Speaking to the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy said that the State Department intends to spend approximately $3 billion hiring 5,100 private security contractors to fight in Iraq.
The State Department has repeatedly discussed the creation of this force for after the withdrawal of US military forces from Iraq, which is supposed to happen in December. The new mercenary force, which has been called a State Department “private army” would take their place, potentially for years.
Kennedy’s comments were the first time that specific details about the actual size and cost of the “army” is going to be, however. It is assumed that the State Department will collect “hand-me-down” weapons and equipment from the outgoing soldiers to outfit this new fighting force.
The move was already seen as controversial because it goes far beyond the scope of the State Department’s traditional use of contractors to provide security for diplomats and turns them into a separate war-fighting force. The revelation of the cost is likely to add further questions, particularly with State Department officials previously indicating that such a presence could last for 5+ years beyond 2012.