Ever wonder where generals and admirals go when they retire? Some of them go to work for Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and other defense contractors … and some of them start their own companies.

The August issue of The Progressive magazine, in an article entitled “Mercenaries in Kosovo,” names four of those companies and reveals what they do. One, known as Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI), provides “consulting” services to combatants in foreign countries. In plain speak, this company provides mercenaries, trains armies and paramilitaries, and provides weaponry (runs guns) for clients in Angola, The Congo, and the Balkans. In the ongoing Balkans conflict, MPRI claims to have helped Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Macedonia–in effect, arming and training all sides in the war. In 1997, MPRI pulled in $48 million.

MPRI and other companies (DynCorp, Science Applications International Corporation, BDM International, etc.) get much of their money from contracts with the U.S. State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA. MPRI trained and equipped the Bosnian Croat-Muslim Federation Army on a $400 million State Department contract. In April, the Croat-Muslim army transferred millions of dollars worth of weapons supplied by MPRI to the KLA. Science Applications, which is staffed by former NSA and CIA personnel, is also involved in the Balkans. This firm specializes in training foreign police, including the Bosnian police. Janice Stromsem, a former Justice Department employee, was relieved of her duties after complaining that such programs have given the CIA unfettered access to recruiting agents from among foreign police forces–which compromises the sovereignty of nations that receive aid from the U.S.

But the most important problem with using private companies to arm and train foreign military and paramilitary forces is that the actions of a private corporation are not subject to public scrutiny. The Freedom of Information Act simply doesn’t apply to corporations like MPRI, Science Applications, or DynCorp. Any information on who they arm or how they do it is considered private, proprietary information. Corporate malfeasance is harder to track and harder to punish than governmental misdeeds.

The increasing privatization of the U.S. military is a non-issue in the mainstream press. While Congress and the press manufactured a huge, largely bogus (and certainly racist) scandal around the employment of Chinese-Americans at U.S. nuclear technology labs, a bigger story got away from them. There’s far less likelihood that nuclear secrets will fall into the hands of the Chinese government, than that homegrown terrorists (of the Timothy McVeigh persuasion) can waltz into nuclear storage facilities and, with a couple of well-placed bombs, set off a nuclear inferno here at home.

Again, the issue is one of privatization. Wackenhut Services, which provides security for the Rocky Flats nuclear facility near Denver, is more concerned with profits than with, for example, replacing an aging and faulty alarm system. Over the past few years, Wackenhut has cut the security staff at Rocky Flats from 500 people to around 230. Two governmental whistle-blowers–Edward McCallum, former director of safeguards and security at the Dept. of Energy, and Jeff Peters, former director of Protective Force Operations at Rocky Flats–have been trying in vain to bring this problem to light.

According to an article in The Nation, McCallum and Peters verify that “in internal simulations, mock terrorists had succeeded 100 percent of the time in overcoming Rocky Flats security forces and gaining access to the facility’s nuclear holdings. Once inside the nuclear vault, McCallum told Peters, real terrorists would only have to add their own conventional explosives in order to detonate the entire facility. (The mock terrorists also succeeded 80 percent of the time in getting inside the nuclear vault and then escaping with its contents.)”

Rocky Flats holds enough plutonium to make about 2,000 Hiroshima-strength weapons.

Another Rocky Flats security official came forward to demand changes. Mark Graf, an alarm systems expert, briefed reporters and Congressional staffers about the problems at Rocky Flats back in 1997. Wackenhut retaliated by placing Graf on administrative leave and forcing him to undergo psychological counseling. Graf took his case to the Labor Department, which later ordered Wackenhut to reinstate Graf and pay him $10,000 in damages, plus attorney fees.

In spite of this, Wackenhut remains in control of Rocky Flats. For his efforts, McCallum has been placed on administrative leave by the DOE, and a new “security czar” has been appointed to oversee the security for all of the U.S.’s nuclear facilities. But, as long as private companies like Wackenhut–which is more concerned with its bottom line than with safety–remain in control, the danger of a nuclear disaster remains very real.

Sources: “Mercenaries in Kosovo,” Wayne Madsen, The Progressive, Aug. 99, p. 29, and “DOE’s Real Nuclear Scandal,” Mark Hertsgaard, The Nation, 8/9/99-8/16/99, p. 18.