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  • Dr. Hillhouse has run Cuban rum between East and West Berlin, smuggled jewels from the Soviet Union and slipped through some of the world’s tightest borders. From Uzbekistan to Romania, she's been followed, held at gunpoint and interrogated. Foreign governments and others have pitched her for recruitment as a spy. (They failed.)

    A former professor and Fulbright fellow, Dr. Hillhouse earned her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Michigan. Her latest novel, OUTSOURCED (Forge Books) is about the turf wars between the Pentagon and the CIA and the privatization of national security.

    Dr. Hillhouse is an expert on national security outsourcing. Her controversial work has twice elicited a formal response by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence--the only times that office has ever publicly responded to the writings of a private citizen.

    She is a regular media guest and available for interviews.

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« Exclusive: Office of Nation's Top Spy Inadvertently Reveals Key to Classified National Intel Budget | Main | Wire Service Picks Up The Spy Who Billed Me Intel Budget Story »

June 04, 2007



If nothing else, Dr. Hillhouse's exercise and analysis demostrates the growing power of the web to cast light on darkness. While we wait for the inevitable overreaction from government bureaucrats, let's consider just how this figure helps bin Laden & Company. In a word, it doesn't. Except perhaps to let him know in his last milliseconds that the incredibly "smart" covert weapon that is about to end his reign of terror was but a sub-sub-sub line item in a $60 billion budget. Small comfort, if any.


It is spelled "inadvertently"


Hayden spent most of his overextended career at NSA trying to achieve a dollar mix like this. It can be argued that this policy was very destructive to NSA capabilities. It can be further argued that this broad outsourcing was directly responsible for the conditions that made privacy abuses possible and, in fact, "necessary" in the eyes of the administration.


How does outsourcing make privacy abuses "necessary?"


(1) Put design and implementation responsibility for collection, filtering, and sorting systems completely in the hands of contractors. Promise the moon.
(2) Project management is entirely in hands of bean-counters and not technically competent in-house personnel.
(3) Systems don't work as advertised, never did, never will.
(4) Disaster hits the fan.
(5) Open the floodgates -- drop all filtering and protections on collection systems -- in order to get *any* product from faulty contractor systems.

R J Hillhouse

AmIDreaming, I would argue that the extent of outsourcing was not destructive to the NSA's capabilities, but rather it was erosive to the government's ability to control the NSA. The entire administrative and management infrastructure is outsourced, so when it comes to their day to day, ops, contractors are in control.

As to your point

(2.)Project management is entirely in hands of bean-counters and not technically competent in-house personnel.

Strangely enough, in the case of the CIA, it's the more technically competent personnel are now at private firms. Read the posts on the CIA on this blog and check out my book that comes out next week, OUTSOURCED . It's fiction, but the line is thin to invisible. There are things that can't be written about any other way, if you know what I mean... The current description on Amazon is a little goofy and is supposedly being updated, but trust me, it has tomorrow's headlines.

See also


I think I'm going to enjoy that book :-)

Concerning the effect on NSA capability, you make a very good point. I'd say then that *both* are the case. NSA may be a little different from CIA in this area. I have personal knowledge of a significant number of innovative and successful in-house development projects at NSA R&E, all in the area of collection analysis and datamining, that were killed because the (prospective) contractor systems would "take care of the problem."

Many of the govvies involved are just gone by now. Institutional memory was decimated by Hayden as a matter of policy. Very little has sifted into the contractors' world.


I was struck by the statement that the "role of intelligence is to avert conflict and preserve peace..." That strikes me as not only a patronizing statement but also a dangerously naive one. I want my intel community to provide data and analysis that enables policy makers to make sound decisions. This statement almost seems more appropriate for FAS or some left-leaning anti-defense organization.



That was a pretty stunning "role" for anyone who was an intelligence professional prior to around 2002. We used to be happy with the goal of providing policymakers and national leadership the best intelligence possible so that they could make the decisions and take the action on how to "avert conflict and preserve peace". Sometimes we succeeded, and sometimes we didn't.

Now, I guess, we're just bypassing our leadership and doing their jobs ourselves. I wonder how many understand the historic implications of the assumption of this role? What if intel professionals decide that the President and Congress are not effectively averting conflict? Do we just step in and do it ourselves?

Of course, given the implications of the rest of Ms. Everett's briefing, it would not be surprising for her to lead off with such a "role".

kelley b.

This is just idle speculation, but do you suppose the increasing role of privately contracted intelligence might provide the means by which unscrupulous individuals take over the entire government?

Oh. Never mind.

zz ziled

The following is from Steve Aftergood's exceptional FAS blog:

NSA Reports Huge Growth in Contractor Base

The industrial base of contractors in industry seeking to do business with the National Security Agency has mushroomed in recent years, according to an NSA acquisition official.

In 2001, only 140 contractors were eligible to compete for NSA contracts. Today, there are six thousand such contractors, said Deborah Walker of the NSA. She spoke at a contractor conference sponsored by the Defense Intelligence Agency last month.

The number of contractor facilities cleared by the NSA has grown from 41 in 2002 to 1265 in 2006, according to a chart that she presented in her talk (pdf).

The result is an increase in competitiveness and improved communication with industry, Ms. Walker indicated. "Partnerships with industry [are] vital to mission success," she said.

See "Acquisition Resource Center," presentation by Deborah Walker, National Security Agency, May 2007, Unclassified/FOUO.

Contractors now consume as much as 70% of U.S. intelligence spending, reported Tim Shorrock in Salon last week.

See, relatedly, "Senators Fault IC on Use of Contractors" by Laura Heaton, United Press International, June 6.

Posted by Steven Aftergood at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)/ Source: 07 June 07 @:
Just a thought...

In reviewing the PPT slides' 'stats' --I had to pause; because it clearly struck me, there is something really wrong with this entire IC happy face 'public diplomacy' picture.

Is it really just the desire to, 'uncork the corporate business marketplace and let every so called 'qualified' contractor in to work happily in the hum of the IC?

Is it really a desire to allow only a few well placed and positioned corporate private interests have free reign; and let them run the business of public government administration of intel and national security into the ground without oversight and accountability restraints?

Can spooks really now come out of the shadows and hang loose in the open?

Well maybe...

Or is this really a double edged grand experimental sword here?

Think of it like this:

Once the many private contractors are clamoring to get in the IC databases, and their business relationship linkages are more fully identified---I begin to develop clearer profiles of who is really capable of doing what; and who talks to whom; I also I have an clearer understanding of hidden and open "guanxi" [Chinese] in this globalized world ---than, once my database is well populated with actual and potential spooks and spooky friends---I can do some risk modelling, simulations and tracking and 'voila' over time-- I have the beginnings of a very interesting and accurate capability and threat matrix.

A Sword of Damocles this may be indeed...[]
for privacy ---then again---it could be just my idle speculation and generally a full of horsesh*t idea!

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  • A tip of the hat to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock who inspired the name of this blog with his path-breaking 2005 article, "The Spy Who Billed Me."

    Shorrock has a dedicated web page on outsourcing in intel. It links to many of his articles which are must-reads for anyone interested in the privatization of intelligence.