Outsourcing the military has become increasingly popular, and it is a key component of our current war in Iraq. National governments often negotiate contracts with private groups offering soldiers for hire. Such groups include Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Blackwater Worldwide. These contracts are becoming increasingly common in other nations, including the UK, France, Italy and Germany. As of late, defense-contracting groups have come under great scrutiny for acts some believe are unethical. Despite these criticisms, these groups play a vital role in our current military operations. They are crucial to achieving our desired ends in Iraq, as well as around the world.

Blackwater Worldwide has come under fire in recent months for what many believe was the unethical and unprovoked killing of innocent Iraqi citizens. However, Blackwater soldiers maintain they only began shooting after coming under fire. In addition, the organization is notorious for withholding vital information from families of deceased employees has even been accused of smuggling weapons to terrorist groups.

Amidst all of this controversy, many Americans are calling for an end to the use of contracts with Blackwater and other private sector groups, in favor of utilizing only national military forces. They feel a serious lack of accountability from these groups has created the potential for gross abuses the American people are not willing to tolerate. By using only American military members, they feel our military operations will be better monitored, and we will be free of these controversies. However, the number of American military recruits has been dropping. Opposition to the war causes many to reconsider joining the military. As a result, the U.S. is forced to use these companies to provide much-needed manpower in the Middle East. It has been difficult enough for our current troops to establish order in Iraq, and reducing the number of soldiers by eliminating private contractors is not the right solution.

Blame for accountability issues should not be placed on these private groups themselves, but on the U.S. Congress. Their failure to regulate and observe the actions of these groups has created a situation where controversy is becoming increasingly prevalent. We depend on Congress to create laws safeguarding American action, yet the Bush administration receives the blame. Congress needs to enact legislation to ensure these private groups are monitored and held subject to the same laws and penalties as the American military.

In addition, these private groups play a crucial role in the war in Iraq. In a conflict where soldiers are greatly needed, private firms offer trained, motivated individuals ready to carry out critical tasks. These firms offer more than just soldiers ready for battle. These groups are largely responsible for food and supply transport, preparation and training of other soldiers and police forces within Iraq. Their role is vital to the maintenance of U.S. forces within the region and in the movement of the Iraqi government to a position of independence. Without these groups, Iraq would never be able to move toward functioning independent of other nations.

Furthermore, using American soldiers will not end military controversy. During the Vietnam War, U.S. military forces were responsible for controversial events such as the Mai Lai massacre. Private military contracting firms do a great service for the American people. Their accomplishments and contributions are hardly recognized, and it is time we stopped focusing on their shortcomings and look at the many benefits the United States continues to receive. If these soldiers did not put their lives on the line, the Bush administration could be forced to initiate a very unpopular draft. Because the U.S. has experienced a decrease in military recruitment, the government has no other choice but to turn to these private institutions. It is now up to Congress to take the next step. Stop placing blame for controversies on these groups themselves and start taking action. Congress has done little to fix these situations, other than launching several long, unsuccessful investigations. Congressional action is the only way we will finally be able to get Iraq onto the road to independence.