March 25th, 2010
To anyone who has spent the past 30 years interested in what the government of the United States purchases with it's citizens' money, words like "black budget" and "secret ops" and "waste" have become as innocuous as hotel wallpaper. They also have, for more than a decade become less common in print although we now have a covert culture which has never been stronger. The previous administration managed to severely undermine both it's core principles of superior private sector efficiency and restraint on the public purse with a single, fundamental shift in how we wage war.
The reason for our decreasing familiarity with the details of our own nation's bellicose budgets can be summed up in a single word: contractors. Perhaps your eyes are already starting to glaze over. The word is so commonplace. In it's very commonality lies it's insidiousness. Call me old fashioned, but I hear the word contractor and my first natural mental connection is, well, a plumber or an electrician. To be sure, many of them are just that but I'd wager their billing schemes would land them in prison in a hot minute if practiced here in the States.
It is ironic that the party who has shrieked so loudly during the last 14 months' divisive health care debates with regards to the sanctity of free market principles should bear the largest responsibility for a hootin', hollerin' taxpayer funded boondoggle by farming out the responsibility of American soldiering to their precious private sector. As war profiteers go, these guys would make old Joe Kennedy blush.
The thing is, we also use them as killers. We call trained mercenaries operating outside of both serious congressional oversight or even a middling adherence to the Army Field Manual "contractors."