Sanders: Legislation necessary to reduce dependence on private security

WASHINGTON Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders joined forces with Representative Jan Schakowsky recently to announce legislation that would ultimately force private security contractors out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation, which appears to be a direct reaction to circumstances surrounding American security firm Blackwater, is called the Stop Outsourcing Security (S.O.S.) Act, and if passed it would restore vital military functions to the military. This restoration of function would reduce the reliance on unaccountable private security contractors in war town areas. The Bush administration has made radical and dangerous changes in the structure of our military, and Congress needs to take a very hard look at that. To my mind, it is wrong and unacceptable for companies to operate outside of the chain of command of the United States military in Iraq, said Sanders. I also find it troubling when personnel employed by private contractors are paid far more than soldiers in the U.S. military who are putting their lives on the line every day. Currently, there are approximately 48,000 heavily armed guards working in Iraq through employment by private security contractors. Many of these guards perform sensitive functions that should be handled solely by the U.S. military. These jobs include protecting diplomats, training military and police officers, repairing and maintaining weapons systems, interrogations and intelligence gathering. According to military officers, contractors have operated like cowboys, using unnecessary and sometimes excessive force. Legislation would restore vital military functions to the military and reduce the reliance on private security contractors in the theater of battle. Within six months of enactment, it would require that all diplomatic security in Iraq be undertaken by U.S. government personnel within six months. Security contracts already in existence would be phased out by January 1, 2009.

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