WASHINGTON, DC. Assistant Deputy Defense Secretary Byron Keane announced plans today to dramatically boost the use of foreign military contractors. The practice, known as offshoring, is increasingly common in the US private sector.
"This allows us to fight terrorism and reduce costs at the same time. We can afford more boots on the ground - it literally gives us more bang for the buck," stated Assistant Deputy Secretary Keane.
Many of these foreign military contractors will be deployed in Iraq; positions that are increasingly difficult to fill with US soldiers. As recruitment numbers plummet, the pentagon has looked for creative ways to increase capabilities.
RedFlag Services, a Beijing based vendor, will initially fill 6200 positions. Staffed with experienced private sector troops, the RedFlag contractors will be fully equipped with state of the art combat gear, including the ZTZ-98 battle tank. Many of these contractors are former Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) veterans. Unlike the current practice of hiring civilian contractors for non-combat jobs, the new program will include frontline deployment, including limited combat operations.
The average US soldier requires about $75,000 per year in salary, training, and insurance costs. These costs are going up as the military is forced to offer incentives to boost recruitment. In contrast, a RedFlag contractor with comparable experience costs about $1500 to support. This includes an annual salary of $350. When long-term costs, such as healthcare and education are considered, the offshore program is expected to save the treasury over $3.2 billion.
"The RedFlag contractors have a winning attitude," says Colonel Armstrong Forrest, commander of offshore forces in Baghdad. "They take on any task enthusiastically, and they never complain. The Iraqi forces could learn a lot from these guys. They [RedFlag contractors] really seem interested in learning from us."
All contractors are required to speak good English. Because Chinese names are difficult for Americans, many of the men assume Western style names. A typical example is 25 year old artillery captain Wu Jing Hu, who goes by the name John Wayne.
Another advantage of the offshore contractors is their high level of training. Many of the men have experience interacting with civilian populations during recent unrest in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Mongolia. The RedFlag force includes nearly 100 veterans of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.