By T.X. Hammes
The Department of Defense is facing the perfect storm—looming budget cuts, continuing engagement in multiple conflicts, and an expanding threat spectrum. Debate already is raging about how to prioritize defense missions and spending, and its conclusions should directly impact how U.S. forces are structured, equipped, and trained. Yet Congress and the administration will be tempted to avoid these tough decisions, and heavy dependence on private security contractors could allow them to do just that.
The precedent for this certainly exists. We sacrificed force structure in 1990s-era budget cuts and then hired record numbers of contractors to serve in the conflict zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of that decision was economic, and planning to use contractors in future conflict zones will reinforce this tendency.