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Privatizing Military Logistics

Erbel, M. & Kinsey, C. (2015). Privatizing Military Logistics. In: Abrahamsen, R. & Leander, A. (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Private Security Studies. (pp. 70-78). Routledge.


This chapter sets out to explain why governments are privatizing military logistics, and what implications such a trend has for the supply of war into the future. It takes a broad approach, examining a variety of drivers behind military outsourcing and the problems that outsourcing creates politically and for military commanders who are responsible for utilizing force. Our main objective is to show that logistics outsourcing is possibly the most representative and important (yet neglected) aspect of the wider phenomenon of military outsourcing. It most comprehensively encapsulates the drivers of contracting in general, involves the largest number of the contractor workforce and expenditure, and is exemplary of the future of military outsourcing. Moreover, not only is it highly relevant to foreign and defence policy, but governments have also become heavily dependent on logistics contractors for the long term whereas they could – political will provided – always replace private security contractors with regular troops. This should cause us to reconsider the overwhelming focus the literature places on the outsourcing of various security functions to armed contractors. This chapter first defines logistics and underscores its relevance to foreign and defence policy. Next, after a brief historical account of logistics outsourcing, it gives a comprehensive explanation of why states today have chosen to outsource military logistics instead of doing it themselves. It then introduces three key debates around military outsourcing – whether it saves money, how decision-makers are affected by contractors, and the problem of the “revolving door”. The chapter concludes by considering the future of the outsourcing of military logistics, finding that outsourcing is not only here to stay because its driving forces persist, but that it is likely to accelerate and lead to the integration of public and private workforces in the defence 2 enterprise. The chapter draws primarily on evidence from the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK) who have gone the furthest in outsourcing military logistics and have historically set standards that other countries eventually follow.

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in Routledge Handbook of Private Security Studies on 16/10/2015, available online:, ISBN: 9780415729352
Publisher Keywords: History; International Relations; International Security; International Law; War & Conflict Studies; Critical Security
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > International Politics
Text - Accepted Version
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