Military Law Research Paper

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Civilian Contractors under Military Law MARC LINDEMANN © 2007 Marc Lindemann O ver the course of its efforts to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has increasingly relied upon the work of civilian contractors. By the US Central Command’s count at the end of 2006, there were nearly 100,000 contractors operating in Iraq alone.1 An estimated 30,000—more than the number of non-US Coalition forces in Iraq—provide armed military services such as personal and site security.2 The insertion of five words into Congress’s fiscal year 2007 defense authorization act may now subject every civilian contractor operating in a combat zone to the discipline of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This legislation ostensibly brings…show more content…
MEJA restricted prosecution under US law to contractors working for the DOD, but the 2007 act does not make any such distinction. A mass of federal officials and agencies—and their own contractors—deploys with the military force during stability operations. These personnel often work alongside service members in their day-to-day missions. As such, the military must assess what constitutes a person “accompanying” US troops during contingency operations such as Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In applying the UCMJ to civilians, there are three degrees of inclusiveness that may govern jurisdiction. First, the military might, as a matter of policy, limit its prosecutions to DOD contractors. While in keeping with Congress’s earlier MEJA legislation, such a limitation would run counter to the legislative intent behind the 2007 act. MEJA was not applicable to the civilian contractors in the Abu Ghraib scandal because the DOD had not technically hired them, even though they performed military functions. According to Senator Graham, the recent change in UCMJ jurisdiction was intended to curb contractor abuses such as Abu Ghraib.38 Thus, at the very least, nonDOD contractors actively involved in military operations should now be subject to UCMJ authority. Second, the military might choose to apply the UCMJ to all civilian contractors in a combat zone, regardless of the government agency that hired them. Such an approach…show more content…
In order to foster a good working relationship between different federal organizations, the military, and the media within a combat zone, however, this third option may not be feasible. The amendment has turned the concept of civilian control of the military on its head, as Congress has, in effect, placed more than 100,000 civilians under the jurisdiction of military courts. The military needs to be judicious in determining how to apply the UCMJ to these civilians, many of whom have never even looked at the UCMJ, much less lived under its discipline. Of the three options above, the second option—that of regulating all contractors in Iraq, regardless of employer—appears to be the most effective. Military leaders should ensure that contracting firms educate their employees about the UCMJ prior to their employment in a combat zone. Unfortunately, this added level of accountability and potential legal liability may dissuade some civilians from serving in a combat zone, and the price of contractor services may consequently increase. Nevertheless, the cost of unregulated contractor behavior could be significantly greater in terms of undermining US stabilization

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