Entrepreneurship is often described as innovation, creativity, the establishment of new organizations and firms. Its occurrence is in almost all sectors of the economy, though the bulk of entrepreneurship occurs in the private with a very small part occurring in public organizations. In recent years however, entrepreneurship in the public sector has become more pronounced, partly due to the challenges faced by this sector as a result of conservatism in the way of doing business and high levels of bureaucracy.
Entrepreneurship in the public sector serves as a way of identifying new opportunities, an aid in judgemental decision making and innovation which provides completely new ways of doing business or carrying out activities.
One of the best examples of public entrepreneurship has occurred in the United States military. Since the start of the war on terror early in the last decade, most of the efforts towards the conduct of the war was by the military and any external involvement was by military contractors, most of whom had developed relationships with the military for many years. The introduction of private military contractors in the campaign can be described as a form of entrepreneurship in the public. The private military contractors played a key role in the campaign ranging from the training of foreign militaries and providing security for private companies operating in hostile zones. They however do not engage in direct military combat in war zones since this would be in contravention to international law (Avant, 20005).
The introduction of the private military contractors was not public and no direct link can be made to the individuals or group which developed the initial idea. However, Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary during the Bush Jr era emerged as the key figure championing the program. His arguments at the time made economic sense, key of them being the low cost of contracting third parties to provide security in the non combat zones of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was also argued their use ensured that the military concentrated on direct combat in the war, thus freeing up key human resources in the war. The cost saving in logistics was also cited since management of the aspects of the services that were offered by private military contractors by the military would have been very high (Avant, 20005).
Opposition against the use of the private military contractors was not well organized and came from different quarters. The United Nations raised issue with their use, and made claims in 2007 through a two year study that private military contractors were being used to perform military duties. Many other nations also viewed the use of private military contractors as merely as a use of mercenaries, especially since the United States is not a signatory of the United Nations Mercenary Convention. Major issues were also raised by the media, and there were claims of corruption and impropriety in the military’s use of the private military contractors in the two wars. However, the military was able to defend its actions by citing the relevant laws under which the PMCs operated and making follow up on specific cases where it had been proven that private military contractors had acted unlawfully and bringing them to justice (Avant, 20005).
The use of private military contractors illustrates that entrepreneurship, and specifically new and cheap ways of conducting the affairs of the public sector are possible even in the giant public bodies. It is an indication that despite the success that a public organization may be enjoying, innovation may be used to make better the existing state of affairs. This is because despite the availability of resources that the military could use, it still went ahead and sought to develop new ways of cutting costs. This implies that at no point in any organization should entrepreneurship be put on hold simply because a performance at a particular point in time is ideal. New ways of conducting organizational affairs should be sought always.
Avant, D. A. (2005). The market for force: The consequences of privatizing security. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Keim, G. D. & Hillman, A. J. (2008) ‘‘Political environments and business strategy: Implications for managers’’. Business Horizons, 51: 47–53.