The growth of government contractors in surveillance

Shannon Mullen Jun 11, 2013
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The growth of government contractors in surveillance

Shannon Mullen Jun 11, 2013
HTML EMBED:
COPY

There’s been a spike in the number of private contractors collecting data for the U.S. government in the last decade, and it turns out secret surveillance is big business. The man who leaked information about the NSA’s secret data-collection programs, worked for Booz Allen, a Fortune 500 company. So how many taxpayer dollars end up in the profit margins of private companies?

 The national intelligence budget for next fiscal year is about $50 billion, and the government spends about 70 percent of that budget on private contractors. They do everything from serving food in cafeterias to building satellites. After 9/11 the government needed a lot of high-tech skills in a hurry. 

“Right now the trend remains in the direction of contractors, whether it’s for analysis or building large technical products like cloud servers,” says Phillip Carter, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. 

Long term, some critics worry about transparency.  

“There was never a transition,” says Scott Amey, with the Project on Government Oversight. “I don’t think questions were presented on whether this workforce truly had to remain to be a contractor workforce.” 

It might be hard for the government to bring those jobs in house. Uncle Sam would have to lure well-paid tech talent away from the private sector with government salaries.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.