Recent wars have shown an increase in the use of private security contractors. Perhaps more than any other conflict, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been supported by contractors. As of March 2013, 62% of the total force in Afghanistan were contractors, according to a recent CRS report. All changes to prior operating procedures require some assessment and improvement in order to be more effective in future endeavors.

The government benefits from private security contractors. The contracting company supports the ongoing costs of staff maintenance and training, and the government only needs to pay for the use of the personnel during periods of increased need instead of paying to recruit, train, and retain military staff. An additional benefit of private security contractors is their adaptability to meet the changing threats. The security contractor industry has expanded and diversified to meet the changing needs.

Both military and private contractors have an impact on the outcome of the security of our nation. All personnel that are deployed impact the local citizen’s opinions of the military. But the Benghazi attack on Sept. 11, 2012 has heightened scrutiny of private security contractors.

Bottom line is that whether the job is outsourced or not, the safety of the personnel on the ground and success of the mission cannot be compromised due to inadequate processes, guidelines and training. The following are a few identified steps that should be taken to increase the effectiveness of the collaboration of military and private security contractors in future endeavors:

  1. Carefully select and train private security contractors.
  2. Establish an acceptable means of accountability for private security contractors.
  3. Enable private security contractors and military to better coordinate when both are deployed.
  4. Make contractors easily identifiable as friendly forces.
  5. Identify clear expectations for serving the country as a private security contractor.

Much can be written on creating and sustaining processes and procedures for this balancing act between military and private security contractors. However, one tangible focus is training for private security contractors. A key issue is insider threats.

One way to be a force multiplier as a private security contractor, whether providing services as a bodyguard, guarding installations, or protecting convoys is in the area of insider threats. Given the high profile events of Green on Blue attacks, this is a specific way that security contractors can add to the overall safety and effectiveness of missions.

Training should focus on developing the ability to recognize key indicators for insider threats, as well as developing the ability to increase awareness of the population and noticing changing behavioral patterns. Private security contractors can partner with other companies or universities that look at the psychology of identifying and recognizing insider threats.

An additional way to increase effectiveness as a contractor is to look at national security policies from the highest levels down to the supported agency, and identify ways to invest as a company or an individual to grow the proper skill sets to support the identified key strategies. Use of security contractors seems to be a growing trend, despite any highlighted issues in the news. Instead of focusing on the challenges as a negative, more work can be done to increase the effectiveness and the benefits of this collaboration. The up side to today’s current demand for private security contractors is the growth of the available talent pool. As service members transition out of the military, the number of personnel with the right qualifications continues to grow. Private security companies would do well to ensure they place significant value on hiring the best, and bringing the most qualified talent to positions overseas.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.