Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Outsourcing Intelligence

Tim Shorrock, an outstanding investigative journalist who has probed the expanding empire of crony capitalism, makes a startling observation in his new article in Mother Jones: "Of the estimated $40 billion the United States is expected to spend on intelligence this year, experts say at least 50 percent will go to private contractors" (emphasis added, "The Spy Who Billed Me," January/February 2005).

Shorrock notes that "the outsourcing revolution" in the intelligence community began with the end of the Cold War and exploded "in the mid-1990s under Vice President Al Gore’s Reinventing Government initiative" (January/February 2005). The initiative was said to "create a government that 'works better, costs less, and gets results Americans care about'" ("Frequently Asked Questions about the National Partnership for Reinventing Government," May 2000). Has it?

Any impression of gains in efficiency is most likely illusory: "[W]here the federal workforce has shrunk, the contractor workforce has grown. Paul Light, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, calls this workforce the 'shadow government,' and estimated its size in 1999 at 5.6 million" (Laura Peterson/The Center for Public Integrity, "Outsourcing Government: Service Contracting Has Risen Dramatically in the Last Decade," January 5, 2005).

Rather, the outsourcing of intelligence, Shorrock suggests, removed the already virtually non-existent Congressional oversight of it while creating a profitable nexus of contractors, lobbyists, and government officials:
The lines separating contractors from agencies are so blurred that at the leading trade association -- the Security Affairs Support Association (SASA) -- 8 of 20 board members are current government officials. The association represents about 125 intelligence contractors, including Boeing, CACI, General Dynamics, and Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). Retired Air Force Lt. General Kenneth Minihan, its president and chairman, is yet another former director of the NSA. As a nonprofit, SASA is barred from lobbying, but it frequently sponsors events where government and corporate officials mingle, and it provides information to members of Congress. “We use the term ‘advocacy,’” says Frank Blanco, SASA’s executive vice president. (emphasis added, Shorrock, January/February 2005)
Shorrock is currently working on a book on corporations that are integral part of Washington's foreign policy making. Activists in the anti-war and global justice movements will be sure to find his book an essential reading.

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