Thursday, February 15, 2007

Who or what is SAIC?

Vanity Fair has a quite interesting article about SAIC, a company I had never heard about before.

Washington's $8 Billion Shadow
Mega-contractors such as Halliburton and Bechtel supply the government with brawn. But the biggest, most powerful of the "body shops"—SAIC, which employs 44,000 people and took in $8 billion last year—sells brainpower, including a lot of the "expertise" behind the Iraq war.

The article goes on to describe SAIC, and their less than stellar record. The article also touches on why such companies exist.
It is a simple fact of life these days that, owing to a deliberate decision to downsize government, Washington can operate only by paying private companies to perform a wide range of functions. To get some idea of the scale: contractors absorb the taxes paid by everyone in America with incomes under $100,000. In other words, more than 90 percent of all taxpayers might as well remit everything they owe directly to SAIC or some other contractor rather than to the IRS.

This is hardly a new trend. In his 1980 book, Fat City, Donald Lambro describes much the same going on. It goes without saying that this is not a cost effective way of running things, and that it creates problems with oversight and conflict of interest, as the article also explains.
In Washington these companies go by the generic name "body shops"—they supply flesh-and-blood human beings to do the specialized work that government agencies no longer can. Often they do this work outside the public eye, and with little official oversight—even if it involves the most sensitive matters of national security.

[....]

SAIC's relative anonymity has allowed large numbers of its executives to circulate freely between the company and the dozen or so government agencies it cares about. William B. Black Jr., who retired from the N.S.A. in 1997 after a 38-year career to become a vice president at SAIC, returned to the N.S.A. in 2000. Two years later the agency awarded the Trailblazer contract to SAIC.

I highly recommend the article - go read it, and see what the US taxpayers' money is really used on.

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