Global Policy Forum

Manchin Proposes More Cuts to Private Military Contractors

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia argues that private military contractors are taking away resources from the US army.  Since 2001, over half of the US military budget was spent on contractors, a military budget larger than the next 15 most expensive military budgets combined.  Each contractor makes around three times as much as a US soldier. Manchin believes that investing in the National Guard, for example, would be a more effective way to use US tax dollars than hiring contractors to do the same work.  But the problem remains: shifting spending from the private to the public sector does nothing to address the US’ hyper-inflated military budget.

By Paul J. Nyden

January 14, 2012

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., thinks the large sums of money going to private military contractors is "sucking" the military dry and more needs to be cut to ensure soldiers are not being discriminated against.

"To me, nothing is more important than making sure that our service members have the right equipment and training overseas and the best support here at home -- and that the United States of America will always have the best military in the world," Manchin said on Saturday in a statement to the Sunday Gazette-Mail.

During Manchin's "Common Sense" tour in West Virginia he said, "Republicans are talking about [cutting] $50 billion a year [from private military contractors]. I think more can be cut.

"We need to support the military. But contractors out there that have been sucking us dry.... That is wrong," he said.

Private military contractors often get paid three times as much, or more, than American soldiers.

"I want to cut a contractor that is making three times more than a solider who is doing the same thing," Manchin said.

"We can keep our military as the best on earth. We spend more as one nation than all other nations in the world put together."

On Saturday, Manchin said he agrees with Adm. Mike Mullen, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "who made it clear that debt is the greatest threat to our national security, and that is why we must make sure that every government agency and department is run as efficiently as possible.

"In 2001, our military budget was about $316 billion, and about $145 billion went to contractors. Since then, it's grown to roughly $700 billion, with around $375 billion spent on contractors.

"We must make sure that our defense dollars are going to help strengthen our troops, and not enrich contractors."

Today, the U.S. government pays 175,045 private contractors inside the U.S. Central Command, including 101,789 contractors in Afghanistan and 52,637 in Iraq, according to the Defense Department's latest quarterly report.

Of those private contractors, 44,928 are U.S. citizens. CENTCOM also includes 18 other countries, such as: Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

Manchin also believes "our National Guard could do even more to help us maintain our readiness and use our resources more effectively instead of spending our money on contractors."

This year, Congress will continue debating proposed budget cuts to trim a national debt likely to reach $16.4 trillion by December.

"We have to think hard about how we spend tax dollars and about whether we can afford to spend hundreds of billions to rebuild nations like Iraq and Afghanistan. As I've said before, I choose to rebuild America," Manchin said.

Manchin plans to work "with Republicans and Democrats who agree that we have to stop rebuilding other nations and attack the billions of waste so we can focus our resources on what matter most -- our brave men and women in uniform."

Manchin also criticized the Citizen's United decision handed down by the United States Supreme Court in January 2010 for a 5-4 vote that overturned parts of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

Citizens United gave corporations the same First Amendment rights as individuals, who are allowed to spend as much as they want to support or attack any candidate, as long as those expenditures are independent of any candidate's own political committees.

"This stuff has got to stop. It is a wild, wild game," Manchin said on Tuesday.

He added Saturday that he is "really disturbed to see the new ways that money is being used to buy elections in this country.

"As we have seen in the Republican presidential primary, a single individual spent $5 million to help his preferred candidate, because now there are no limits on what you can give a third-party group.

"A lot of donors can remain secret, so people don't know who's behind certain attacks. No one can be held accountable or responsible. And that's just wrong," Manchin said.


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