“Top Secret America” Exposes Gov’s Own Shadow Economy

The Washington Post has published an in-depth investigation of the top-secret security system assembled in America since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Entitled Top Secret America, the report describes the system as being “hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.”

The Post covers numerous aspects of “Top Secret America.” I leafed around to find the ones most relevant to business and the economy (aside from the fact that America seems to need an army of management consultants). Here are some excerpts from the report, which is worth reading in its entirety:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* Every day across the United States, 854,000 civil servants, military personnel and private contractors with top-secret security clearances are scanned into offices protected by electromagnetic locks, retinal cameras and fortified walls that eavesdropping equipment cannot penetrate.

* In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11. Each has required more people, and those people have required more administrative and logistic support: phone operators, secretaries, librarians, architects, carpenters, construction workers, air-conditioning mechanics and, because of where they work, even janitors with top-secret clearances. (Ed.: Hey, that must be where all the new jobs are coming from).

The National Security Agency works with the most private companies (484 total). The Air Force, Navy, and Army come next.

SAIC, General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, ManTech International, and Northrup Grunman have the most government clients (SAIC, at the top, has 33). Here’s the rest of the Post’s list of companies.

Notably, Accenture and Deloitte each have 11 government clients, though you probably wouldn’t guess it.

Also, the government still hasn’t provided numbers on how many private contractors it employs. It doesn’t seem to know. From FireDogLake:

Recall that last November the House Oversight Committee requested a head count of contractors and subcontractors from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, giving him 30 days to provide the numbers.

It does not appear that this information has yet been furnished, nearly eight months later. If it has, it’s not been widely reported. And we already knew that there were extremely large variances between contractor numbers reported by different groups.

The Washington Post has some additional reports coming out this week, one of them on contractors. Maybe we’ll find out then.

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