Senator Hillary Clinton's office announced today that "she has cosponsored legislation to ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq ... The legislation requires that all personnel at any U.S. diplomatic or consular mission in Iraq be provided security services only by Federal Government Personnel."
Now, I take it for granted that this bill is mostly about election season politics. Still, I wonder where State would find enough Feds to protect those diplomatic and consular missions since there are almost as many Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and DynCorp protection personnel working for the State Department in Iraq as there are special agents in the Diplomatic Security Service (1395 vs. 1450). Not to mention that Blackwater also provides State with specialized aviation assets that could scarcely be matched even by the U.S. military, and I suppose those BW aircraft and pilots would be banned along with the shooters.
Obviously, all DSS agents can't be assigned to Iraq. And if they were, it would be a misapplication of human resources to use DSS agents, all of whom have four-year degrees and law enforcement-related backgrounds, to do bodyguard duty full time. That kind of protection work is a basic security function that younger agents do for a few years to pay their dues before moving on to higher responsibilities.
State should change some of its practices with high-threat protective detail contractors in Iraq and elsewhere, in my opinion. In particular, the legal environment must be clarified so that contractors can be properly managed and held accountable. But private protection contractors fill an important niche, and I don't see them going away anytime soon.