THE BLOG

Sequester and its Impact on Private Security Contractors

02/22/2013 05:17 pm ET | Updated Apr 24, 2013
  • Kerry Patton Author, 'Contracted: America's Secret Warriors'

Mercenaries, defense contractors, private security contractors, call them what you like. As unfortunate it may be for some to accept, those who carry guns overseas operating on government contracts are an evil necessity. Not only do private security contractors (PSC's) assist with national security, they help bolster the US economy.

Unless the United States is willing to fundamentally change socially, culturally, and economically, we must learn to accept private security contractors as a legit profession. They are part of one of the largest economic enterprises for America--the military industrial complex. None of us have to like it, but we must learn to accept this unfortunate truth.

Most PCS's finance their own training and purchase their own equipment ranging from high valued clothing, sunglasses, watches, footwear, and high tech components used to assist in times of need.

A lot of this sounds ridiculous but the dollar amounts returned to US manufacturers and other unique organizations reaches, at times, tens of thousands of dollars annually per individual. Name another profession comprising of individuals willing to fork out that much personal dough just to do their job.

Private security contractors make a pretty penny and enjoy spending that penny. It's a multi-billion dollar industry and a lot of that money passes hands and eventually goes into a more traditional market like housing, vehicles, and other commodities.

With sequester possibly kicking in just a few days from now, what impact will it have on such a profession, a profession that historically loves spending their bounty?

The days operating abroad as a private security contractor (PSC) making approximately $1,000 a day are finished. In all fairness, those days have been long gone for some time now. The days of making a $300k annual salary have passed but that doesn't mean jobs aren't out there to be had.

Working as a PSC is unique and dangerous, yet often very gratifying. Those who have been in the business know, you can't make it a career unless you diversify your portfolio. PSC's would make exceptional investment managers due to their abilities to diversify themselves in unique yet highly sought after skill-sets.

For some, sequester can actually be a good thing--at least for private security contractors. As the Defense Department makes cuts and withdrawals out of Afghanistan, opportunities will become readily available from the State Department. Without sequestration, we actually witnessed this fact come to light after US troops withdrew from Iraq.

Contractors remain in Iraq, even today. They perform an array of missions most of which are funded through the US State Department. When troops leave Afghanistan, it is highly likely contractors will remain gainfully employed through similar State Department initiatives performing training, security, and reconstruction operations.

The Defense Department always pays well but the odds of landing a private contracting gig through a DOD solicitation is going to be tough in the near future. Thank God the State Department and other government agencies exist. If you want to continue working as a PSC, its critical to get outside your comfort zone and begin searching for opportunities elsewhere.

Anti-piracy operations have been largely proven successful in part by the incorporation of private security contractors. Between 2009 and 2012, piracy has witnessed a 27% decline in the Horn of Africa. More and more commercial fleets are hiring private armed guards to safeguard their vessels and evidence proves this security operation method effective.

Piracy is a world-wide issue and not just a problem in the Horn of Africa. Success has been identified as have the measures used to achieve such success. PSC's are critical in anti-piracy operations and its apparent more and more opportunities of employment will continue even in the commercial sector.

Global threats are continuing to increase via the spread of radicalization. The world witnessed US Ambassador Chris Stevens along with three other US citizens killed in Libya. An oil field was seized in Algeria. Africa, as a continent, is imploding with crises.

While the Middle East and Central Asia have been hotbeds for private security contractors, it's essential to start looking for work in Africa because there is a lot of work to be done there. Oil field security opportunities are abundant in Africa.

Equally abundant are opportunities working within the US State Department's Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program. For those wishing to risk greater margins in reward, there are always opportunities working with host nation governments. Unfortunately, this is a huge risk and not suggested for multiple reasons such as US laws and foreign corruption. While not recommended, it's still an option that can be explored.

For those who love the adventure operating in austere environments yet are tired of totting a weapon around, their are always opportunities in performing work with non-government organizations affiliated with US AID. You would still be a contractor, working abroad, and doing just as much good for others in this capacity. Plus, NGO's could always use a good second set of eyes quick to identify any potential threats.

With forecasted Defense budget cuts due to the potential of sequestration, private security contractors will be essential assets needed to ensure national security and prevention of total economic collapse. Opportunities to remain gainfully employed abroad will likely not only continue, they will expand. Its critical to begin searching beyond just the DOD and into other government agencies like the State Department and commercial entities as well.

Kerry Patton, a combat disabled veteran, is author of Contracted: America's Secret Warriors.

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