One of the aspects that makes America’s current military conflicts unique is the role private businesses are playing.  When the republicans started downsizing the military nearly three decades ago the equation didn’t magically change.  It didn’t somehow become possible to fight wars with fewer personnel, they just changed the name on the “pay to”  line of the checks the government wrote.  

It was never a good idea, in fact, it was never more than a shell game, and I have been saying so from the get-go.  Given my long-held personal opinions on this topic, I rejoiced when I had dinner with one of my Senator’s staffers last month and he told me about the report on contracting in the war zones  that was nearly ready for release and the hearings on contractor oversight that Senator McCaskill will convene this afternoon.  

During the years of the Bush administration, Congress appropriated $830 Billion to fund US military operations.  During that time, reliance on private businesses to provide support services that the military has traditionally handled in-house has grown exponentially, to the point that private contractors equal, if not outnumber, military personnel in the theaters of operations, most serving in roles that support the Department of Defense and USAID.  

For nearly thirty years, the DoD has been run the way republicans wanted to run it…and as a result, damned near every aspect of the military has been privatized, from operating chow halls to laundry services to guarding embassies and bases.  And the takeover of one of the most socialistic of institutions (the military) by capitalist marauders has not only taken place, it has taken place with minimal oversight, creating a wide array of opportunities for fraud, theft and abuse to become the rule rather than the exception.

Here I have to take a moment to give Senator McCaskill her props.  God knows I give the woman enough grief (although I prefer to think that I am giving her cover from the left and realize full measure that she has to get elected statewide, not just in my Moscow-on-the-Missouri district) so my conscience and personal code of conduct demands that I give her her due when she does something that pleases me.  

Before she ever announced her run for the Senate, when she was still the Missouri State Auditor, I started writing posts and telling anyone I could get to listen – or trap on an elevator – that our military was in trouble and contractors were a huge part of it, and damnit, we needed a new incarnation of the Truman Committee, and I knew just who we needed to send to D.C. to head it up, too…and then I launched into the pro-Claire speech that I not only perfected, but was still giving at 9:00 p.m. November 7, 2006.  

Now here we are five years later, and in just a couple of hours she will gavel the first meeting of her subcommittee on contractor oversight to order.   Good on ya, Claire.  Good on both of us.

Update: Video excerpts from today’s hearing.