Private military companies (PMCs), are also known as private security companies (PSCs) and specialize in providing armed security and/or military related services across the globe. The employees of PMCs are commonly referred to as mercenaries although PMCs take great pains to point out the fact their employees are not hired to be front-line troops and should not be considered mercs. Despite being a play on words to some, the designation of employees as mercenaries is a big deal in international law since the practice is prohibited under the U.N Mercenary Convention (the U.S. and U.K. have not signed). Regardless, since the Iraq War, PMCs have seen a significant growth in business worldwide and have become a popular post-active duty option for ex-soldiers seeking high-paying work around the world.
What Services Are Offered by PMCs?
Private military companies offer services similar to police or military security forces on a smaller scale. These can range from training armed forces of developing nations to providing armed security in support of government agencies or private entities. As the PMC sector has expanded over the past decade, the larger companies have expanded service offerings to include intelligence and logistics support, research and development into emerging military-related technologies, and other functional support areas that national governments and/or the United Nations are unable to accomplish.
Where are Private Military Services Employed?
Private military companies employ contractors across the world to include every continent with the exception of Antarctica. Over the past decade, employees from the sector have seen employment that ranges from guarding oil refineries in Iraq, to providing contract services in developing nations, to bodyguard services for diplomats in Afghanistan and other austere international locations. In Columbia, private security contractors have been paid to fly helicopters and reconnaissance airplanes by the U.S. State Department and have also seen service training armed forces in Taiwan, Bulgaria, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea.
NGO Use of Private Military Companies
National governments are not the only entities that have made use of private military companies, as some non-governmental organizations have employed various firms to provide security in highly dangerous regions. These areas include providing security in the countries of Somalia, Sudan, and Afghanistan over the past ten years. When NGOs do hire contract security, it is typically due to the lack of suitable national resources or time to help meet the demands of a deteriorating security environment and the cost of managing in-house security for the group. Due to liability concerns, most NGOs will hesitate to contract out armed security; instead, relying on unarmed contractors to provide an initial layer of defense for buildings or facilities.
Problems with Private Military Companies
The use of private military companies does not come without controversy. Some of the common problems as seen from the NGO or IGO (International Governmental Organization) perspective include: outsourcing security makes the respective NGO or IGO too reliant on security contractors and makes it harder for the group to make their own decisions, a perception of the NGO being associated with the local police or military which may or may not be corrupt resulting in increased risk to the NGO’s personnel, higher personnel costs for the contract security, and a frequent turnover in private military company employees in the country of service. Due to the number of perceived negatives in hiring PMCs at the NGO level, many organizations will not make their use of these security details public knowledge.
Listing of Private Military Companies
The following is a listing of many of the well-known private military companies at the time of this writing. If you have any to add to the list, or modifications to those listed below, please leave the information in the comments section of the article and the material will be updated on validation of the new information.
Academi (formerly known as Blackwater and Xe) is one of the better known private military companies based in the United States. With roots developed in the Special Forces community, the company provides services in high-risk and complex operations world-wide. The company’s mission is to provide experienced intelligence, military, and law enforcement assistance in both foreign and domestic operations.
AEGIS is a privately owned, London-based, British risk management and security company. The organization has overseas offices in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iraq, the United States, and the U.K. The company has significant experience working with EU, UN, and various national governments providing a wide array of security-related services.
AirScan, Inc. is a private military company that was formed in 1984 by Walter Holloway and John Mansur. The company specializes in airborne surveillance, security operations, wildlife surveys, and training and is one of the few PMC’s that is able to operate UAVs.
AMA Associates Limited was originally founded in 1994 by Lt Col (Ret) Dr. Alastair MacKenzie, a former UK Special Forcers officer. The company has provided services to clients in the following areas since its creation: governments, major international corporations, manufacturers, and private/public sector organizations.
Beni Tal is an Israeli private military company. The organization focuses on providing quick, yet professional responses in a number of security-related fields. There are three divisions based in Israel with a number of branches located abroad. Beni Tal has significant experience providing services in both the private and public sector.
Blue Hackle is a U.S.-based company that has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The company specializes in risk management and risk mitigation services for major financial institutions, corporations, law firms, NGO’s, and governmental agencies. The company also provides consultation to organizations that have been targets of kidnapping for ransom situations.
Control Risks is a private, global risk consultant company. The organization specializes in organizing and managing integrity, security, and political risks in hostile and complex environments.
The world’s greatest corporate military expertise — capitalizing on the experience and skills of America’s best seasons professionals. Integrity, ethics, professionalism, quality, and cost competitiveness are our hallmarks — a claim borne out by past performance. One of the oldest private military companies in continuous existence and recently rebranded from MPRI.
G4S is a leading international security solutions group that has more than 50,000 total employees in Canada and the United States. The company offers a combination of project management, personnel, risk management, and technology solutions focused on providing safety and security of key government and business assets and personnel.
General Dynamics is a large military services orientated company with job availability world-wide. Unlike other private military companies, General Dynamics has a large number of job opportunities in military support and R&D related fields that provide opportunities for those with military but not direct action related experience.
Hart Security provides a comprehensive marine risk management program. The offerings include the ability to deploy finance, insurance, security and industry expertise abroad to help coordinate responses to all security risks, with a focus on terrorism, political instability and criminal activity.
Halliburton is a private military company which specializes in energy and infrastructure. The company has more than 70,000 total employees that work in more than 80 countries. With much of the company’s work focused on development projects in austere locations, there is a large demand for employees with security-related expertise to obtain employment.
International charter company that acts as a private military company providing aviation services in peacekeeping support and relief services. Past work includes Liberia, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Sudan.
Risk Advisory is a global risk management consultancy. The company is committed to guiding clients through the complex international regulatory, compliance and security environment. The company’s clients include a number of the world’s leading corporate entities, financial institutions, and law firms, most of which operate globally including in the most challenging jurisdictions.
SAIC’s national security efforts reach across all branches of the military and support the full spectrum of military operations – from peace keeping and humanitarian missions to major conflicts. SAIC also assists the U.S. Department of Defense, the FBI, and other agencies combat terrorism, cybercrime, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. More recently, opportunities for security professionals have expanded at the company.
Secopex is a French-based private military company. The organization specializes in providing services to public and private entities in North Africa, West Africa and Central Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
The Steele Foundation is a multinational corporation that provides a large range of risk management services. These are designed to help organizations control loss by developing innovative tactical and strategic level solutions. The company has been in business since 1989 and has partnered with a number of organizations in both the public and private sector.
Triple Canopy is dedicated to providing organizations with the capabilities and insight to reduce exposure to hostile threats. The company has offices in Virginia, Louisiana, Iraq, Kuwait, Uganda, Afghanistan, and Indonesia.