Canada expanded its use of private military contractors in places like Afghanistan, joining the ranks of the United States and other NATO countries in this regard.
According to documents released online, the Canadian federal government has pledged over $1 million to various security contractors. These entities are to provide intelligence support service for Canadian commando units deployed overseas. Two of the largest contracts were for “Special Operations Forces Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance” (ISR) services in 2016 and 2017. Two other large contracts vaguely specified “special security adviser” services. In light of this expansion, Canada’s Department of National Defence advised the government to strengthen its oversight in this area, especially with regard to contractors and human rights issues.
ISR services probably means drone surveillance. Such activity most likely involves gathering intelligence on potential targets or coordinating a ground strike team with currently available intelligence. Canada does not yet operate armed drones, but that may be changing soon. For now, “The Contractor will be responsible for assisting in the assessment of current CANSOFCOM Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities as well as assisting in the research, design and development of Special Operations ISR capabilities and related implementation plans for future capabilities,” according to the DND.
Canadian Special Forces are considered to be on par with the world’s best such forces. In recent years, its units have been active in Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Haiti, Jamaica, Chad, Belize, Afghanistan, Jordan, and Iraq.
What American Contractors Do
For the most part, American private military contractors perform many of the same services that their Canadian and other NATO brethren perform. Contractors often have a unique skill set which regular servicemembers do not have, and may never have.
Large numbers of military contractors use keyboards instead of assault rifles. They may do more damage with the former. The need for intelligence has skyrocketed because of the Global War on Terror. Many Iraq veterans say that they felt more like police officers than soldiers while they were in-country. These individuals are trained to fight. Passive intelligence gathering is simply not something that interests many servicemembers.
Many servicemembers lack the skill set, as well as the motivation, to gather intelligence. There is a saying that military institutions in the United States are adept at training soldiers for the current war, but not so good at preparing them for the next war. For whatever reason, the Department of Defense has apparently delegated this task to private contractors. These companies are willing and able to step into the gap.
Many counterterrorism activities are directly related to electronic intelligence like drone surveillance. As cyberwarfare becomes more advanced, there is a need for technicians who operate on the razor’s edge. There are lots of technical specialists in the armed forces, but very few “hackers.” Sometimes, a hacker is the only person who can do the job right.
Contractors serve in hangars as well as in offices. As drones and other aircraft become more and more advanced, there are fewer mechanics that have experience with these machines. The private sector is usually much more adaptable than the public sector. After all, in a competitive environment, such an attitude is necessary for survival.
Where American Contractors Go
Much like Canadian special forces and private military contractors, American private military contractors serve in various places and fill various roles. They do these jobs for a lower cost than regular servicememebers. Furthermore, the use of contractors gives American commanders deniability. These individuals do not count in the troop census, so the American military presence seems more modest than it really is. That plays well both at home and abroad.
No one knows for sure how many contractors there are and where they are deployed. Here are a few places where the DoD often uses contractors in large numbers:
- Afghanistan: For the last several years, the number of contractors in Afghanistan has consistently outstripped the number of regular servicememebers. Moreover, President Trump may still be considering a proposal to completely privatize this conflict.
- Iraq: As combat operations finally begin to wind down in this war-torn country, rebuilding takes center stage. Contractors provide vital services in terms of planning projects and supervising the work. Other groups of armed contractors often provide security at these worksites.
- Haiti: Close to a decade after a devastating 2010 earthquake, this tiny island nation still struggles to recover. Two centuries of perpetual poverty and despotic rule have hampered progress. So, American private military contractors are on hand both to help distribute aid and provide security. These are jobs that regular servicemembers avoid. Haiti is far from an island paradise, so it is also a place to avoid.
- Diego Garcia: This tiny speck in the vast Indian Ocean is the dictionary definition of “isolated area.” Almost everything, and everyone, comes and goes via ship or aircraft. So, there is a pressing need for longshoremen and other such workers.
Large numbers of contractors are also present in Cuba, Guam, Iraq, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Individuals serving in these areas face the same dangers that servicemembers face, regardless of uniform style or job description. In 1941, Congress enacted the Defense Base Act to provide money to these individuals when they are injured overseas. There are two basic requirements:
- War Zone: Almost every country in the world is a “war zone” for DBA purposes. If the country has even one American military installation, it is a combat zone for injury compensation reasons.
- Nexus: The victim need not suffer an injury while on the clock or on the base. If the injury has any connection to the person’s reason for being in-country, the DBA provides compensation.
- Government Contract: Money is not just available for DoD private military contractors. Individuals who work with the State Department, CIA, or other government entities are also eligible. In some cases, contractors who work for certain sympathetic foreign governments may also be eligible for compensation.
The victim need not be a U.S. national. Contractors employ many foreign nationals as interpreters and in other roles. These individuals are eligible for DBA compensation, in most cases.
To learn more about the money available, reach out to Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A.