Are Private Security Contractors Performing Inherently Governmental Functions?On June 18, the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan held the first part of a two-day hearing on the proper role and oversight of security contractors supporting U.S. operations in Southwest Asia. The underlying question posed was, are private security contractors performing inherently governmental functions?
The federal government relies on more than 40,000 private security contractors (PSCs) to support U.S. operations in Southwest Asia. They provide armed security for convoys, diplomatic and other personnel, and military bases and other facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The six-witness panel -- comprising of two think-tank officials, two academics, an industry-association official, and a consultant specializing in government acquisition issues -- examined the current system which governs PSCs and debated the appropriate line when a task must be solely performed by United States military or civilian employees.
At the hearing, the Commission probed the risk of contractors’ overstepping the bounds of their lawful and appropriate scope and becoming involved in inherently governmental functions while using force or making critical, mission-related decisions. The Commissioners also examined PSC oversight, accountability and management, and pressed the witnesses to identify improvements to the current system.
The hearing began at 9:30 a.m. on June 18, in Room 106 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, DC. The witnesses were Dr. Al Burman, president, Jefferson Solutions; Dr. Allison Stanger, professor and director of the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, Middlebury College; Stan Soloway, president and CEO, Professional Services Council; Danielle Brian, executive director, Project on Government Oversight; Dr. Deborah Avant, professor of political science and international studies, and director of the Center for Research on International and Global Studies, University of California, Irvine; and Dr. John Nagl, president, Center for a New American Security. The second part of the two day hearing was held on June 21.
Co-chairs' opening statement
Dr. Al Burman, President Jefferson Solutions
Dr. Allison Stanger, Professor and Director of the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, Middlebury College
Stan Soloway, President and CEO, Professional Services Council (PSC)
Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Dr. Deborah Avant, Professor of Political Science and Director of International Studies and the Center for Research on International and Global Studies, University of California, Irvine
Dr. John Nagl, President, Center for new American Security