What Is Driving the Outsourcing of Diplomatic Security?

Authored by: Eugenio Cusumano , Christopher Kinsey

The Routledge Research Companion to Security Outsourcing in the Twenty-first Century

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  June  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472426833
eBook ISBN: 9781315613376
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042228


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The growing demand for security and the transformation of warfare following the end of the Cold War have provided new opportunities for commercial providers of armed security to government agencies. According to advocates of privatisation, the resort to private security companies (PSCs) has gained momentum as a functional response to new operational and financial imperatives, filling the manpower and expertise gaps created by military downsizing, shrinking military budgets and multiple operational commitments by providing more effective security at reduced costs. Such a functionalist explanation, however, is at odds with the problematic record of PSCs, and cannot account for variance in the use of armed contractors across countries and over time. Scholars such as Singer (2003), Avant (2005) and Krahmann (2010) have therefore emphasised the importance of ideational factors such as the predominance of neoliberal market and political cultures. Ideational arguments too, however, cannot explain variance in the use of PSCs between states displaying similar ideologies or between different agencies within the same country. As the use of contractors redistributes power and authority between domestic political actors and institutions to the advantage of the executive branch by eroding transparency and circumventing parliamentary veto points, some academics have hypothesised the existence of a political rationale for contractor support, thereby developing a political-instrumentalist explanation (Avant 2005; Cusumano 2014). Finally, others (Cusumano and Kinsey 2014; Cusumano 2014) have observed that outsourcing also redistributes power within the executive branch, providing new avenues for foreign policy bureaucracies and military forces to pursue their parochial preferences. Hence, the privatisation of security and military support may also be shaped by organisational interests and cultures.

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