The death of a U.S. Marine from LaPorte County has inspired a measure aimed at improving oversight of private security contractors.
Lance Cpl. Joshua Birchfield died in February 2010 when an Afghan private security contractor shot and killed the 24-year-old Westville man on patrol in Afghanistan. The contractor reportedly was unlicensed, poorly trained and an alleged drug abuser.
U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, offered an amendment this week to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is legislation that funds Pentagon programs for the fiscal year and sets forth the nation’s military policies and priorities.
Donnelly’s amendment would require the Defense Department to set standards for all private security contracts and designate an official in nations where the United States has military operations to certify each contract has effective oversight and employees are properly licensed.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the department relies on some 19,000 private security contractors in Afghanistan — a force equal to nearly 20 percent of all U.S. military personnel there.
“If we are going to continue to rely on local security contractors in Afghanistan, we must make oversight a top priority,” Donnelly said in a news release. “I cannot say for certain that had there been better oversight by our government this tragedy would have been avoided, but we owe it to our servicemen and women in harm’s way to get this right.”
The House of Representatives approved the National Defense Authorization Act, including Donnelly’s amendment, on Thursday.
Originally in South Bend Tribune