HOUSE UNANIMOUSLY PASSES SCHAKOWSKY'S CONTRACTING AMENDMENT
Washington, D.C. October 4, 2007
The U.S. House of Representatives today passed H.R. 2740, the MEJA Expansion and Enforcement Act of 2007, which included an amendment offered by U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). Schakowsky's amendment, which passed the House unanimously, requires detailed information about the charges and legal action that have been brought against contractors. The bill now awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate.
"Today, the House took a major step toward bringing some level of accountability and transparency to an industry that has gone virtually unchecked for years," said U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. "After spending billions of dollars on private military contractors, U.S. taxpayers have a right to know if those contractors are engaging in criminal behavior and what, if anything, the government has done to address these illegal activities. The lethal and reckless actions of some private security contractors have put our armed forces at risk and undermined our mission in Iraq."
The legislation, which Schakowsky co-sponsored, takes companies like Blackwater USA out of the murky legal limbo in which they have been operating, and holds them accountable under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act for possible criminal misconduct. The legislation also requires the Justice Department to make a detailed report to Congress the includes the number of complaints against contractors it has received, the number of investigations it has begun, the number of criminal cases it has opened, and the result of those cases. Schakowsky's amendment expands the reporting requirement to include a description of the charges that have been brought against contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a description of the legal action taken as a result of those charges. There are over 180,000 private contractors operating inside Iraq and Afghanistan and only two contractors have ever been charged with a crime. ______________________
SANEST VOICE IN THE CONGRESS RE: PHASING OUT PRIVATE CONTRACTORS LIKE BLACKWATER: JAN SCHAKOWSKY
U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), member of the House Intelligence Committee, announced legislation last week to phase out the use of private military contractors over the next five years. Congresswoman Schakowsky participated in today's Government Reform Committee hearing on Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq. Schakowsky had an opportunity to question the witnesses including Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater. "The last straw was when Blackwater allegedly killed 11 Iraqi civilians last month. I believe that we should phase out the use of private military contractors and return these responsibilities to uniformed military personnel who are clearly accountable for their actions," said U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. "The reckless and lethal activities of private security contractors have jeopardized our mission in Iraq and put our troops in harm's way by increasing hostility against Americans. Without a system in place to ensure accountability and oversight, we cannot allow contractors to continue to operate in Iraq and Afghanistan." Congresswoman Schakowsky circulated the following "Dear Colleague" today after participating in the Government Reform Committee's hearing on Blackwater. PHASE OUT PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTORS Become an Original Cosponsor of a New Bill to Return Security Functions to the Military
October 2, 2007 Dear Colleague: I would like to invite you to join me in supporting a new bill which would responsibly phase out the use of private military contractors for functions that should be reserved for U.S. military forces. Recent killings of Iraqi civilians have highlighted the problems created when private military contractors perform inherently governmental security functions. There are numerous reasons why we should not allow private contractors to perform services that should be undertaken by military personnel. Too often private contractors act as if they are outside or above the law. They are not accountable to the military but their actions often put our brave military men and women at risk. They are given immunity from the laws of the countries in which they operate. The employees of private contractors are often put at risk when companies motivated by profit send them into lethal situations without the training or equipment they need. Finally, private military contractors often hire foreign mercenaries from countries that may work against America's interests. My bill recognizes that our armed forces have been so overtaxed that it is not possible to immediately eliminate the use of private contractors for functions that should be reserved for U.S. military personnel. However, it puts us on the path of restoring military functions to the military. The legislation would prohibit the use of private contractors for military, security,law enforcement, and armed rescue functions after 2012 unless the President tells Congress why the military is unable to perform those functions.
September 17: U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, Chief Deputy Whip and member of the House Intelligence Committee, renewed calls to bring oversight and transparency to private military contractors after the Iraqi government revoked Blackwater's license to operate inside Iraq. Schakowsky, who has been a leading advocate in Congress for oversight of the industry, released the following statement today in response to the Iraqi government's decision: "This is not the first time that Blackwater's actions have raised serious concerns about the role of military contractors and the lack of oversight and transparency in the industry. Blackwater has been able to operate freely in Iraq for years where their employees have been accused of instigating lethal gunfights and even giving orders to uniformed U.S. military. The Bush Administration has encouraged the use of private military contractors and has allowed them to operate completely unchecked. I support the Iraqi government's decision to subject Blackwater's actions to the scrutiny of the legal process. I hope their action causes the Administration to rethink its reliance on private military contractors and its failure provide proper oversight and to share information about their activities with Congress and the public.
I have been leading efforts in Congress to bring more oversight and transparency to the use of private military contractors. My bill, the Iraq and Afghanistan Sunshine Contractor Act, would give Congress access to these contracts for the first time. Some of the provisions from my bill were included in the Defense Authorization Bill, which passed the House and is now awaiting consideration in the Senate. We must act now and show the Iraqi people that we are serious about reining in private military contractors. For much too long, there has been a perception that private military contractors are somehow outside or above the law.
Today, I am calling on our government to take action on this issue immediately. We cannot continue to allow Blackwater and other private military contractors to un roughshod over the law and jeopardize the safety, security and well-being of the U.S. military and the Iraqi people."
H.R. 897 THE IRAQ AND AFHANISTAN CONTRACTOR SUNSHINE ACT
H.R. 897 would require the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of State (DoS), Department of Interior (DoI), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide Congress with copies of contracts in excess of $5 million. H.R. 897 would also require those agencies to report the number of contractors and subcontractor employed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the costs of those contracts, the number of dead and wounded contractors, any laws that have been broken by contractors and any disciplinary actions that have been taken against contractors.