Philadelphia Inquirer | 04/29/2004 | No guns for contractors in Iraq, Pentagon is proposing


Lest anyone think that I am an unmitigated defender of the Pentagon, allow me to point out that occasionally the brass suggests something really dumb. Today's entry: Contractors in Iraq Should be Unarmed.

As the insurgency in Iraq remains strong, the Department of Defense has proposed a new rule for most of the estimated 70,000 civilian contractors working in the region: They cannot carry guns.

Deidre Lee, the Pentagon's director of procurement and acquisition policy, whose office proposed the rule, said it was designed to settle one of the biggest questions facing contractors: "to arm or not to arm."

It is a life-or-death issue because "we don't have the military providing security for our contractors," Lee said.
This is the same logic at work in gun control proposals everywhere:

1) There is too much crime.
2) Guns cause crime.
3) Therefore, we should reduce the number of guns.

The problem, in Iraq as everywhere else, is that the only people whose guns the government can readily reduce are the people who respect the government's authority. This is true even in American cities, where there are not and can't be enough police to be everywhere and search every home; it is far more true in an unstable foreign nation, where a large number of persons are actively warring against the government. All that can be accomplished by this is to disarm the people on our side, leaving them prey to all our enemies.

Imagine trying to drive a supply convoy across a hostile foreign wilderness. You know that there are raiders who want to destroy your convoy, and kill you personally, in order to hurt the war effort that your convoy is supplying. Your employers say, "Oh, one more thing--you can't carry guns, and there will be no military security." What do you suppose you're apt to do?

[T]op department official acknowledged that the war effort was suffering a "brain drain" of civilian workers who were fleeing Iraq because they did not feel safe.

Truck convoys in Iraq are "more like a journey through the wild, wild west," Gen. Darryl A. Scott, director of the Defense Contract Management Agency, told a conference of government and corporate contracting officials in Orlando.

"That's a reality there," he said this week. "People leave every day... . It does make operating in that environment more difficult."
Really. Imagine that. What could they be thinking?
Many workers in the region are former military personnel and prefer to be armed, said Cathy Etheredge, a manager for BAE Systems, which provides information technology in Afghanistan.

The problem with the proposed rule is that it tells contractors that they are responsible for their security, but then says they cannot be armed, said Nick Sanders, who leads the contract finance committee for the National Defense Industrial Association, a trade group for traditional defense contractors.

"It doesn't appear to be a well-thought-out, coherent policy," Sanders said. "It appears to be a one-way door where contractors will have all the responsibility and cost."
There you go. Supporters of the plan offered three reasons in favor of banning weapons:
Armed contractors would be more likely to be shot at or kidnapped. Second, as civilians, they do not follow the same strict rules of force as the military. And by picking up weapons, contractors could lose any death- and accident-insurance coverage they may have.
The first suggestion is astonishing. Armed persons are more likely to be kidnapped? Armed convoys are more likely to be attacked? If there is any lesson that should have been learned in fighting the mufsidoon, it is that they prefer unarmed targets. They prefer them very much.

As to the second reason, it is wise to have clear guidelines, and to enforce them. If such guidelines don't exist, they should be created and enforced. Making the contractors into hostages to the goodwill of guerrillas and terrorists is not the answer.

The third reason is the kind of thing that ought to be addressed through legislation or contract bargaining. Here's a proposed negotiating point: an insurance company is much less likely to have to pay out a death benefit for these contractors if the contractors aren't asked to walk unarmed through a war zone filled with people who consider kidnapping and killing American citizens to be a prime tactic.

There is hope:
Lee said the proposed rule could change, depending on contractor reaction. The official comment period ends in late May, but there is no timetable for a final regulation. In the meantime, some contractors are carrying guns.
The rule can be read here. Comments may be directed via the DPAP website. The proposal in question is "Contractors Accompanying a Force Deployed." The rule does create an exception whereby combatant commanders may, on their personal authority, issue government-owned arms to contractors if they feel it is absolutely necessary. As with all such bureaucratic "exceptions," of course, the tendency will be not to make the exception--if you follow the rule you are protected by the institution if there is a tragedy, but anyone who breaks the rule is personally responsible. Bureaucracies (of which the military is certainly one) tend to be risk averse for that reason.

This risk aversion puts brave men at terrible risk, and will make it harder to find such contractors in the first place. Please do what you can to help protect these men, and the interests of the Republic.

UPDATE: IraqNow has a post up on this topic. He suggests some additional measures that might be mentioned in the public comments:
The measure is supported by Kellogg, Brown and Root officials, who argue that they'll lose insurance coverage on employees when they pick up weapons.... The insurance for the workers is a nonissue. They can be adopted into the same risk pool as American servicemen, and pay SGLI premiums--probably elevated premiums, to reflect the brief time of their service in Iraq (military personnel pay premiums during peacetime and wartime as well, spreading the risk out over many years), but that can be figured out by actuaries, and the cost passed on to the US government.

The liability factor for Halliburton is a slightly more difficult issue. If they allow their contractors to carry firearms, over the objections of retarded bean counters in air conditioned offices who have no conception what the risk tradeoffs are in Iraq, then they potentially expose themselves directly to bank-breaking lawsuits on the part of aggrieved families.

Hey--ever hear of purchasing a rider?

Ever heard of reinsurance?

And if the insurance industry gives them a hard time, Insurance regulators could weigh in and force the issue.

It wouldn't be that hard, since supporters of the bill are proposing that we create an additional layer of expense to hire private security firms to protect KBR convoys. And presumeably someone insures them.
Fusileer Pundit also has a post, as does A Collection of Thoughts.

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