Simon Chesterman, global professor of law, director of the NYU School of Law Singapore Program, and former executive director of the Institute for International Law and Justice, published an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune on November 13 about the need for more robust regulation of private contractors in the national-security field.

Public attention has begun to focus more strongly on the murky role of contractors since the revelation that employees of Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, were involved in a secret CIA program to assassinate al Qaeda leaders, as well as playing a continuing role in assembling and loading Predator drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While much of the "outsourcing" debate has focused on criticizing contractors, Chesterman wrote, governments themselves deserve scrutiny for failing to regulate the private military and security industry effectively. The presumption in the U.S., he said, is that all government functions have the potential for privatization, but he argued that certain tasks should never be outsourced, citing accountability and oversight issues.

The current restriction on the outsourcing of "inherently governmental" functions is ill-defined and ineffective, Chesterman maintained: "Even the assassination program failed to start a meaningful debate on what should and what should not be outsourced. At the very least, the responsibility to determine what is and is not ‘inherently governmental’ should itself be an inherently governmental task."

Chesterman is the co-editor, with IILJ program director Angelina Fisher (LL.M. '04), of a new book, Private Security, Public Order: The Outsourcing of Public Services and Its Limits, which examines the topic of private contractors in depth. The new volume is a follow-up to From Mercenaries to Market: The Rise and Regulation of Private Military Companies, which Chesterman co-edited with IILJ consultant Chia Lehnardt (LL.M. '05).

Posted on November 16, 2009