As if the "normal" costs of the war in Iraq weren't bad enough, comes news that the Pentagon has paid at least $200 million in cost overruns -- and a total of $548 million -- to two British security firms contracted to provide protection to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working on reconstruction projects in Iraq. The two companies signed their original contracts in 2004. Together they now have about 2,000 employees in Iraq, about the size of three military battalions. The Pentagon has said there are some 20,000 private security contractors in Iraq, but some say the number is considerably higher.
A number of war critics complain about contracting out so much of what the military might do in an "ordinary" war (whatever that is) to private companies, but that doesn't bother me philosophically. The alternative just now (besides moving troops from cushy slots in South Korea, Okinawa and Germany, which I would advocate but don't see happening) would probably be draftees. However, the private contracting can get pretty pricey. Some of those guarding the Corps of Engineers are pulling down $15,000 a month!
But did you really expect a government that can't do much of anything efficiently to run a war cost-effectively?