WASHINGTON — At a time when contractors are under fire, several private-sector executives on Friday extolled industry’s role securing America. And one sharply questioned the leadership of US government officials.
Executives from MITRE Corporation, White Mountain Research, New Century US, and Unisys Federal Systems delivered a simple message to a House Armed Services Committee panel that focuses on intelligence programs and new technologies: Private firms are indispensable.
For instance, Rudolph Atallah, CEO of White Mountain Research LLC told the panel the military will continue to rely on its partnerships with private-sector firms on a range of issues.
“Continued private sector partnerships are essential for DoD,” Attallah said. “Businesses like White Mountain Research that work overseas have a great deal to offer. ... As we conduct our peer-to-peer research and keep pace with local politics in foreign countries, DoD can gain richly from our experiences.”
Other testifying executives made similar remarks. Then came Scott Jacobs turn. He is the president of New Century US, a firm that describes itself as an “intelligence-led security services company” on its website. Reforms are needed, he said -- inside government.
Jacobs zeroed in on a 2008 Pentagon directive on irregular warfare that handed the Pentagon’s chief of special operations and low-intensity conflict (SO/LIC) and US Special Operations Command the lead role in setting IW policy and coordinating such activities across the military.
“And yet five years later, we still do not see any tangible leadership on these issues anywhere in the department,” Jacobs told the HASC’s Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee. The 2010
Jacobs criticized the department for, in several high-profile strategic documents completed since 2008, “only lightly” covering that IW plan.
The New Century US president also criticized defense officials because “no true champion has emerged for institutionalizing [IW] lessons or for providing a sustainable budget.”
Jacobs told the subcommittee his firm possesses “the combination of our unique methodology and depth of experience offers the perfect recipe for disrupting the forces of terrorism, crime, and subversion.”
Does the same ring true for the defense and national security sector’s main top customer, the Defense Department?
Not even close, says Jacobs. “More visionary and effective leadership,” he said, “is needed in the US government.”
In the wake of a then-Booz Allen Hamilton employee leaking highly classified anti-terrorism programs, Senate Intelligence Committee leaders are mulling legislation that could alter the role of private firms’ work on highly-sensitive national security programs. The Senate panel’s bill likely will proposing shrinking the number of employees of private security firms that have access to some sensitive data, which would change companies’ business models.
To that end, Jacobs said “contractors should not collect [intelligence] information.” But Jacobs said they can help analyze it and train indigenous forces — just the kind of work his firm does.
Several senators this week told reporters they want the crafting of such legislation to be done methodically, with ample consideration given to national security issues and the proper role of contractors.