Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The State Department Army

Yes, the State Department will have an army in Iraq. Don't laugh, that's what we'll have if our military presence in Iraq isn't extended past this year:

U.S. Army helicopter brigade is set to pull out of Baghdad in December, as part of an agreement with the Iraqi government to remove U.S. forces. So the armed helicopters flying over the Iraqi capital next year will have pilots and machine gunners from DynCorp International, a company based in Virginia.

On the ground, it's the same story. American soldiers and Marines will leave. Those replacing them, right down to carrying assault weapons, will come from places with names like Aegis Defence Services and Global Strategies Group — eight companies in all.

Close to 5,000 military contractors will be deployed to provide security for the State Department. The normal size of State Department security is 2,000, the article says, and expanding it permanently doesn't make financial sense.

But the use of contractors will be highly scrutinized given the image of mercenary troops in Iraq. Since these private companies recruit a lot of ex-soldiers, why couldn't the Army and Marine Corps simply second a number of formed infantry or MP companies to the State Department? The British certainly did this in the past. They let officers work for someone else without interrupting their military service even though they are in someone else's uniform. I assume the British still do this, but perhaps not. Opportunities would certainly be far smaller these days. But America could sure use this option, I'd think, under the circumstances.

I'm sure that Congress would have to amend laws to do this, but if the State Department thinks it unwise to expand their organic security apparatus and need a surge of forces for Iraq, why not figure a way that our troops can be loaned to the State Department for 6 month tours?