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About R J Hillhouse

  • 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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  • "This gripping blog is filled with compelling posts on private intel corporations, mercenaries, the CIA, and the War on Terror."
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OUTSOURCED.

« Live on Detroit Area Radio Wednesday Morning | Main | Congress implies CIA Contractors Involved in Criminal Activities in Iraq »

October 04, 2007

Comments

Frank Naif

Thanks for another thoughtful post, Dr. Hillhouse. I concur that Blackwater is on the fringe of a more pernicious problem. But I think there's another lesson from the current Blackwater flap that cuts right across the fringe directly to the central problem of core national security functions being assumed by Beltway contractors.

I've been an intelligence contractor PM, and I can say that the quality just isn't there on most contracts, big or small. The leadership, capabilities, and integrity of contractors are consistently overestimated by the government officials who manage them. It's simple: just because they are contractors doesn't mean they're doing it better, faster, smarter, or cheaper. Don't forget, 99% of contractors used to be civil servants or uniformed military--and the individuals who are contractors don't, on the whole, magically become more competent or more motivated or more imaginative once they join a contractor payroll.

Nonetheless, that's one of the truisms that middle- and senior-level government officials fall back on when they make statements like, "we just can't live without those contractors."

And this is the truism behind idiotic source selections and/or poor supervision and surveillance of contracts that happen under the watch of middle- and senior-level government officials.

"We do it better, faster, cheaper" has been the sales mantra of every contractor who has ridden the wave of intelligence outsourcing over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, it just ain't so. Contracts are routinely staffed with who's available with a clearance; specialists in one subject matter area are re-packaged as specialists in another area. Subcontracts go out to the cheapest bid, or out to the bid that has some smokin' hot babe on it.

Too many in government have an inappropriately high level of faith in the contractor community's capabilities. Whether it's naivete ("I believe their brochures and power points") or laziness ("I'm on flex time and I leave right at 2:30 no matter what cuz I live in Loudoun") or cynicism ("better those contractors taking the heat than ME"), there's no excuse for our current dependence on shoddy contracting.

Bill

I think that this mistrust in contractors fulfilling what were government tasks is rooted in a deeper love for socialism by the American people. For some reason they trust their government to do things for them, and hate corporations, any corporation, no matter their track record. They feel better when the government is in control, regardless of how inefficient and cost prohibitive it may be

Frank

Private industry's only efficient when there's competition, Bill.

When there's no pressure to keep price down, corporations are MUCH more expensive than government.

It's human nature: greed and laziness together, are going to cost more than just plain old laziness.

Frank

I think that this mistrust in government fulfilling what were government tasks is rooted in a deeper love for corporatism by the American people. For some reason they trust corporations to do things for them, and hate government agencies, any government agency, no matter their track record. They feel better when the corporations are in control, regardless of how inefficient and cost prohibitive it may be.

Frank

I think that this mistrust in government fulfilling what were government tasks is rooted in a deeper love for corporatism by the American people. For some reason they trust corporations to do things for them, and hate government agencies, any government agency, no matter their track record. They feel better when the corporations are in control, regardless of how inefficient and cost prohibitive it may be.

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Acknowledgements

  • 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.