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Paper should focus on the semi-causal and autonomous forces that underpin the transformation in military operations to a reliance upon private security contractors/non-traditional military personnel. Additionally, it should reference the tenure of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and his introduction of supply chain efficiencies as well as the similar transformation undertaken by Donald Rumsfeld to streamline operations through organizational change and reliance on the private sector to fill critical capabilities (i.e. intelligence). Please include a reference to the distinction between traditional warfare and security/policing operations and the blurring of such lines generated by a modern security environment.


The Privatization of Warfare and Maximizing Profit Through Security


Introduction. 2

Transformation in Military Operations: Reliance upon Private Security Contractors and Non-Traditional Military Personnel 3

The Blurred Line Between Traditional Warfare and Contemporary Security/Military/Policing Operations. 3

The Rise of Private Military Corporations (PMCs) in the Post-Cold War Era. 4

Transformation During Tenure of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (1961-1968). 7

Transformation During Donald Rumsfeld’s Tenure as Secretary of Defense (2001-2006). 9

Conclusion. 11

References. 12


A major development in America’s military operations has been the increased role of private military and security companies. This trend has been triggered many factors, including the dynamics of the war against terror and the need for non-commercial actors to play a crucial role in dealing with non-state actors that are increasingly joining hands with global terror networks. For the most part, private entities are being contracted to perform functions such as armed security, logistical support, security sector reform, and intelligence. During the tenure of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, America’s military operations underwent the most radical change in terms of allowing private security contractors to play a greater role in the fight against terrorism (Rice, 2013). Consequently, it has become difficult to draw a fine line between security operations and traditional warfare. Other than Rumsfeld, the other semi-casual and autonomous force that greatly contributed to the emergence of this new military environment is Robert McNamara who served as Secretary of Defense between 1961 and 1968 and is best known as a leading force in the “futile war” in Vietnam. McNamara introduced supply chain efficiencies in military operations, creating an ideal platform for Rumsfeld to undertake similar transformation.


Transformation in Military Operations: Reliance upon Private Security Contractors and Non-Traditional Military Personnel

In recent times, a major debate in military circles has revolved around the role of private security contractors in promoting national security. The issue has triggered controversy because it is a new phenomenon whereby the idea of the state as a monopoly in the legitimate use of violence to safeguard national security interests is being challenged. In most cases, focus is on the most recent examples of private security operations undertaken during the war on terror after the September 11 attacks. One observation that is normally neglected is the reality that participation in warfare by private entities has been an integral component of traditional warfare, and only disappeared during the turn of the 20th century. For instance, commercial actors have in the past been used as forces of extraterritorial coercion, for example, as mercenaries. In the post-World War II era, the focus shifted rapidly towards more overt efforts to hire civilian personnel to offer maintenance and logistics to military organizations. America depended heavily on this personnel during the Vietnam and Korean wars as well as in Kosovo and Bosnia. So, the rise of military privatization may be traced back to a series of developments that existed prior to the current war on terror, including shrinking military budgets, the rise of the neoliberal word order, and the pressing need for technological expertise that is difficult to obtain within the ranks (Jameson, 2016).

The Blurred Line Between Traditional Warfare and Contemporary Security/Military/Policing Operations

            Owing to the participation of private security contractors in warfare, it has become difficult to distinguish between traditional warfare and policing/security operations in the present era. One of the concerns raised regarding the use of private entities to protect commercial activities and reconstruction efforts both during and after a war is that the move blurs the line between legitimate military targets and civilian ones. A contentious issue tends to arise in regards to the implications of using privatizing the military. In essence, their use in the battlefront triggers dilemmas relating to their legal status, vested interests, economic exploitation, accountability, human rights problems, transparency, and civil-military relations. One may argue that these contractors tend to do little by way of promoting civilian security. They operate based on an approach whereby focus is on providing protection to sites and individuals as opposed to a civilian constabulary. On the other hand, a common counterclaim being used to promote their existence is they operate based primarily on a military philosophy, that they are in essence military entities that are responsible for responding to military emergencies. This lack of clarity brings about a contradictions, whereby private contractors are technically identified as civilians but are responsible for dealing with security issues and to operate based on a military philosophy.

The Rise of Private Military Corporations (PMCs) in the Post-Cold War Era

A number of factors contributed to the increased reliance on PMCs not just in America but also across the world, one of them being an increase in intra-state and regional conflict resulting in failed states incapable of fielding sufficient armed forces to promote and maintain internal order. Moreover, with the coming to an end of bipolar confrontation, great-power interest in conflict zones diminished. At the same, there was increased emphasis on efficiency in the military as opposed to the number of troops being deployed. In the United States, the move towards privatization of the military has been heavily influence by increased focus on a smaller, more efficient force. It is for this reason that entities such as the Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) were established.

Privatization in the Balkans: during conflict in the Balkans, the U.S. military outsourced the expertise of private security contractors for several reasons, one of them being that it did not want to perform those roles itself for political reasons. In these areas, the U.S. Department of Defense has depended heavily on MPRI for private military contractor services. Some of the services that the company provides include training and education, equipment fielding support, war-gaming support, force protection, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, and consequence management. In 1994, MPRI signed a contract with the U.S. Department to provide US border monitors to report on the sanctions imposed on Serbia.

The United Nations has in the past emphasized the need for the U.S. to consider monitoring and supervising private military contractors more closely to ensure that Geneva Conventions do not occur. There are a number of measures that could be taken to address this concern, including day-to-day supervision of the activities of the PMCs and empowerment of on-scene contracting officers to enable them to withhold payment or even terminate contracts for PMCs that violate government regulations. An even more plausible suggestions inviting UN observers to report on the activities of these contractors to enhance transparency and allay any ethical concerns that are being expressed by the international community.

Regarding legal issues, the U.S. Department of Defense has over the years provided clear guidelines on the legal framework within which it contracts private security companies. One of the issues it has had to confront is the element of the country’s neutrality laws that prohibit Americans from working in armed conflicts with parties that are at peace with the United States. These laws have been used in the past to call to question the actions of various PMCs. In this case, the question to be addressed is whether responsibility for outcomes should be placed on the private company itself or the contracting country. An even more important policy issue is the role of presidential prerogatives and congressional powers in regulating commerce and making war. Under current arms control laws, all firms involved in the training of military forces in foreign states are required to register and pay a requisite fee. On the other hand, the U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to declare war (Bratton, 2015). A major cause for concern in relation to these two regulatory provisions is that in regards to some private military contractors such as MPRI, the president can circumvent the resolutions of Congress by interfering with the manner in which the control mechanism is applied.


Nevertheless, few would question the need for the U.S. military to contract private military companies considering the strategic objectives it needs to achieve in today’s world. The strategic environment in which the U.S. military operates puts a lot of strain on its capabilities, a case in point being the increased role of non-state actors in terrorism. Moreover, the evolving role of PMCs has continued to revolve around the ongoing struggle by militaries around the world to strike a balance between force structure, strategy, and resources. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001, more demands were imposed on the U.S. military forces as part of an aggressive defense strategy aimed at defeating the threat of terrorism across the world. Since no additional resources were allocated to the U.S. military to reflect these new developments, the Department of Defense under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld had to redouble its efforts towards risk mitigation using alternative approaches, one of them being the increased reliance on PMCs. It is against this backdrop that the boundary between traditional warfare and contemporary security operations continues to be blurred.

Transformation During Tenure of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (1961-1968)

            Before one even begins to look at the various ways in which Donald Rumsfeld contributed to the emergence of current security environment characterized by a more overt role of private military contractors, it is imperative to examine first and foremost the role played by other Secretaries of Defense before him, one of them being Robert McNamara. McNamara served the U.S. as Secretary of Defense between 1961 and 1968 (Rice, 2013). During this time, he is widely credited with introducing supply chain efficiencies in military operations that provided the groundwork for the participation of PMCs in military contracting (Rice, 2013).

            Soon after his swearing in as Secretary of Defense, McNamara adopted the posture of an “activist” secretary of defense, overseeing aspects of both policy and implementation in a rather revolutionary manner (Kinnard, 2015). For instance, he changed the one-to-two-year planning cycles in the department’s management to five-year planning cycles (Korb, 1977). Moreover, he developed deployments and force levels for the military as a whole rather than as single entities. All these changes were introduced within a framework, derived from industrial program budgeting techniques, called the Planning-Programming-Budgeting System (PPBS) whose core areas of focus included enhancing capabilities in terms of weapons systems, manpower, sea, land, and air forces in order to enhance strategic planning.

            The changes also encompassed a parallel cost reduction program whose core tenets included balanced readiness, lowest sound price, and reduction of operating costs through standardization and integration (Enthoven & Smith, 2005). These aspects of cost reduction applied across the three services (sea, land and air forces) that were hitherto used to a considerable degree of autonomy in procurement. He also spearheaded the establishment of the Defense Supply Agency that was tasked with procuring and storing the supplies to be used by all the three services. Along the same principle, McNamara established the Defense Intelligence Agency whose role was to centralize intelligence across the Department. Using the principle of quantification, McNamara was able to follow up on cost-effectiveness analysis and to assess the outcomes obtained for purposes of comparison with the goals of the Five-Year Defense Plan (Korb, 1977). At the same time, the Department of Defense put in place a system for studying the problem of balance of payments and an investigation into ways of reducing excessive foreign currency outflows through military procurement. The resulting supply chain efficiencies acted as a foundation for evaluating military projects, with the primary requirement being that they had to be beneficial to all the branches of the U.S. military.

            Most of the changes that McNamara introduced were implemented within the context of the Vietnam War (McNamara, Blight, Brigham & Biersteker, 2007). For instance, improvements were made to the existing distribution systems to enhance their adequacy for sustaining the ongoing influx of U.S. forces. Aware of these challenges, the U.S. Department of Defense authorized the improvisation of logistics support (Dixon, 2012). For example, it had to expedite the establishment of major logistical support structures with priority being on areas that were considered most insecure. At the same time, distribution networks were created in areas where control by U.S. was yet to be established and the risk of hostile fire was considerably high. However, many lessons on the need to enhance the military supply chain were learned. For instance, the commanders overseeing the war noted that the first step in the deployment of combat forces should be the setting of logistical conditions on the battleground followed by the flowing in of combat forces in an environment where the theater is prepared to receive them.

            The need for supply chain efficiencies arose within the context of an unfolding war that proved to be the most expensive one America had fought in so far in terms of the relative number of enemy forces killed (Rice, 2013). The U.S. had to produce and ship the best material and equipment available to support its troops (Rice, 2013). The resulting surge in supplies led to the development of a logistical support system in a manner that the logistics doctrine of the Army had not intended (Dixon, 2012). Consumption rates were difficult to predict, leading to an overly-expensive approach to supply chain operations whereby materials were provided in large quantities, sometimes in wrong locations, miles away from the combat troops who needed them most (Dixon, 2012). Despite these shortcomings, great successes occurred in terms of influx of supplies and the setting up of a strong foundation for automation, strategies for executing supply-chain adjustments to reduce unneeded supplies, and most importantly, the contracting of private military contractors to bring in the much needed industrial supply management techniques into the Department of Defense.

Transformation During Donald Rumsfeld’s Tenure as Secretary of Defense (2001-2006)

            Like Robert McNamara, Donald Rumsfeld joined the Department of Defense in 2001 on a platform of change (Rice, 2013). During his presidential campaign in 2000, George Bush had stated his intention to transform the Cold-War-era-style American military into a leaner, more agile force capable of coping within the 21st-century challenges (Rice, R2013). Using his skills in business, Rumsfeld endeavored to streamline operations in the military by bringing about organizational change (Brook & Candreva, 2007). His vision was that of transforming the military into one characterized by small size, high technology, computer networking, and precision (O’hanlon, M2002). This vision put him at odds with senior service chiefs whose numbers he sought to cut by 50 percent (Rice, 2013). The 9/11 attacks provided an ideal platform for Rumsfeld to actualize his vision; the military attacks that America launched in Afghanistan were characterized by the use of an indigenous ground force supported by precision air strikes, a combination that yielded an apparent decisive victory (Rice, 2013).

            Rumsfeld achieved organizational efficiency mainly by promoting increased reliance on the private sector to leverage critical capabilities, including intelligence (Kaplan, 2008). Though the military privatization policy had gained prominence during the 1980s, the process of radically altering the bureaucratic pillars through which the military traditionally operated by introducing reforms founded on market-based principles were accelerated during the first years of the Bush administration (Rice, 2013). The frequent public statements that Donald Rumsfeld made acted as a precursor to massive outsourcing at the Pentagon (Rice, 2013). The idea behind this “roll-back” was to embrace the private sector logic in the operations of the U.S. military (Ettinger, 2011). In an address to Pentagon in 2001 Rumsfeld warned that bureaucracy was acting as a stumbling block to U.S. military operations and it was therefore a threat to national security (Rice, 2013). The way forward, he said, was the adoption of an entrepreneurial approach characterized by proactivity as opposed to reactivity (Rice, 2013). His call for a venture-capitalistic approach provided a reference point for the transformative agenda that continues to be rolled out even today.

            The element of privatization adopted aggressively was particularly in the area of intelligence, whereby private actors were increasingly depended on for electronic surveillance, interrogation, rendition, and analysis (Chesterman, 2008). Consequently, concerns were raised regarding differences between private-sector and public-sector employees in terms of incentives in addition to uncertainty regarding which functions ought to be considered “inherently governmental” and thus not warranting of delegation to commercial entities (Chesterman, 2008). The participation of private companies in high-level decisions raised troubling questions arising from the argument that such decisions should not be removed from democratically accountable structures (Bruneau, 2011). At the heart of these military privatization efforts, though, is the pervasive sense of unease about the blurred line between military and civilian operations and the potential conflict between private-companies profit motive and efforts by officials at the Department of Defense to promote public interest.



Conclusively, the U.S. military has undergone massive transformation since the 1960s when the Department of Defense was under the leadership of Robert McNamara, who spearheaded efforts to streamline supply chain operations for all branches of the military during the Vietnam War. More recently, the post-9/11 era has seen the adoption of a more aggressive approach to military privatization. During his tenure as the U.S. Secretary of Defense between 2001 and 2006, Donald Rumsfeld leveraged on the foundation created by McNamara to bring about organizational change centered around large-scale increased reliance on private military corporations (PMCs) to perform various functions such as peacekeeping and fill critical capabilities such as peacekeeping. A number of semi-causal and autonomous forces underpin this transformation. For instance, in an era where terrorism is increasingly being perpetuated by non-state actors, the need for PMCs has become more and more desirable. Moreover, the U.S. Department of Defense has continued to embrace outsourcing of some of its security functions in order to deal with bureaucratic problems while simultaneously seeking to rein in on inefficiency.

Nevertheless, a number of controversies continue to revolve around private contracting in the military, one of them being the blurred line between public- and private-sector goals, incentives, and modes of operation. Despite the successes made during the tenures of Robert McNamara and Donald Rumsfeld during their respective tenures at the U.S. Department of Defense, concerns regarding conflict between public interest and public motive have never gone away. The list of concerns ranges from potential conflicts of interest and increased chances of human rights violations. It is obvious, though that the modern security environment has changed dramatically as a result of the emergence of new security challenges that warrant the adoption of new strategies such as outsourcing of critical capabilities in a manner that sometimes blurs the boundary between security/policing operations and traditional warfare.


Bratton, B. (2015).  Dispute plan to prevent future luxury constitution. London: Stenberg Press.

Brook, D. & Candreva, P. (2007). Business Management Reform in the Department of Defense in Anticipation of Declining Budgets, Public Budgeting & Finance, 27(3), 50–70

Bruneau, T. (2011). Patriots for profit: Contractors and the military in US national security. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Chesterman, S.  (2008). ‘We Can’t Spy … If We Can’t Buy!’: The Privatization of Intelligence and the Limits of Outsourcing ‘Inherently Governmental Functions’. European Journal of International Law, 19(5), 1055-1074.

Dixon, R. (2012). Examining U.S. Army Logistics: Determining Relevance for 21st Century Operations. Fort Leavenworth, KS: School of Advanced Military Studies, United States Army Command and General Staff College.

Enthoven, A. & Smith, K. (2005). How much is enough?: Shaping the defense program, 1961-1969. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

Ettinger, A. (2011). Neoliberalism and the rise of the private military industry. International Journal, 66(3), 743-764.

Jameson, F. (2016). An American Utopia: Dual power and the universal army. New York, Verso.

Kaplan, R. (2008). What Rumsfeld got right. The Atlantic, July/August 2008, 1-9.

Kinnard, D. (2015). The secretary of defense. New York, NY: Heinemann.

Korb, L. (1977). The Budget Process in the Department of Defense, 1947-77: The Strengths and Weaknesses of Three Systems. Public Administration Review, 37(4), 334-346.

McNamara, R., Blight, J., Brigham, R. & Biersteker, T. (2007). Argument without end: In search of answers to the Vietnam tragedy. New York, NY: Public Affairs.

O’hanlon, M. (2002). Rumsfeld’s defense vision. Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 44(2), 103-117.

Rice, R. (2013). McNamara and Rumsfeld: Control and imbalance in civil-military relations. Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College.

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