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Schakowsky would ban private security contractors in war zones

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Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont have introduced legislation that would phase out private security contractors in conflict zones.

Schakowsky says the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting found that since 2001 armed private contractors have become the “default option” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She says the hired guns are employed by the United States for sensitive missions including training military and police officers and providing security for foreign dignitaries. Her legislation, called the "Stop Outsourcing Security Act" would outlaw the practice and restore the responsibility of the U.S. military and government to perform such functions.

“Our continued reliance on private security contractors endangers our military, damages our relationships with foreign governments, and undermines our global priorities,” Schakowsky said in a news release.

“Though we have the finest military in the world, we continue to outsource our security to private mercenaries, who answer to a corporation rather than a uniformed commander," she added.

She said the number of such contractors has grown from 22,000 to over 28,000 in just the last year.

Schakowsky and Sanders introduced similar legislation last year which failed to win adoption.

The bill would prohibit the use of private contractors for military, security, law enforcement, intelligence, and armed rescue functions in conflict zones. It would also increase transparency over any remaining contracts by increasing reporting requirements and Congressional oversight.

Agencies with military contractors would have to report the number of contractors employed, disclose the total cost of the contracts, and make public any disciplinary actions against employees.

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.

“The American people have always prided themselves on the strength, conduct, and honor of our United States military.  I therefore find it very disturbing that now, in the midst of two wars and a global struggle against terrorism, we are relying more and more on private security contractors – rather than our own military – to provide for our national defense,” Sanders said.

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