When I first started working to improve management and oversight of Private Security Contractors (PSCs) in 2004, observers described Iraq as a Wild West – a place where PSCs could shoot up buildings and people without any law enforcement in sight.  Indeed, between 2004 and 2007, there were numerous incidents in which rogue contractors attacked innocent civilians without any repercussion.  The infamous 2007 incident in which Blackwater contractors killed 17 civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square was the shocking coda to this era.

After much pressure from Congress and the American and Iraqi publics, the Defense and State Departments have made significant and laudable progress in establishing a regime to effectively regulate and oversee PSCs in Iraq.  Though these departments may have been slow to recognize the challenges of managing PSCs in a complex, chaotic security environment, I strongly commend the measures they have taken in the last two years.  Yet, while our government’s efforts have evolved, the operations of security contractors continue to evolve as well.

As pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia have surged, private vessels have increasingly sought protection from security contractors.  As the U.S. presence surges in Afghanistan, experts expect the presence of security contractors to surge as well.  And, as we struggle to confront genocide in Darfur, many have suggested using private contractors in place of U.S. or international troops.  It is critical that we have a regulatory regime in place to effectively manage and oversee security contractors now and in the future – whether in Afghanistan, Sudan, or on the high seas – and that’s why I recently reintroduced my Transparency and Accountability in Security Contracting Act  (H.R. 2177).

My legislation would:

  • require PSCs to report information on the number of personnel they are employing, their training protocols, and their activities;

  • establish a database to monitor security contracts and disbar contractor personnel charged with misconduct;

  • require rules of engagement, equipment guidance, and regulations establishing clear lines of communication between PSCs and the military; and

  • direct the Secretary of State to work toward an international framework regulating security contracting.

These proposals would set forth a comprehensive and constructive approach that will increase transparency, ensure accountability, improve coordination, and enable better oversight without unnecessarily punishing contractors.  It would build upon the government’s progress in Iraq, and ensure that the hard lessons of that conflict are not repeated in the future.