Hammond raises fears over ‘privatisation of war’

7 June 2012 - 4:12pm
Press release

Charity attacks defence secretary’s contractors blueprint

British defence secretary Philip Hammond came under fire today over plans to make private contractors key to the Army’s future.

The minister told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute in London that some whole units would go as Army numbers shrink from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2020 under the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Mr Hammond, addressing the annual Land Warfare conference, said the Army would need to use "more systematically the skills available in the reserve and from our contractors".

But the charity War on Want denounced the move to widen the role already played by contractors working for private military and security companies.

Ruth Tanner, its campaigns and policy director, said: “The decision to put outsourced contractors at the heart of defence policy is a recipe for disaster. Private military and security companies have a track record in profiting from war, conflict, and political instability at the expense of security and human rights. The British government has already played a large role in the growth of this industry by endorsing their widespread use in Iraq and Afghanistan and allowing the industry to police itself. It is time to put an end to this creeping privatisation of war.”

The last decade has seen a boom in private military and security firms providing services to governments and corporations around the world.

War on Want says the industry has made a killing from contracts worth over $100 billion.

The British government has played a large role in the sector’s growth by endorsing its widespread use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Six UK companies have earned more than £240 million in these countries during the past five years.

According to the charity, privatising war enables governments to wage conflict by proxy, avoiding the political fallout of armed forces casualties and refuting direct involvement in militarist interventions.

War on Want stresses that despite private military and security companies operating in war zones and facing accusations of human rights abuses, ministers have allowed them to enjoy a culture of impunity, with a voluntary code of conduct. It says legislation is urgently needed to regulate a deadly industry.

NOTE TO EDITORS: War on Want took part in a demonstration today outside the London Stock Exchange, where the private security company G4S – one of the firms criticised by the charity – held its annual meeting.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media officer (+44) (0)20 7324 5054 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

pcollins@waronwant.org

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