Special Forces Cannibals

The Pentagon is planning to offer $150,000 bonuses in an expensive attempt to keep members of its elite Special Forces — Navy Seals, Green Berets and specially trained Air Force squads — from jumping ship to take more lucrative civilian jobs with U.S. contractors. The number of Special Forces soldiers, pivotal to “hunt the insurgent leadership, train Iraqi forces and guard senior members of the emerging government in Baghdad,” has greatly fallen off since May 2003.

It’s all part of a vicious circle of inefficiency that ultimately leaves Uncle Sam broke, the military facing a shortage of trained personnel and contractors laughing all the way to the bank.

Here’s how it works. First, the military uses taxpayer money — and it’s not cheap — to train these special forces. With their special skills, these troops are currently in high demand in places like Kabul and Baghdad.

At the same time, the U.S. government also spends billions of dollars every year to hire big, for-profit companies like Halliburton’s KBR or CACI to take over a lot of the duties traditionally performed by the military.


These companies promptly hire the elite soldiers away from the military for much higher salaries. The average senior special ops officer, for example, makes about $50,000 a year from the U.S. government; contractors quadruple that salary to about $200,000. The corporations charge the U.S. government for the salary and expenses (and tack on a nice profit for themselves on top of that.)

In effect, the United States is paying corporations to cannibalize the best and brightest from America’s military.