Most people regard the end of the Spanish-American War as the beginning of imperialism in the United States. The turn of the 20th century also provided Americans with the first glimpse of an anti-insurgency campaign, like the 21st century campaigns in Iraq and elsewhere. Rebels in the newly-acquired Philippine Islands, which had been opposed to Spain, simply turned their guns on their new American overlords.
Nevertheless, it took Congress 40 years to enact comprehensive legislation that provided benefits to all injured combatants, whether they were regular servicemembers of private military contractors. Today, the Defense Base Act gives most injured victims a solid income stream as they recover from their wounds as well as the financial resources they need to obtain the treatment they need.
After a sudden attack by ISIS-affiliated militants in October 2017, even some U.S. lawmakers were surprised to learn than some 800 American combat troops were in this sub-Saharan African nation that has about twice the land area of Texas and about half as many people. The American forces there mostly use their Nigeran facilities as bases of operation for nearby countries where Islamic radicals are much more active. If this ambush is any indication, Niger may no longer be the safe haven it was before, and more American troops may arrive soon. Most of the contractors in Niger fill combat support roles, such as aerial transportation and emergency evacuation.
Politically, these contractors serve a political purpose. In many areas of the world, the U.S. military is not very popular, to say the least. This attitude is common even in places that ally themselves with the United States, mostly so they can obtain American money and technical assistance. Low-key contractors allow the DoD to maintain an effective presence in places like Niger without drawing unwanted attention to the servicemembers in uniform.
Anywhere these contractors are injured overseas, compensation is available under the Defense Base Act.
If there is such a thing as the poster child for the new military-industrial complex that departing President Dwight Eisenhower first drew attention to in 1961, its is the ongoing Afghanistan War. Right now, contractors substantially outnumber regular servicemembers in this war-torn nation, a situation that has persisted for much of the conflict. Contractors in Afghanistan fill a variety of combat and combat support roles, and once the fighting finally subsides, they will probably stay behind to assist in rebuilding efforts.
Afghanistan contractors fill a number of needs in the political realm, as well, which is another reason these individuals are a microcosm of contractors elsewhere in the world.
- The government does not include private military contractors in the official troop talley, so troop levels appear lower than they actually are. Also, military contractor casualties do not appear in the official reports either, so the conflict appears less bloody than it actually is, and some might say that U.S. troops appear to be making more progress than they actually are.
- The Afghanistan war is incredibly expensive, mostly because of payroll costs. The DoD must train soldiers, care for them while they are deployed, continue to pay them after their deployment ends, and provide both current and lifetime benefits, such as healthcare and retirement pensions. Private military contractors have none of these costs, so although they earn more money, they are nowhere nearly as costly in an overall sense.
- Many of the contractors who work in Afghanistan are interpreters and other individuals that have unique skill sets which Army war colleges and basic training camps do not teach and do not want to teach.
For these reasons and more, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who is a close Trump advisor, has suggested that the United States fully privatize the Afghanistan war. President Trump has apparently taken his suggestion under advisement, but no official action has been announced.
Two former antagonists, Germany and Italy, quickly became important Cold War allies as the United States faced off against the Soviet Union. Yet despite its history of conflicts with both the Soviet Union (the turn-of-the-century Russo-Japanese War) and China (from 1937 to 1945), Japan did not achieve the same status. Today, this country is almost entirely dependent on the United States for defense against its erstwhile enemies, as well as other potential enemies such as North Korea.
Anti-North Korean efforts in Japan and elsewhere heavily emphasize cyber-attacks, as North Korean hackers are the primary suspects in both the WannaCry ransomware attack on the United States and a security breach at a major Bitcoin exchange. There is an old saying that the government is adept at training individuals to fight the current war, but not so good when it comes to training for the next war. That is where contractors step in. Many of them have cyber-skills that cannot be learned in any school or training facility anywhere in the world.
The catastrophic 2010 earthquake was just the most recent in a long series of misfortunes for the people of this Caribbean nation. The former French colonial masters essentially stripped the country bare of natural resources and did almost nothing to promote self-government, so when the French left, the nation had almost no money or government institutions. That situation created a legacy of authoritarian governments and official corruption.
Contractors in Haiti mostly have cleanup duty. Someone needs to make sure that supplies and money get where they are supposed to go and used for their intended purposes, and contractors largely fulfil this need.
For more information about DBA compensation for overseas injured victims, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A.