Problem-Solving Workshop: A New Legal Framework for Military Contractors?

Fri, 06/08/2007
by invitation only
Event Category: 
By Invitation Only

The Program in Law and Public Affairs (LAPA) at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School has issued a publicly-available report that summarizes key findings of the June 2007 Problem-Solving Workshop and proposes a framework for handling the legal regulation of military contractors. Participants included senior military and government officials, contractors, academic experts and Washington policymakers. The workshop was held under the "Chatham House rule," which permits summaries of the group's discussions and conclusions to be made public without attributing particular positions to particular speakers. See the press release here

Rep. David Price has introduced a new bill, H.R. 2740, the MEJA Expansion and Enforcement Act, to address the legal framework issues left out of the Defense Authorization bill. The bill simply consists of the provisions from H.R. 369 that are under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee.

The Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing on June 19, 2007 about the legal framework issues addressed in H.R. 2740. Two experts on contractor legal issues, Erica Razook (Amnesty International) and Scott Horton (Columbia Law School), testified.


The current military doctrine of the United States anticipates that there will be many contractors on the battlefield along with soldiers, but private contractors have been regulated under a different set of statutes than are the uniformed military. The uniformed military are governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice; contractors are governed either by the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, or under the Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction Act, or – in all too many cases – under no obvious law at all. This fragmented legal structure complicates command authority on the battlefield, makes it hard to coordinate contractors with uniformed military, and has led to the predictable run of accidents, friendly fire tragedies and worse. When people who fight side-by-side are subject to different legal constraints, it has been hard to fight a disciplined war. Should there be a new legal framework that coordinates command, training and accountability of military contractors with the uniformed military?

With this workshop, LAPA is inaugurating a series of problem-solving workshops that will bring policymakers, academic experts and lawyers together to discuss possible solutions. Attendance is by invitation only; conversations are off the record.