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Research reveals that private, for-profit corporations are integrated into some of the most sensitive aspects of U.S. special operations activities worldwide. (Photo: remotcontrolproject.org)

Profits Soar As Pentagon Leans on Private Corporations for Special Ops

New research shows how US Special Operations Command is outsourcing many of its most sensitive information activities, including interrogation, drone and psychological operations

Jon Queally

Private military contractors are reaping billions of dollars in profitable rewards from the U.S. government's global network of clandestine counter-terrorism and other overseas operations, according to a new report that examines the high-levels of integration between for-profit corporations and the Pentagon's global military and surveillance apparatus.

The new report—titled US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Recordwritten by researcher Crofton Black and commissioned by the U.K.-based Remote Control Project, shows that "corporations are integrated into some of the most sensitive aspects" of operations conducted by the U.S. Special Operations Command (or  USSOCOM). Those activities, according to the report include: flying drones and overseeing target acquisition, facilitating communications between forward operating locations and central command hubs, interrogating prisoners, translating captured material, and managing the flow of information between regional populations and the US military.

"[USSOCOM] is outsourcing many of its most sensitive information activities, including interrogation, drone and psychological operations," explained Black in a statement. "Remote warfare is increasingly being shaped by the private sector.”

And Caroline Donnellan, manager of the Remote Control project, said, “This report is distinctive in that it mines data from the generally classified world of US special operations. It reveals the extent to which remote control activity is expanding in all its facets, with corporations becoming more and more integrated into very sensitive elements of warfare. The report’s findings are of concern given the challenges remote warfare poses for effective investigation, transparency, accountability and oversight. This highlights the difficulties in assessing the impact and consequences of remote control activity.”

Reviewing its contents for The Intercept on Monday, journalist Ryan Gallagher observed how the unprecedented research documents troubling ways in which these private corporations have engaged in  overseas operations.  Describing it as a "corporate bonanza" for these contractor, Gallagher reports:

USSOCOM tendered a $1.5 billion contract that required support with “Psychological Operations related to intelligence and information operations.” Prospective contractors were told they would have to provide “military and civilian persuasive communications planning, produce commercial quality products for unlimited foreign public broadcast, and develop lines of persuasion, themes, and designs for multi-media products.” The contract suggested that aim of these “persuasion” operations was to “engage local populations and counter nefarious influences” in parts of Europe and Africa.

A separate document related to the same contract noted that one purpose of the effort was to conduct “market research” of al-Qaida and its affiliates in Libya, Tunisia, Mali, Northern Nigeria, and Somalia. Four American companies eventually won the $1.5 billion contract: Tennessee-based Jacobs Technology and Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI-WGI, and SRA International.

Notably, while some 3,000 contractors provided service in some capacity to USSOCOM, just eight of the contractors earned more than 50 percent of the $13 billion total identified in Black’s report. Those were: Lockheed Martin, L-3 Communications, Boeing, Harris Corporation, Jacobs Engineering Group, MA Federal, Raytheon, and ITT Corporation.

 

Read the executive summary of the report here. Read the full report here.


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