Cracking Down on Contractors

CRACKING DOWN ON CONTRACTORS….Over at Defense Tech, P.W. Singer makes an interesting observation:

Not one contractor of the entire military industry in Iraq has been charged with any crime over the last 3 and a half years, let alone prosecuted or punished. Given the raw numbers of contractors, let alone the incidents we know about, it boggles the mind.

The problem, Singer says, is that contractors are the human equivalent of Guantanamo Bay: they aren’t subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, but prosecutors back in the states aren’t really interested in spending time bringing civilian cases against them. So they fall between the cracks, able to do just about anything without fear of being held to account.

But that’s all about to change:

Amidst all the add-ins, pork spending, and excitement of the budget process, it has now come out that a tiny clause was slipped into the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2007 budget legislation. The one sentence section…[states that the UCMJ] “is amended by striking ‘war’ and inserting ‘declared war or a contingency operation’.” The measure passed without much notice or any debate.

….With the addition of just five words in the law, contractors now can fall under the purview of the military justice system. This means that if contractors violate the rules of engagement in a warzone or commit crimes during a contingency operation like Iraq, they can now be court-martialed.

As Singer says, this change is long overdue. Like it or not, Congress doesn’t formally declare war anymore, and recognizing that contractors should be subject to the UCMJ even in the non-wars we fight nowadays is just common sense. The vast majority of military contractors may be honest and hardworking, but the military needs a fair and consistent way of dealing with the ones who aren’t.