Private military company

Private military company

A private military company (PMC) provides specialized expertise or services of a military nature, sometimes called or classified as mercenary ("soldiers for hire"). [cite journal|journal=Foreign Affairs|url=|title=Outsourcing War|author=Peter W. Singer|date=2005-03-01] Such companies are equally known as "Private Security Contractors" ("PSCs"), "Private Military Corporations", "Private Military Firms", "Military Service Providers", and generally as the "Private Military Industry".

The services and expertise cover those typically found in governmental military or police forces, but most often on a smaller scale. While PMCs often provide services to train or supplement official armed forces in service of governments, they are also employed by private firms. However, contractors who use offensive force in a war zone could be considered unlawful combatants, thereby referring to the "concept" being implicitly mentioned in the Geneva Convention and explicitly specified by the Military Commissions Act. [cite web
title=America's own unlawful combatants?
first=Julian E.
publisher=Los Angeles Times

Private military companies supply bodyguards for the Afghan president and pilot armed reconnaissance planes and helicopter gunships to destroy Marijuana crops in Colombia. [cite web
title=COLOMBIA-ECUADOR: Coca Spraying Makes for Toxic Relations
] " [ Private Security Transnational Enterprises in Colombia] " José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers' Collective February, 2008.] They are licensed by the State Department, they are contracting with foreign governments, training soldiers and reorganizing militaries in Nigeria, Bulgaria, Taiwan, and Equatorial Guinea. The PMC industry is now worth over $100 billion a year.cite news|last=Yeoman|first=Barry|title=Soldiers of Good Fortune|publisher=Mother Jones|date=2003-06-01|url=|accessdate=2007-05-08]

General terms

PMCs are also known as "security contractors", although this term usually refers to individuals employed or contracted by PMCs. Services are mainly rendered for other business corporations, international and non-governmental organizations, and state forces.

Private military companies are sometimes grouped into the general category of defense contractors. However, most defense contractors supply specialized hardware and perhaps also personnel to support and service that hardware, whereas PMCs supply personnel with specialized operational and tactical skills, which often include combat experience.

The 1949 Third Geneva Convention (GCIII) does not recognize the difference between defense contractors and PMCs; it defines a category called "supply contractors". If the supply contractor has been issued with a valid identity card from the armed forces which they accompany, they are entitled to be treated as prisoners of war upon capture (GCIII Article 4.1.4). If, however, the contractor engages in combat, he/she can be classified as a mercenary by the captors under the 1977 "Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions" (Protocol I) Article 47.c, unless falling under an exemption to this clause in Article 47. If captured contractors are found to be mercenaries, they are unlawful combatants and lose the right to prisoner of war status. Protocol I was not ratified by the United States because, among other issues, it does not require "Freedom Fighters" to obey the convention in order to be granted its protections.

United States

The United States State Department employs several companies to provide support in danger zones that would be difficult for conventional U.S. forces. The military employs many of them as guards to high ranking U.S. government officials in high risk areas all around the world. The term most often refers to the two dozen U.S. firms that provide services for the Pentagon and indirectly assist in overseas theaters of operation. Some contractors have served in advisory roles that help train local militaries to fight more effectively instead of intervening directly. Much of the peacekeeper training the United States provides to African militaries is done by private firms, and with the increasing absence of Western military support to international peace operations, the private sector is commonly utilized to provide services to peace and stability operations from Haiti to Darfur.

The Center for Public Integrity reported that since 1994, the Defense Department entered into 3,601 contracts worth $300 billion with 12 U.S. based PMCs. Some view this as an inevitable cost cutting measure and responsible privatization of critical aspects of a military. However, many feel this is a troubling trend, since these private companies are not directly accountable to a legislative body and may cost more than providing the same functions within the military. Seventeen of the nation's leading private military firms have contributed $12.4 million in congressional and presidential campaigns since 1999.

Another issue of concern has been the recent high-profile operation of various PMCs within the United States, specifically during the initial response after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Supporters are quick to point out the stabilizing influence that the operators of these companies put into place in the first few days provided, whereas detractors have levied claims of abuse and unlawful activities. Neither side has provided much proof to back their claims, however, beyond anecdotal evidence.

Domestic operations are generally under the auspice of state or federal agencies such as the Department of Energy or the Department of Homeland Security rather than the Department of Defense. Driven by increasingly greater fears of domestic terror attacks and civil unrest and disruption in the wake of disasters, more conventional security companies are moving into operations arenas that would fall within the definition of a PMC.

U.S. administration policy on PMCs

On December 5, 2005, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld held a lecture dubbed "The Future of Iraq" at Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. [ [ Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Speak at JHU SAIS] , press release December 2, 2005] During a Q&A session afterwards he was asked a question by graduate student Kate Turner regarding PMCs.

Turner: "There are currently thousands of private military contractors in Iraq and you were just speaking of rules of engagement in regards to Iraqi personnel and US personnel. Could you speak to, since the private contractors are operating outside the Uniform Code of Military Justice, can you speak to what law or rules of engagement do govern their behavior and whether there has been any study showing that it is cost effective to have them in Iraq rather than US military personnel. Thank you."

Rumsfeld: "Thank you. It is clearly cost-effective to have contractors for a variety of things that military people need not do, and that for whatever reason other civilians, government people, cannot be deployed to do.There are a lot of contractors, a growing number. They come from our country but they come from all countries, and indeed sometimes the contracts are from our country or another country and they employ people from totally different countries including Iraqis and people from neighboring nations. And there are a lot of them. It's a growing number. Of course we've got to begin with the fact that, as you point out, they're not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. We understand that. There are laws that govern the behavior of Americans in that country. The Department of Justice oversees that.There is an issue that is current as to the extent to which they can or cannot carry weapons, and that's an issue. It's also an issue, of course, with the Iraqis. But if you think about it, Iraq’s a sovereign country. They have their laws and they're going to govern, the UN resolution and the Iraqi laws, as well as U.S. procedures and laws govern behavior in that country depending on who the individual is and what he's doing. But I personally am of the view that there are a lot of things that can be done for a short time basis by contractors that advantage the United States and advantage other countries who also hire contractors, and that any idea that we shouldn't have them I think would be unwise."
[ [ Secretary Rumsfeld's Remarks to the John Hopkins, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies] ]

New U.S. law on PMCs

According to the FY2007 Defense Budget appropriation bill, the text of the UCMJ has been amended to allow for prosecution of military contractors who are deployed in a "declared war or a contingency operation."


Paragraph (10) of section 802(a) of title 10, United States Code (article 2(a) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), is amended by striking `war' and inserting `declared war or a contingency operation'." [ [ Bill Number H.R.5122 for the 109th Congress] ] [ [ H.R. 5122 109th: John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007] ]

Farah Stockman of the "Boston Globe", (7 January 2007) writes: "Previously, the code applied to "persons serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field" only during a war, which US courts interpreted to mean a war declared by Congress. No such declaration was made in the Iraq conflict. Now, Congress has amended the code to apply to persons accompanying an armed force during a "declared war or contingency operation."

But the provision might also have unintended consequences, if the military chooses to use its new power to court-martial civilians. For instance, the language in the law is so broad that it can be interpreted as saying that embedded journalists and contract employees from foreign countries would also be liable under the military code. Other punishable offenses under the code include disobeying an order, disrespecting an officer, and possession of pornography in a combat zone." [cite news|url=|title=Contractors in war zones lose immunity|publisher=The Boston Globe|author=Farah Stockman|date=01-07-2007]

"Shadow Company" is a documentary about the history, origins and current issues with the existence of PMCs - it traces the history long before the Iraq conflict and well into the international scope. The film covers the Executive Outcomes story and also delves into how this phenomenon in warfare has affected the entertainment and gaming industries. It is the only film that is endorsed by both Amnesty Int and employees of Blackwater as a fair and balanced portrayal of the subject matter. The film's creator/director, Nick Bicanic, was invited to testify in Senate on Sept. 21, 2007 on the subject of PMCs in relation to the incident in Iraq involving Blackwater.

The International Peace Operations Association

The International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) is U.S. trade organization for private military companies, with membership including Blackwater USA, Defensecurity, ArmorGroup International PLC, Pacific Architects and Engineers, Hart Security and MPRI. The IPOA was founded by former academic Doug Brooks in April 2001 and now has its own in-house journal, "The Journal of International Peace Operations". [ [ Journal of International Peace Operations] ] Blackwater USA withdrew from the IPOA in October 2007. [ [ IPOA Statement Regarding the Membership Status of Blackwater USA] ]


In light of the above issues, some commentators have argued that there has been a recent exodus from many special forces across the globe towards these private military corporations. The British Special Air Service [ [ Crisis as SAS men quit for lucrative Iraq jobs] , The Daily Telegraph article dated 15/02/2005] [ [ Soldiers to be allowed a year off to go to Iraq to earn £500 a day as guards] , The Daily Telegraph article dated 23/05/2004] , the American Special Forces [ [ $150,000 incentive to stay in US elite forces] , The Daily Telegraph article dated 07/02/2005] and the Canadian Joint Task Force 2 [ [ Special forces get pay raise] , National Post article dated August 26, 2006] have allegedly been severely affected.

PMC activities in Iraq

Currently in Iraq there are thought to be at least 100,000 contractors working directly for the United States Department of Defense which is a tenfold increase in the use of private contractors for military operations since the Persian Gulf War, just over a decade earlier. [cite news|url=|title=Census Counts 100,000 Contractors in Iraq|publisher=Washington Post|last=Merle|first=Renae|date=2006-12-05] The prevalence of PMCs has led to the foundation of trade group the Private Security Company Association of Iraq. In Iraq, the issue of accountability, especially in the case of contractors carrying weapons is a sensitive one. Iraqi laws do not hold over contractors. Just before leaving office as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer signed Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 where it is stated that:

Contractors shall not be subject to Iraqi laws or regulations in matters relating to theterms and conditions of their Contracts, including licensing and registeringemployees, businesses and corporations; provided, however, that Contractors shallcomply with such applicable licensing and registration laws and regulations ifengaging in business or transactions in Iraq other than Contracts. Notwithstandingany provisions in this Order, Private Security Companies and their employeesoperating in Iraq must comply with all CPA Orders, Regulations, Memoranda, andany implementing instructions or regulations governing the existence and activitiesof Private Security Companies in Iraq, including registration and licensing ofweapons and firearms. [cite web|url=|title=Coalition Provisional Authority Order 17 (revised)|format=PDF]

PMCs supply essential support to U.S. military bases throughout the Persian Gulf, from operating mess halls to providing security. They supply armed guards at a U.S. Army base in Qatar, and they use live ammunition to train soldiers at Camp Doha in Kuwait. They maintain an array of weapons systems vital to an invasion of Iraq. They also provide bodyguards for VIPs, guard installations, and escort supply convoys from Kuwait. All these resources are called upon constantly due to the war in Iraq.

Events involving PMCs in Iraq

* Employees of private military company CACI and Titan Corp. were involved in the Iraq Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2003, and 2004. The U.S. Army "found that contractors were involved in 36 percent of the [Abu Ghraib] proven incidents and identified 6 employees as individually culpable", P. W. Singer (March/April 2005) "Outsourcing War". Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations. New York City, NY] although none have faced prosecution unlike US military personnel.
* On March 31, 2004, four American private contractors belonging to the company Blackwater USA were killed by citizens of Fallujah as they drove through the town. They were dragged from their car in one of the most violent attacks on U.S. citizens in the conflict. Following the attack, an angry mob mutilated and burned the bodies, dragging them through the streets before they were hung on a bridge. ("See also": 31 March 2004 Fallujah ambush, Operation Vigilant Resolve)
* On March 28, 2005, 16 American contractors and three Iraqi aides from Zapata Engineering, under contract to the US Army Corps of Engineers to manage an ammunition storage depot, were detained following two incidents in which they allegedly fired upon U.S. Marine checkpoint. While later released, the civilian contractors have levied complaints of mistreatment against the Marines who detained them.
* On June 5, 2005, Colonel Theodore S. Westhusing committed suicide, after writing a report exonerating US Investigations Services of allegations of fraud, waste and abuse he received in an anonymous letter in May.
* On October 27, 2005, a "trophy" video, complete with post-production Elvis music, appearing to show private military contractors in Baghdad shooting Iraqi civilians sparked two investigations after it was posted on the Internet. [ [ A movieclip containing the behavior of alleged Aegis Defence Services driving in Iraq] ] [ [ 'Trophy' video exposes private security contractors shooting up Iraqi drivers] , Daily Telegraph article from 26/11/2005.] [ [ Discussion on a blog about Aegis trophy video] ] The video has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services. According to the posters, the man who is seen shooting vehicles on this video in Iraq was a South African employee of Aegis Victory team named Danny Heydenreycher. He served in the British military for six years. After the incident the regional director for Victory ROC tried to fire Heydenreycher, but the team threatened to resign if he did. As of December 2005, Aegis is conducting a formal inquiry into the issue, although some concerns on its impartiality have been raised.
* On September 17, 2007, the Iraqi government announced that it was revoking the license of the American security firm Blackwater USA over the firm's involvement in the deaths of eight civilians in a firefight that followed a car bomb explosion near a State Department motorcade. Blackwater is currently one of the most high-profile firms operating in Iraq, with around 1,000 employees as well as a fleet of helicopters in the country. Whether the group may be legally prosecuted is still a matter of debate. [ [ Blackwater license being revoked in Iraq] ]

Legal position

Two days before he left Iraq, L. Paul Bremer signed "Order 17" [] giving all Americans associated with the CPA and the American government immunity from Iraqi law.cite news |first=Michael |last=Hirch |coauthors= |title=Blackwater and the Bush Legacy |date=2007-09-20 |publisher= |url= |work=Newsweek |pages=2 |accessdate=2007-09-23 |language=] . A July 2007 report from the American Congressional Research Service indicates that the Iraqi government still has no authority over private security firms contracted by the U.S. government.cite news |first= |last= |coauthors= |title=Blackwater staff face charges |date=2007-09-23 |publisher= |url= | |pages= |accessdate=2007-09-23 |language=]

PMC activities elsewhere

* In 1994 and 1995 South African based PMC Executive Outcomes was involved in two military actions in Africa. In the first conflict, EO fought on the behalf of the Angolan government against UNITA after a UN brokered peace settlement broke down. In the second action EO was tasked with containing a guerrilla movement in Sierra Leone called the Revolutionary United Front. Both missions were hailed as "highly successful" with the personnel from the firm training 4-5 thousand combat personnel for the Angolan government and retaking control of the diamond fields and forming a negotiated peace in Sierra Leone. Again, in both situations, they are credited with rescuing a legitimate government from de-stabilizing, rebel forces. [citation needed]
* In 1999, an incident involving DynCorp in Bosnia was followed by a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) lawsuit was filed against DynCorp employees stationed in Bosnia, which alleged that: "employees and supervisors from DynCorp were engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior and were illegally purchasing women, weapons, forged passports and participating in other immoral acts."
* 2001, Antonio Marrapese [] CEO Defensecurity [] , been involved in the Iran-Contra scandal
* On April 5, 2005, Jamie Smith, CEO of SCG International Risk announced the expansion of services from the traditional roles of PMCs of protection and intelligence to military aviation support. [ SCG International Air] would provide air support, medevac (medical evacuation), rotary and fixed-wing transportation, heavy-lift cargo, armed escort and executive air travel to "any location on earth." This marks a unique addition and expansion of services to rival the capabilities of some country's armies and air forces.
* On March 27, 2006, J. Cofer Black, vice chairman of Blackwater USA announced to attendees of a special operations exhibition in Jordan that his company could now provide a brigade-size force for low intensity conflicts. According to Black, "There is clear potential to conduct security operations at a fraction of the cost of NATO operations". [ [ U.S. firm offers 'private armies' for low-intensity conflicts] , WorldTribune article from March 29, 2006]
* In mid-May 2006, police in the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrested 32 alleged mercenaries of different nationalities; 19 South Africans, 10 Nigerians and three Americans. Half of them worked for a South African company named Omega Security Solutions and the Americans for AQMI Strategy Corp. The men were accused of plotting to overthrow the government but charges weren't pressed. The men were deported to their home countries. [ [ Congo Holding 3 Americans in Alleged Coup Plot] , Washington Post article from May 25, 2006] [ [ Congo Deports Nearly 3 Dozen Foreigners] , Washington Post article from May 29, 2006.]
* In 2006, a U.S. congressional report listed a number of PMCs and other enterprises that have signed contracts to carry out anti-narcotics operations and related activities as part of Plan Colombia. DynCorp was among those contracted by the State Department, while others signed contracts with the Defense Department. Other companies from different countries, including Israel, have also signed contracts with the Colombian Defense Ministry to carry out security or military activities.

List of PMCs

U.S. companies

U.K. companies

* Control Risks Group Provider of security and armed guards for British Embassies and Consulates.
* Erinys International - joint South Africa-Britain
* Sandline International (ceased operations on April 16, 2004)
* Humanitarian Security Solutions - British-American


*Executive Outcomes, South Africa (ceased operations on January 1, 1999)
*Omega Group - Norway
*Unity Resources Group, Australia, Based in Dubai - Special Forces veterans from Australia, the US, New Zealand and Great Britain - as well as former law enforcement officers from those countries.

In popular culture

Video games

PMCs have been featured in many games including ' (although they perform the role of organized mercenaries), the Descent video game series, the "Soldier of Fortune" series, the "Jagged Alliance" series, ', ', "Haze", ', the "Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell" series, "Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.", "Starfox" series (the Starfox and/or Starwolf team might be considered PMCs), "" and "Army of Two".

Film and television

PMCs are featured on the television shows "The Unit", Law & Order, the TV series "Kidnapped", "Jericho", 24, The State Within, and the anime series "Macross Frontier".

In movie "Proof of Life", Russell Crowe plays a former SAS operator works for a British PMC called Lothan Risk. The movie "Blood Diamond" features a PMC contracted to fight in Sierra Leone.

The 2007 movie Shooter portrays a PMC and its employed personnel as the primary antagonists.

In the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam 00, the European fictional country of Moralia's economy is mainly supported by a PMC.

In the series "Ultimate Force" series 1, episode 6 Ross Kemp plays an SAS soldier who gets 'kicked out' of the regiment for disobedience. Henno (Kemp) goes to a private military contractors for work. Also in series 2, episode 6 Henno ensues the help of a private military contractor to help find his CO.

In the CBS television series Jericho, The Private security contractor knows as Ravenwood, (Part of Jennings And Rall) wreaks havoc on their town.


In Lee Child's thriller "The Hard Way", the novel's hero Jack Reacher is hired by and subsequently brings down a PMC which has been involved in a number of illegal and unethical operations.

"Outsourced", by Raelynn Hillhouse centers around the "mercenary for hire" theme, involving the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon.


Academic publications

* "The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security", by Deborah D. Avant, George Washington University, August 2005. ISBN 0-521-61535-6

* "Armies Without States: The Privatization of Security", by Robert Mandel, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002.

* "Private Armies and Military Intervention", David Shearer, April 1998. ISBN 0-19-829440-9

* "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry", Peter W. Singer, Cornell University Press, March 2004. ISBN 0-8014-8915-6

*Brillstein, Arik: "Antiterrorsystem." Engel Publishing 2005 - ISBN 3938547006
* [ "Privatising Security: Law, Practice and Governance of Private Military and Security Companies"] by Fred Schreier and Marina Caparini, DCAF Occasional Paper 6, The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, March 2005.

* "Soldiers of Misfortune – Is the Demise of National Armies a Core Contributing Factor in the Rise of Private Security Companies?" by Maninger, Stephan in Kümmel, Gerhard and Jäger, Thomas (Hrsg.) "Private Security and Military Companies: Chances, Problems, Pitfalls and Prospects", VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden, 2007. ISBN 978-3-531-149011

Non-academic publications

* "Making A Killing", James Ashcroft. Virgin Books. ISBN 1-85227-311-9

* "Licensed to Kill : Privatizing the War on Terror", Robert Young Pelton ISBN 1-4000-9781-9

* "Three Worlds Gone Mad: Dangerous Journeys through the War Zones of Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific", Robert Young Pelton, August 2006. ISBN 1-59228-100-1

* "An Unorthodox Soldier", Tim Spicer, September 2000. ISBN 1-84018-349-7

* "Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army", Jeremy Scahill, Nation Books. February 2007. ISBN-13 978-1560259794

ee also

* Command responsibility
* Jus in bello
* Private defense agency
* Mercenaries
* UN Mercenary Convention
* Unlawful combatant#Mercenaries
* Arms trade
* ""
* Blackwater Watch
* ""
* Personal Security Detachment


External links

* [ Shadow Company] award winning documentary on PMCs with footage of Blackwater, 2007
* [ Riding Shotgun in Baghdad with Blackwater's Security Detail] Robert Young Pelton's article in Popular Mechanics about his month spent with Blackwater running Route Irish between the Green Zone and Baghdad International Airport.
* " [ Making a Killing: The Business of War] ", Center for Public Integrity, October 2002.
* " [ The Private Military Industry and Iraq : What Have We Learned and Where To Next?] ", DCAF Policy Paper 6, 2005
* [,-Blackwater-and-Pr.html The Strategic Contractor - op-ed 19 September 2007 by The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies]
* by P.W. Singer, Brookings Institution Policy Paper No. 4, September 2007
* U.S. Army Sustainment Command. " [ A site to accumulate and offer materials helpful to the resolution of legal issues arising from the in-theater use of contractor support to military operations] .
* The UK Foreign Affairs Committee agreed to the following [ (Ninth) Report: On Private Military Companies] on 23 July 2002.

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