American Military Contractors and the Neoliberal Way of War
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American Military Contractors and the Neoliberal Way of War explores the historical patterns of modern military contracting and its place in the political economy of American war. During the post-September 11 wars, contractors have played a prominent role, comprising over half the US total force. While the participation of contractors in major US contingency operations is not new, the scale and scope of contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan is without precedent. The study emerges from a puzzling historical development: during the Vietnam War, contractors constituted about 10 percent of the US footprint. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the figure climbs to 53 percent. What accounts for this change? The answer turns on one ideational and one institutional condition. Institutionally, the transition began with the US military’s shift from a mixed volunteer and draftee force to the All-Volunteer Force in 1973. Doing so removed personnel procurement from a statist framework through the introduction of the logic of the labour market. This institutional change was a necessary precondition for the gradual incursion of neoliberal market logic into military personnel policy. A series of reforms in subsequent decades initiated path dependent processes of military neoliberalization that eventually yielded the troop-contractor ratios of the post-September 11 wars. The dissertation develops a theoretical framework drawn from traditions in critical International Political Economy that conceptualizes five decades of uneven neoliberalization in the Department of Defense. Empirically, it undertakes a comparative study of US contracting practices during the Vietnam and post-September 11 wars, tracing gradual institutional change in the Department of Defense from the 1970s to the present.