Contractors on the Battlefield: Has Their Legal Status Just Changed?
In the May-June 2005 issue of Military Review, “Paradox or Paradigm? Operational Contractor Support” by Col. Michael R. Rampy, USA (Ret.) discussed the role of contractors on the battlefield:
“While most civilians are considered noncombatants, their jobs in support of U.S. weapons systems might easily involve direct contact with hostile fire.” …”International law such as the Geneva Convention does recognize the necessity of civilians’ support for combat forces but only in noncombatant roles that keep them out of a direct engagement with enemy forces. Although the world community generally recognizes an international legal precedent for civilians to provide support during war, advances in weapons systems and changes in warfighting strategies have blurred the lines between support and combat, combatant and noncombatant, and civilian and soldier.13″ Army doctrine is only now beginning to come to terms with the many legal issues associated with OCS.”
This is an issue that has grown within the defense sector over the last decade, and now affects a substantial number of people. Over at DefenseTech P.W. Singer, a Senior Fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution, says that contractors’ unclear status may be about to change radically – all because of 5 words slipped into the USA’s 2007 military appropriations act. He explains at some length in “The Law Catches Up To Private Militaries, Embeds” – and some US troops and contractors offer thoughts and share experiences in the comments section. Meanwhile, a military officer notes some of the remaining grey areas and urges follow-on legislation that will resolve them. In February of 2007, meanwhile, the Lexington Institute issues their report: “Contractors on the Battlefield: A force to be Managed” [PDF format], and recommends 6 key reforms.