The independent resource on global security

The private military services industry

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Publisher: SIPRI
September, 2008

The trend towards increased outsourcing of military activities has led to a rapid expansion of the military services segment of the arms industry in recent decades. Military services as defined here include technical services such as information technology and equipment maintenance, operational support such as facilities management and logistics, and actual armed ‘security’ in conflict zones. Some of the demand for the latter comes not from ‘outsourcing’ as such, but from internal conflict situations where state capacity is weak or absent. This paper discusses the background to the growth of the military services industry and presents an overview of the different types of military service, the size of the market and the companies involved.

The continuing expansion of the private military services industry raises many issues. The view that outsourcing is economically efficient can be challenged on a number of grounds, not least when these services are provided in operationally deployed contexts. The involvement of private companies in assisting military operations in armed conflict situations such as Iraq also raises serious concerns about the democratic accountability of armed forces, the status of civilian contractors in military roles, and the political influence of companies that have a vested interest in the continuation of the conflict.

Contents

I. Introduction

II. The development of the military services industry

III. Types of military service

IV. The size of the market for outsourced military services

V. The ramifications of the private military services industry

VI. Conclusions

Bibliography

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)/EDITORS

Dr Elisabeth Sköns is an Associate Senior Fellow at SIPRI and the former Head of the Mali civil society and peacebuilding project.
Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman is the Head of the SIPRI Project on Military Expenditure in the Arms and Military Expenditure Programme (currently on leave of absence).