls with all the food you could eat. Contractors racing around post in personal SUV Escalades. Parking lots full of unused pickup trucks.

Our IT was outsourced to one of the big contractors and all our equipment was expensive, not fully functional, and created by the companies you see lining the highway on the way to Dulles Airport in the DC area.

There was, of course, Blackwater.

It always just struck me as weird to see so many civilians doing jobs that we’d traditionally done. Needless to say, in most cases this is great for soldiers — they can focus more on war-fighting.

But it shows the massive transformation that took place under Rumsfeld and that will be institutionalized into DC for the rest of my working life. The corporatist bubble that started within the military has expanded into homeland security (all of DHS can be scrapped in my opinion) and I imagine that will be expanded to take over local governments as well, soon, as well as anything else that businesses can rip off from the government.

These are powerful times.