Quickie: One Nation Under Contract

On October 25, Mickey Edwards, a former Republican congressman who is now vice president of The Aspen Institute writes about Allison Stanger’s new book in the Boston Globe (One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy | Yale University, 256 pp):

In her new book, “One Nation Under Contract,’’ Stanger, director of the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs at Middlebury College, documents in stunning detail the extent to which the United States has turned much of its most important work over to private contractors whose motivation is profit and level of public accountability near zero.
“For-profit foreign aid,’’ Stanger says, “is now a booming business, with billions of US government dollars flowing into sketchy projects.’’ She points to a 2005 congressional study that found that of 286 schools that were to be rebuilt by a private contractor with funds from the US Agency for International Development, “only 8 had been completed and . . . only 15 of 253 planned health clinics were operational.’’ With as many as five subcontractors on each job, “each charging a substantial fee’’ a school that could be built by Iraqis for $50,000 costs the American taxpayers five times that much.
There’s plenty of scandal, and she calls it such, plenty of concern about cost, lack of accountability, fiscal irresponsibility. But she also sees contracting out as a wave of the future, in large part probably because the elimination of the draft makes unavailable the large numbers of uniformed personnel to drive trucks, peel potatoes, build buildings, or do the laundry. Her concern is not with the idea of farming-out but with the mismanagement of it, the lack of transparency, the lack of effective monitoring and evaluating.

Read the whole thing here.