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Sanders, Schakowsky Push Military Contractor Ban

February 23, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Two liberal Democrats are teaming up to stop the government from hiring private military contractors like Blackwater in war zones.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky [D, IL-9]
and Sen. Bernie Sanders [D, VT] today announced the introduction of the Stop Outsourcing Security Act, which prevents the government from using private firms for security, law enforcement, rescue and intelligence purposes.

However, the act does allow for the use of contractors if the president notifies Congress why the military is incapable of taking on those jobs.

The two Democrats argue that hiring private contractors is an unfair use of tax dollars and that it harms the morale of those in the armed services who are often paid far less to do the same jobs:

High pay for contract workers in war zones both burdens taxpayers and saps military morale, Schakowsky and Sanders said. While some soldiers who risk their lives for their country struggle to support their families, private security company employees are paid two or three times as much, sometimes pocketing as much as $1,000 a day.

They also believe the reckless actions of private security firms like Blackwater, now known as Xe, have given the United States a bad reputation overseas and harm the mission of the military:

Military officers in the field have said contractors operate like “cowboys,” using unnecessary and excessive force uncharacteristic of enlisted soldiers. In 2007, guards working for a firm then known as Blackwater were accused of killing 17 Iraqis, damaging the U.S. mission in Iraq and hurting our reputation around the world. Later that year, a contractor employed by DynCorp International allegedly shot and killed an unarmed taxi driver.

Late last year, photos surfaced of lewd and drunken conduct by workers for ArmorGroup North America, a firm the State Department hired to provide security at the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

Schakowsky and Sanders pushed a similar measure in 2007 that never made it out of the Congress. At the time, the only other co-sponsor of Sanders’s Senate bill was then-senator and presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton. As sectary of state, Clinton is now in charge of many of those private contracts and, as Foreign Policy notes, has softened her position considerably.

You can read the bill here.

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