Sunday, July 8, 2007

When The Music Stops

Satellite dishes peeking through strands of concertina wire.

I read a statement on the news the other day that claimed there are more private security contractors in Iraq right now than there are US troops. I’ll say right now that no one has any idea how many contractors are currently here because there’s no overseeing governing body that is tracking that number. I’ve seen estimates as low as 20,000 and as high as 50,000 plus. Nevertheless, there are a lot of them.

Question: What is going to happen when the U.S. military eventually pulls out and Congress turns off or limits funding for reconstruction? The “bubble bursts”, “the music stops” whatever metaphor you want to use, most of those 20-50,000 security contractors are going to be scrambling for a job. After running around in Iraq for a year are they going to happily go back to working the gun counter at Wal-mart? Sure there’s security work in the United States, but the U.S. domestic security industry is a finite beast and has much different rules and regulations than Iraq. Ex-contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan will not be easily absorbed into the U.S. or international security market, so what will become of them?

Some things to keep in mind if you’re a security contractor:

The security for Iraq, one way or another, will be turned over to the Iraqis. Someone has to manage and train that industry. There’s opportunity there.

Sure there will be other conflicts around the world that will require security contractors, but the United States won’t be involved for a long time to come. That’s the coming political reality. That means no large U.S. Government contracts to pay your salary.

Working domestic security in the United States requires a whole different set of skills, experience, and licenses. If that’s the direction that you want to go in, better start the ball rolling now.

You can always teach what you learned in Iraq to people that want to learn those skills. The security training market is already saturated beyond belief. All of the operators that initially went over to Iraq are now running and teaching courses in the U.S. That boat has sailed already.

Loads of military guys will be leaving the service and will now be competing directly with you for security jobs. They have the same skills as you do and will want in on the industry as well.

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