Offshoring the Army: Migrant Workers and the U.S. Military

51 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2014 Last revised: 28 Jan 2015

Date Written: June 25, 2014


Long-running debates over military privatization overlook one important fact: The U.S. military’s post-2001 contractor workforce is composed largely of migrants imported from impoverished countries. This Article argues that these Third Country National (TCN) workers — so called because they are neither American nor local — are bereft of the effective protections of American law, local regimes, or their home governments; moreover, their vulnerability is a feature, not a flaw, in how the U.S. projects global power today. TCN workers are an offshore captive labor force whose use allows the government to keep politically sensitive troop numbers and casualty figures artificially low while reducing dependence on local populations with suspect loyalties. Legislation to combat human trafficking has done little to remedy exploitation and abuse of TCN workers because of jurisdictional hurdles and the lack of robust labor rights protections. Substantive reform efforts should address the deeper issue at stake, namely that the government uses TCN workers to carry out a core state function — namely, the use of force — without a clear relationship of responsibility to them. Unlike with soldiers, the labor of TCN workers is not valorized as sacrifice and unlike mercenaries selling their services to the highest bidder, they are frequently indebted to the point of indenture.

Keywords: National security, Privatization, Military Contractors, Military bases, Labor, Trafficking, Human rights

Suggested Citation

Li, Darryl, Offshoring the Army: Migrant Workers and the U.S. Military (June 25, 2014). 62 UCLA L. Rev. 124 (2015), Available at SSRN:

Darryl Li (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1126 East 59th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics