Private Security and US Foreign Policy

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The use of privatized military forces on the battlefield is hardly a new concept, with examples ranging from the operations of the British East India Company during the mid-19th Century to the Les Affreux (The Terrible Ones) employed in the African civil wars that followed decolonization in the 1960s. However, the use of privatized forces on the modern battlefield far out paces their previous employment, and the capabilities that the private security industry now brings to the table marks a watershed in the conduct of military operations. In addressing this subject, the following questions might be asked. What is the current configuration of the private security industry? What capabilities does the private security industry have and is expected to development? And of course, what impact will the private security industry have on U.S. foreign policy?

If the use of the private security in conflict and post conflict situations continues to increase, then it is predictable that U.S. foreign policy will need to address the growing presence of the private security industry. Specifically, various organs of the U.S. government, ranging from the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the U.S. State Department to the Pentagon’s Inspector General Office, will need to establish uniform procedures to (1) facilitate the use of private security services during the policy formation process, (2) ensure more transparency in the contract process, and (3) modify existing military doctrine to more fully utilize the capabilities of the private security sector.

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Robert Brathwaite is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.

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