Obama Admin. Protests Loss of Private Contractors

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So according to the Washington Post, the Obama Administration is objecting to a provision in the 2010 defense funding bill that would bar the hiring of outside contractors for purposes of interrogations.

The provision, strongly backed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), describes interrogations as an “inherently governmental function” that “cannot be transferred to contractor personnel.” It would give the Defense Department one year from the bill’s enactment to ensure that the military had the resources to comply with it.

We have seen the egregious consequences of privatization of governmental functions – all one has to do is mention KBR or Halliburton or Blackwater.  But why is the Obama Administration objecting to this provision?

From the article, two explanations:

The White House statement said that in “some limited cases,” contractor skills might be necessary “to obtain critical information” and that the provision “could prevent U.S. Forces from conducting lawful interrogations in the most effective manner.

“You can’t make an artificial distinction between an interrogator and a linguist who is actually going to be the one asking the questions,” an administration official said. “You don’t want to inhibit the ability to extract valuable intelligence that could save lives by not being able to use subject matter experts, linguists or other contract personnel.

Morrell offered a somewhat different explanation, saying that for the Pentagon, “it is first and foremost an issue of resources. We don’t have enough interrogators to do the work we have.”

And why do we need to hire outside contractors to do the job of interpreters, and why don’t we have enough interrogators to do the work?

Could it have something to do with the Pentagon’s firing of 37 Arabic translators (and that’s from 2003) because they were gay?  Could it have something to do with the firing under the Obama Administration of interpreter Dan Choi?

I have to wonder who from the Administration is doing the objecting here.  Is it someone from the DoD?  How many lucrative private contracts are folks still profiting from?  How many deals still being made?

It is daunting to confront the reality that there is no department in our federal government that hasn’t been politicized, debased and corrupted by the Bush Administration.  But the answer to this dilemma is not to continue to privatize work that can and should be done under the strictest of government oversight and without one single thought of monetary profit.

I hope this provision is passed and there is no bogus signing statement in lieu of a veto when it comes to the privatization of our military.


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  1. … the obscene amount of profit these wars have engendered.  It’s time to stop profiting from the suffering of others.

  2. is taking the easy way out. Not putting up a good fight with the Right. There are obvious ways to do this “in-house” but it would take a lot more guts to accomplish than a signing statement.

    “We all think of interrogations as somebody taken back to the facility and questioned. The reality is that people are out on patrol,” and the best person to urgently question a captive during an operation may be a contractor. “You don’t want to limit yourself,” the official said.

    So why can’t they just hire these same people and put them under government regulation and acountability?

    And yes we do want to limit ourselves. My dad always says you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    This is blatantly a caving in to a quest for profit.

    • Edger on July 16, 2009 at 18:29

    It starting to appear that to this administration everything is “limited cases”, but the limits keep expanding…

    But the rhetoric sounds good.

    • Adam on July 16, 2009 at 18:49

    I’m hoping a big chunk of the really awful decisions are being made by holdovers from the Bush Admin. that Obama hasn’t had a chance to name a replacement for yet.

    No way to know which are which. The corporate media is refusing to report that little detail.

    • Inky99 on July 16, 2009 at 22:08

    especially the one right in the  middle:

    • pico on July 17, 2009 at 00:07

    of the privatization of the military: if you have a specialized skill, and they’re willing to pay you for it, there’s no reason to stay in the military unless you’re a sucker for punishment (and have things like values, etc.)  

    This is how it works: you join the military, get your on-the-job training, and stay just long enough to guarantee your benefits; then drop out, hook up with a private contractor who will pay you more for the same skills while you’re still collecting your benefits for having served.  It’s a really sweet deal if you can get it.

    Not only that, but who ultimately pays them?  The same government that was paying them before: it’s just a different way of filtering larger amounts of tax money to the exact same people, minus many of the restrictions that come from being a member of the active service.  

    And because of this, the Obama administration may be right: there may not be enough active servicemembers to meet the demands of what they need, because so many have fled to more lucrative jobs, doing the exact same thing in the exact same place for more money.  But you can’t keep feeding the beast with one hand while pledging to starve it with another.  I understand why they want to keep all their options open, but you don’t give an addict a dime bag while you’re shuffling him off to rehab.

  3. The White House statement said that in “some limited cases,” contractor skills might be necessary “to obtain critical information” and that the provision “could prevent U.S. Forces from conducting (lawful) interrogations in the most effective manner.

    If you strike “lawful” from that quote, it makes more sense.

    Heather, Inky and pico all make great points. They all tie together nicely.

    This is about profits. This is also about having plausible deniability when the law is broken intentionally. This is also about essentially privatizing, or corporatizing, the US military, so that it can be used more freely, without those pesky “national interest” concerns… or those annoying constitutional issues. A privatized military is a military that can act as a freelance entity, in furtherance of corporate goals… which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with National Security.

    Privateers can also be used very effectively against domestic dissenters, since they operate free of any real legal restraint. This is also a part of the program.

    Perhaps President Obama is a dolt who doesn’t get all this. Then again, maybe he does. But none of this is new or controversial in any respect.

    Reading the excuses emanating from the WH, I shudder at their utter shallowness. They really do think we’re stupid.

  4. translators fired by the DoD in the past (8? 9?) years speaks volumes.  Clearly Don’t Ask Don’t Tell failed…and don’t ask me whether it failed b/c the Darth administration wanted it to.  But I’ve been kinda/sorta following that story over the years, and while the DoD whined that it didn’t have enough expert translators, it was firing them as fast as it could.

    Maybe they were all gay.  So what?

    Isn’t it also possible that they were being fired so that the GOP could fork over the jobs to their favorite charity…Blackwater?

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