"Privatization of America's Wars" To Be Debated in Defense Forum - Southern Maryland Headline News

"Privatization of America's Wars" To Be Debated in Defense Forum


ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (April 5, 2008)—Who controls America's private armies in Iraq and Afghanistan? Are U.S. defense contractors operating there merely as "guns for hire?" Who is responsible for contractor oversight, and who should take the blame when disasters like Abu Ghraib occur? "The Privatization of National Defense" forum will explore these complex and controversial issues on Wednesday, April 9 and Thursday, April 10 at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

The forum will also examine the international legal ramifications of privatizing national defense. Speaker Guy Seidman of the Radzyner School of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzilya, Israel, will be part of a distinguished panel that will discuss the complexities involved. The forum's keynote speech will take place on Wednesday evening at the State House in Historic St. Mary's City. Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution will discuss his views on the changing nature of U.S. military involvements. Singer is director of the institute's 21st Century Defense Initiative.

The trend toward out-sourcing U.S. military operations accelerated after the Cold War ended and has ballooned since the invasion of Iraq. Battlefield functions heavily privatized in the last five years include intelligence gathering, logistics, security, and rebuilding infrastructure. According to Louis Hicks, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at the College and author of Systems of War and Peace, the U.S. public has been led by the media to believe "happy stories" that American contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan are still performing mostly passive roles, such as providing supplies. In fact, they are now crucial to the battle-responsible for security and reconnaissance, for example. Many deployed contractors are former highly skilled special operations personnel, who can earn $1,000 a day in the war zone.

While contractors are asked to provide more vital functions in defense and intelligence, U.S. government oversight of their actions is often lax. One glaring example was the debacle at Abu Ghraib prison. According to some reports, the private U.S. contractors who helped the military operate the prison had almost no accountability to the military leadership. The result was a human rights and international relations disaster for the United States.

The two-day program is sponsored by the College, the Center for the Study of Democracy, and the Patuxent Partnership as part of the Patuxent Defense Forum. Attendees will earn 14 continuous learning points. The price for the two-day forum is $95.

Forum Agenda:

Wednesday, April 9

8:00 - 9:00 a.m.
Check-in, Campus Center

9:00 - 9:30 a.m.
Cole Cinema, Campus Center
Welcome by St. Mary's College of Maryland and The Patuxent Partnership

9:30 - 11:45 a.m. (coffee break at 10:30 AM)
Panel: Private Contractors in U.S. Military Operations
Moderator: Mark Zenthoefer, program analyst NAWCAD
Paul Camacho, director of special projects, William Joiner Center, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Ryan Kelty, assistant professor of sociology, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, United States Military Academy, West Point
Colonel Thomas Griffith, professor, National Defense University
Captain Ken Ryan, USN, assistant professor, Industrial College of the Armed Forces Noon - 1:30 p.m.
Lunch, Great Room, Campus Center

1:30 - 4:00 p.m. (break at 2:45 p.m.)
Cole Cinema, Campus Center
Panel: International Dimensions of Privatization
Moderator: Michael Cain, acting director, Center for the Study of Democracy, and chairman of political science department, St. Mary's College of Maryland
Guy Seidman, senior lecturer, The Radzyner School of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzilya, Israel
James Terry, chairman, Board of Veterans' Appeals, Department of Veteran Affairs
Katherine McCoy, department of sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

4:15 - 4:30 p.m.
Remarks: "Collaboration"
Rear Admiral Steven Eastburg, Commander, NAWCAD

5:30 - 6:00 p.m.
Reception on the State House Green, Historic St. Mary's City

6:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Dinner, State House, Historic St. Mary's City
Keynote Speaker
Peter W. Singer, director, 21st Century Defense Initiative, Brookings Institution

Thursday, April 10

9:00 - 11:30 a.m. (break at 10:15 a.m.)
Cole Cinema, Campus Center
Panel: The Privatization of Intelligence
Moderator: Anne Miles, professor of political science, St. Mary's College of Maryland
Andrew Richardson, human capital policy advisor, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
James Sutton, director, Highway Information Sharing and Analysis Center, Transportation Security Administration
Bowman Miller, National Defense Intelligence Center, Washington, D.C.
Stephen Holder, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Support for Public Diplomacy

11:30 a.m. - Noon
Concluding Remarks

Note: Schedule is subject to change.

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