Outsourcing Military Logistics and Security Services

The Case of the United Kingdom

Authored by: 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




This chapter examines the impact of contractors on the provision of military logistics and security services to UK expeditionary operations. It discusses key issues that policymakers must confront before launching such operations if they are to have any chance of succeeding. In particular, it explains the growth, role and consequences of outsourcing logistics and security for expeditionary operations. This chapter is only concerned with contractors who deliver technical and service support, and armed security services. The first two groups are associated with generating military capability and are part of the military supply chain. These roles often come under the term ‘military logistics’ (see Uttley and Kinsey 2012 for a discussion on what military logistics involves). The third group is more closely associated with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), providing the Department with physical security in hostile environments overseas. The move towards a ‘Total Support Force’ model (see Tiger Team Final Report, Ministry of Defence 2010) made up of a small military force responsible for performing a limited range of core military functions, 1 while working alongside other government departments and contractors, is very different to the type of military force that engaged in operations during the Cold War. The military then functioned with a far greater degree of self-sufficiency. There is little appetite within the military, the FCO and the government to turn back the clock. Instead, it appears the government is determined to press ahead with its liberal economic agenda, and outsource military support and security functions, rather than have them performed in-house (see also Cusumano’s chapter in this volume for an overview of the debates over cost effectiveness of military outsourcing). 2 Thus, the task facing the government is how to best incorporate and manage contractor support to future expeditionary operations.

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Outsourcing Military Logistics and Security Services


This chapter examines the impact of contractors on the provision of military logistics and security services to UK expeditionary operations. It discusses key issues that policymakers must confront before launching such operations if they are to have any chance of succeeding. In particular, it explains the growth, role and consequences of outsourcing logistics and security for expeditionary operations. This chapter is only concerned with contractors who deliver technical and service support, and armed security services. The first two groups are associated with generating military capability and are part of the military supply chain. These roles often come under the term ‘military logistics’ (see Uttley and Kinsey 2012 for a discussion on what military logistics involves). The third group is more closely associated with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), providing the Department with physical security in hostile environments overseas. The move towards a ‘Total Support Force’ model (see Tiger Team Final Report, Ministry of Defence 2010) made up of a small military force responsible for performing a limited range of core military functions, 1 while working alongside other government departments and contractors, is very different to the type of military force that engaged in operations during the Cold War. The military then functioned with a far greater degree of self-sufficiency. There is little appetite within the military, the FCO and the government to turn back the clock. Instead, it appears the government is determined to press ahead with its liberal economic agenda, and outsource military support and security functions, rather than have them performed in-house (see also Cusumano’s chapter in this volume for an overview of the debates over cost effectiveness of military outsourcing). 2 Thus, the task facing the government is how to best incorporate and manage contractor support to future expeditionary operations.

The chapter will proceed in four steps. First, it will define the different types of contractors that are regularly employed to support expeditionary operations. Second, it will trace the immediate historical roots to outsourcing military logistics and security services. In doing so, the chapter will point out that the government has historically relied on the market to fill a shortfall in capabilities during times of high operational tempo. However, such shortfalls are not the only drivers behind outsourcing military logistics and security functions. As the third section notes, the decision to continue outsourcing these functions is also the result of political, economic, technological and operational factors. The fourth section provides the chapter’s conclusion.


While the military rely heavily on the first two types of contractors detailed below to generate capability during overseas operations, the FCO depends on the third type of contractor listed below during the same operations. The very different functions and responsibilities these contractors perform means that it is important to differentiate between them if we are to understand fully the reasons why the UK has chosen to utilise contractors to support its expeditionary operations. Here, a good starting point is to recognise how these diverse entities have developed. This in turn has had a significant impact on how and for whom they work. Second, the drivers behind the decision to use these different types of contractors are also often varied. For example, certain drivers have made it impossible to find an alternative solution to using contractors. This is the case with technology. The drive for very technically sophisticated weapons systems has left the military more-or-less totally dependent on system support service contractors to maintain them. In other cases, drivers do allow for the possibility of an alternative to contractors even though the financial cost may be prohibitively high as in the case of employing soldiers for menial tasks that contractors can do just as well and at a fraction of the cost.

While the definitions by Frank Camm below explain the three qualitatively different types of services to US deployed forces (Camm 2012, 244–245), they also apply to UK forces deployed on overseas operations.

Troop Support Service Contractors

These contractors provide a broad range of services to support personnel, excluding weapons or security. Examples are housing, catering services and maintenance of non-combat vehicles and other equipment. KBR is a troop support service contractor.

System Support Service Contractors

These contractors maintain weapons and information technology (IT)-based systems. Maintenance of helicopters, tanks and headquarters IT systems are examples. Original equipment manufacturers often provide such support within deployed military units. Boeing is a system support service contractor.

Security Protection Service Contractors

These contractors provide armed security (sometimes heavily armed) for convoys, facilities, high-profile individuals and contractor activities. Most contractor security protection involves routine protection of buildings and other facilities by low-skilled foreign nationals serving as guards. Aegis is a security protection service contractor.

Back to the Future: An Old Game with New Rules

As mentioned in the introduction, the government has historically relied on contractors to generate capability on expeditionary operations. As Erbel notes, they have always been key to reconciling political, strategic commitments and available resources and technological demands (Erbel 2014, chapters 2 and 3); no modern power has been able to project its military force overseas without them. The same point is made by Shouesmith, who points out that ‘civilian suppliers have featured on operations throughout history, often in the form of in-country agents’ (Shouesmith 2010, 28). But it is not only in the area of support services that contractors have played a vital role in support of overseas operations. They have also been used to maintain technical equipment. Duncan Baker highlights the example of Marconi persuading the British War Office to hire five wireless sets and operators on a six-month contract to improve ship-to-shore communications at the start of the Boer War (Baker 1998, 13). Finally, as Moore et al. observe ‘the practice of logistics as understood in its modern form, has been around for as long as there have been organised armed forces’ (Moore et al. 2000, 1).

Even though contractors may have historically played an important role supporting expeditionary operations, their increasing use in recent campaigns has its roots firmly embedded in the Cold War era (see also Erbel’s chapter in this volume). The road to privatisation really began in the 1950s with the realisation by government that the defence budget was not keeping pace with defence spending on new weapons systems and was unable to sustain Britain’s overseas commitments, which often had a large military component (Erbel 2014, chapter 3).

The solution was to improve efficiency within all sectors of the defence sphere. To achieve this, the government sought to introduce ‘managerialism’ into the defence organisation focusing, in particular, on acquisition practices (Erbel 2014, chapter 3) as the first steps to future outsourcing of military functions. By the 1970s the military had become pre-occupied with the ratio of combat troops to support troops in its efforts to modernise. As Erbel notes, ‘the argument for outsourcing – it is uneconomical to train soldiers for military tasks but then use them for non-military support functions – was already evident in the early 1970s’ (Erbel 2014, chapter 3). This was in the decade before Thatcher came to power, and her supporters used it as a rallying call for modernising the economy. With her election in 1979 the outsourcing of military service provision on home bases significantly increased (Krahmann 2010, 84–135). However, it was not until the 1991 Iraq War that contractors became a seemingly indispensable part of the military enterprise with their deployment within, or very close to the operational space. Neither is this change towards employing contractors likely to slow down. On the contrary, whether the military realise it or not, they have bought into the core-competency military model (Kinsey 2014a, 186–188). But this may not be a bad thing given the challenges facing the military in organising and fighting in the twenty-first century. These challenges are explored in the next section. It is only necessary to say here that the military is undergoing a significant change to its force structure, of which contractors are now a key component (see also Shouesmith’s chapter in this volume). The remainder of this section examines the development of British private security companies (PSCs) during the Cold War.

While armed contractors are often viewed in the same light as troop support and system support service contractors, they are quite different in many respects, especially regarding their historical relationship to the government (Kinsey 2006, 44–57; Jones 2004). Whereas the other two groups are closely connected to military support, this is not the case with armed contractors who in the past have instead tended to work for the FCO. The idea of using contractors to provide armed security functions for governments and the commercial sector has its roots in the mercenary operation in Yemen in the 1960s. One of the leading figures who helped to organise the operation was David Stirling, the founder of the British Special Air Service (SAS). He saw in the Yemen operation an opportunity for selling military services commercially to the government, as well as to foreign governments friendly to Britain. In 1967 he set up Watchguard, the first modern British private security company (Kinsey 2006, 47). Unfortunately for Stirling, his original idea of having Watchguard work for the government had all but disappeared by the early 1970s, having been overtaken by commercial interests (Kinsey 2006, 48). The rise in international terrorism, in particular, created opportunities for PSCs to offer solutions to security problems such as kidnapping. ‘In 1970 … the US State Department recorded over 300 terrorist acts worldwide’ (Kinsey 2006, 50). By the mid-1970s newly formed companies such as Control Risks Group and Keenie Meenie Services (KMS) were developing a niche role for themselves by providing military-style security for commercial security operations, while at the same time distancing themselves from the mercenary operations that had been the hallmark of British mercenaries from the 1960s through to the mid-1970s (Kinsey 2006, 51). It was also during this period that the FCO first turned to contractors, employing KMS to help protect its ambassadors who were at risk of kidnapping. The company provided additional security for the embassies in Argentina, Lebanon and Uganda from the mid-1970s through to the early 1980s when the Royal Military Police took over the role (FCO 7/3043 1976, FCO 93/2447 1980 and FCO 31/2942 1980).

The industry continued slowly to grow throughout the remainder of the Cold War, while at the same time remaining in the shadows of British foreign policy. Much of this growth had to do with the industry’s shift into the commercial sector and not with working for the British or other foreign governments. The commercial sector also offered long-term financial security for the industry as contracts were more numerous and of longer duration. This in turn allowed the industry to plan for its future by, for example, developing existing markets and diversifying into new ones. Control Risks, for example, was the first company to develop a response to the kidnapping and ransoming of politicians and businessmen in the mid-1970s. It is now the foremost expert organisation in kidnap negotiations and is often called upon to resolve cases of kidnapping around the world. ArmorGroup, on the other hand, was first to develop commercial landmine clearance and later, weapons reduction programmes in the mid-1990s. Such programmes are now commonly undertaken by PSCs sometimes operating alongside charities doing the same work. They have also become an important part of security sector reform programmes.

Finally, it is clear from the paragraphs above that the history and purpose of outsourcing military logistics is very different to the history and purpose of outsourcing aspects of embassy security during the Cold War. In the case of the former, there were clear motives for favouring the market instead of performing functions in-house. The most obvious, of course, was to fill the capability gap between political, strategic commitments and defence posture and this is still the case today. The defence industry remains, as it has been since the end of the Second World War, a critical component of the military’s ability to generate capability. The transfer to the market of some types of critical knowledge that is crucial to the military’s ability to function reinforces the market’s centrality to the functioning of the military whether at home or on operations. The same, however, cannot be said of PSCs. At most, they have been, and remain, a very useful tool that the FCO can call upon when their own resources are stretched and additional capability is needed. Ultimately, while they are often an important part of any FCO overseas mission to a conflict zone such as Libya, and frequently preferred in place of other alternatives, for example using the military (Cusumano and Kinsey 2014), PSCs are not so critical that they could not be replaced if the need arose and could always be replaced by military forces if need be. The following section will now examine the period from the end of the Cold War to the present, exploring the reasons why the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the FCO have continued with their separate policies of outsource logistics and security services

The UK’s Outsourcing of Military Logistics and Security Services since the End of the Cold War

The pace at which successive governments in Britain have outsourced military logistics since Thatcher introduced her neo-liberal economic agenda across government suggests the process is in its final stage and that within the next few years all but inherently military functions will be given over to contractors. Such a prediction is no longer farfetched given that contractors are now working alongside soldiers in the operational space performing many non-military functions for the military such as catering, waste disposal management and general camp maintenance. Clearly, the military has not only embedded the practice of outsourcing on home bases, it is now doing the same with expeditionary operations.

As noted above, Thatcher’s overhaul of the country’s economic policy soon after coming to power impacted on all government departments without exception. For example, from 1979 onwards the MoD actively pursued a policy of procurement reform that was not only focused on equipment but also military tasks and functions on home bases and overseas. The Thatcher government’s attempt to address MoD financial wastefulness in procuring equipment and services, while also tackling the spiralling cost of defence, saw it privatise a number of state-owned defence manufacturers. This, it was hoped, would create competition in the market by using fixed priced contracts instead of cost-plus contracts, increasing ‘prime’ contracting, giving industry greater flexibility to meet targets on delivering equipment, and increasing defence exports to allow the MoD to benefit from economies of scale (defence exports often subsidise the domestic market) (Croft et al. 2001, 95–98). According to Erbel, ‘Thatcher and her successors’ governments undertook additional reorganisation within MoD which mandated the further adoption of managerial and business practices in the ministry and echoed the 1968 Fulton Report’s hope of a revolving door [culture]’ (Erbel 2014, chapter 3). Importantly, the government started to move away from buying from trusted sellers, preferring instead to publicly advertise contract tenders. It also devolved budgetary responsibility to the newly formed MoD defence agencies through the Defence Agency programme. These reforms, moreover, showed that the military saw outsourcing as a normal part of their procurement business, thus setting the ground for a greater role for the private sector in the provision of military services in the long term (Erbel 2014,chapter 3).

Uttley goes further, pointing out that the defence management reforms that have taken place since the 1980s are responsible for creating structures, a ‘corporate culture’ and organisational incentives for MoD officials to evaluate the scope of market involvement across the defence support sector (Uttley 2005, 29–30). The private sector has thus become an integral part of the military procurement since the 1980s, helping to run large swathes of the procurement process that had previously been the sole responsibility of civil servants or military personnel. What is more, this gradual erosion of MoD responsibility for delivering military capability has now reached the frontline as exemplified by the use of contractors in the early and mid-1990s to support deployed forces during the first Gulf War and later during the Bosnia and Kosovo campaign. However, as Tripp notes ‘this period lacked a coherent and agreed policy for the use of contractors’ (Tripp 2001, 94). It was not until the 1998 Strategic Defence Review that a coherent policy started to emerge with the discussion on the future shape of the armed forces and the need for logistical enhancement (Kinsey 2009, 92). The review went on to say that ‘where … appropriate [the MoD] will consider the use of contractors to assist with logistical support’ (Ministry of Defence 1998, 25). Whereas the use of contractors during the Cold War was about augmenting the military’s limited strategic resources, by the 1990s there were other, more urgent reasons why the MoD chose to employ contractors to support its expeditionary operations.

Today, the decision to contract out system and support services instead of using troops is based on a multitude of reasons. They include, but are not restricted to, the defence posture of the military, political, economic and operational imperatives, technology and the need to generate strategic capability. Each one of these reasons has contributed to the widening and deepening use of contractors on operations. A detailed analysis of why each is responsible for the growing number of contractors working on operations is beyond the scope of this chapter. Instead, what follows is a short analysis of the most important issues behind each one.

An important objective of the government is to maintain a global presence with its military force. This goal is also articulated in the UK National Security Strategy (NSS). The objective of the NSS is to work towards a stable world using the country’s instruments of power and influence to shape the international environment and to confront potential risks at source (quoted in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, HM Government 2010, 9–10). At the same time, the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) points to the need to maintain a preventative posture, which includes having the ability to project defence and other capabilities abroad if the situation requires it. But to achieve this needs the support of contractors. To put it another way, there are capabilities the armed forces no longer have or if they do, it is only in limited quantities. This includes strategic air and sea lift that are critical to projecting force overseas, and which the market now mainly supplies. Additionally, if you then combine the shortage of military resources with the decline in military manpower, which has been ongoing since the end of the Cold War (military manpower has been reduced to 177,000 from 305,000 in 1990), it is no wonder the military can no longer maintain a global presence without contractors (Kinsey 2014b, 7). As Shouesmith argues, ‘[c]‌ontractors provide capacity, especially where uniformed manpower is limited politically or practically’ (Shouesmith 2010, 28). In some situations, for example, they are the default setting for the military, which can then direct its own resources towards warfighting (Shouesmith 2010, 28–29). In the end, with such a small military force, the government has little or no option but to rely on contractors or else limit its defence posture.

But it is not only resources and manpower shortages that are behind the military’s drive to outsource support to combat troops. There are also political and economic motivations for wanting to use contractors. In the first instance, the military is not always able to use its soldiers for certain functions even if it wants to. This was the case with transporting military supplies through Pakistan into Afghanistan. Politically, it was out of the question for the Pakistan government to allow US and UK troops on its soil given that they were involved in a war in a neighbouring state. Such a move would have likely inflame local feelings and place UK and US soldiers at greater risk, while simultaneously increasing local tensions. Instead, both countries were allowed to use local contractors to move their supplies through the country.

From a domestic political standpoint, protecting its soldiers on operations has become a priority for government. One way to achieve this is to cap the number of soldiers deployed on an operation. Not only can this reduce the cost of the deployment, as support service contractors are usually paid significantly less than soldiers doing their job, but because it reduces the overall number of soldiers on deployment, it is also likely to reduce the numbers returning in body bags (Harding 2009). Capping in this way is ultimately designed to gain public support for operations that might struggle to do so, while contractors make up the shortfall in troop numbers by taking over support functions from soldiers. The Tiger Team Report estimates the ratio of soldiers to contractors on Operation HERRICK (this was the UK military deployment to Afghanistan) is 3:2 (Tiger Team Final Report, Ministry of Defence 2010, 14).

Economically, the use of contractors is now part of a broader challenge to maintain an affordable peacetime standing force in the face of competing priorities (education, health, welfare and so forth) (Shouesmith 2010, 29). Maintaining an affordable force has meant the MoD exploring a range of initiatives and innovations in the area of support services, equipment support and infrastructure support over the past 20 years (not all initiatives, however, have provided the cost saving they should have, see Smith 2012). One of these innovations is ‘Contractor Support to Operations’ which according to Heidenkamp enables ‘politicians … to communicate a more cost-effective utilisation of scarce public financial resources’ (Heidenkamp 2012, 16). Another economic initiative is end-to-end services. Here the idea is for industry to provide the same service on home bases to those provided during expeditionary operations. This involves contractors undertaking major repairs of vehicles and weapon platforms in-theatre instead of at home. This not only reduces the turnaround time, it also saves money as the equipment remains in-theatre thus removing the time and cost of transporting it back to the UK and then sending it back out.

Finally, what of technology? Today, contractors provide a multitude of specialist capabilities that the military no longer embrace (for the impact of technology on the military see Gansler 2011). In some cases, such as the maintenance of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), the skill sets no longer exist because either the military cannot grow them in time or it has taken a deliberate decision not to develop them, leaving contractors to fill the gap. Often, the rapid introduction of technically sophisticated equipment leads to lines of development (doctrine written for the equipment, troops trained on the equipment before it is introduced into service, and infrastructure in place to support and maintain the equipment) not being ready in time for soldiers to use the equipment thus necessitating the use of contractors instead. This is especially so with communications equipment. Frank Camm makes the same point:

The military often uses a contractor source to maintain sophisticated equipment because, as the result of acquisition program decisions and personnel policies, contractors often have better qualified personnel and more advanced methods to do this than military sources do, particularly when the equipment is newly fielded.

(Camm 2012, 239) Consequently, contractors are more likely to be used instead of uniformed personnel when equipment is rushed into service because the military urgently need it. Ultimately, with rapid advances in defence technology producing ever more sophisticated weapon platforms, and the prospect of the number of short-term expeditionary operations in the future increasing, the prospect for contractors to continue to support these platforms is looking increasingly likely. In sum, the probability of contractor support to expeditionary operations decreasing in the near future is highly improbable. All the same, integrating contractors into a military operation as part of the support component is unlikely to be straightforward and is still far from complete. Indeed, while they will be a part of any future expeditionary force structure it is still unclear what that structure will look like and what the role of contractors within it will be.

The remaining paragraphs focus on outsourcing security functions to PSCs. As the chapter mentioned earlier, the industry for armed contracting is a Cold War phenomenon. It was not until after the Berlin Wall came down, however, that business really began to grow. Nevertheless, growth was not trouble free. Encouraged by the success of the South African private military company (PMC) Executive Outcomes military operation in Angola and Sierra Leone, another PMC was set up in the UK that also offered direct military support to government clients. This move was in many respects a step back into the past as Sandline International’s operation in Sierra Leone soon revived memories in the British press of mercenaries running amok in Africa. The business venture ended in a fiasco when it was discovered that the company was supplying arms to Ahmad Kabbah’s government, which at the time was fighting a particularly brutal war against the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), in contravention of a UN arms embargo on the country (Kinsey 2006, 72–92). However, the damage had been done as PSCs were similarly tarnished with the mercenary label even though they had made every effort since the mid-1970s to avoid being associated with mercenary activity.

While the ‘Arms to Africa’ affair saw PSCs come under international scrutiny, it did not end the market for armed contracting, nor did it slow the market down. The first major opportunity for PSCs came immediately after 9/11 and NATO’s operation in Afghanistan. Up until this point, the industry had certainly been active, supplying security to commercial organisations operating in dangerous environments. Afghanistan was in some respects a turning point for the industry in that the number of government security service contracts quickly began to grow. As Dunigan notes, ‘expanding definition of what constitutes “warfare” in US military and policy circles leads to outsourcing under the logic of capacity filling’ (Dunigan 2011, 7). This was certainly the case in the context of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The growing tendency to consider stabilisation, security, transition, and reconstruction (SSTR) missions as an integral component of warfare [stretched] the US military and coalition forces thin, causing US policymakers to rely on PSCs as an ad hoc supplement to regular military forces.

(Dunigan 2011, 7. See also Dunigan’s chapter in this volume) Although providing security services in Afghanistan was undoubtedly lucrative for American and British PSCs, it was not until 2003 and Operation Iraqi Freedom that PSC fortunes really turned a political and economic corner. Even though the FCO was seriously embarrassed by the activities of Sandline in Sierra Leone, the need to provide enough security personnel for ever larger numbers of government officials working in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the decision of the military not to allow troops to be used, saw the FCO turn to British PSCs to fill the capacity gap in personal security details (Kinsey 2009, 109). While necessity initially drove their decision to rely on PSCs instead of using troops, the practice has now become normalised within the FCO to such an extent that it would be fair to say the Department has adopted a much more liberal and forward looking attitude to the industry. It is now common practice to use security contractors to protect embassy staff (ambassadors are still protected by the Royal Military Police) and assets in countries where they face a threat of attack and kidnapping from terrorists and criminal gangs.

The FCO was not the only government department to rely on contractors for security in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department for International Development (DFID) also turned to private security to protect their employees and consultants in both countries. In many respects, even though they make strange bedfellows the two organisations are well suited to each other because of their mutual interest in security sector reform. PSCs are experienced in training foreign police forces and militaries, two areas in which DFID are also heavily involved. As one FCO official noted, ‘DFID is the most forward-looking department in their thinking concerning the potential utility of commercial security’ (Kinsey 2009, 110). Furthermore, in the past DFID has tried to distance itself from the military even though it has had to rely on the MoD for security and the provision of certain security sector reform (SSR) services. Hiring PSCs offers them the opportunity to maintain, as well as strengthen, their autonomy (Cusumano and Kinsey 2014). Crucially, DFID has overcome its initial suspicion of the profit motive of the industry and has become more relaxed about using PSCs.

What does the future hold for British PSCs? From the government standpoint, it will very much depend on the NSS. If the government, for example, believes it should continue to pursue an interventionist policy in failing and failed states, even a limited one, then the market for armed contractors will continue, if not grow. This is because demand for SSR programmes will undoubtedly increase which in turn will lead to an increase in demand for SSR experts to run programmes, with some of that expertise in all probability coming from PSCs. Some of these experts will also need to be protected physically from attacks and kidnapping, thus creating further opportunities for PSCs. There is also the use of PSCs by the MoD to consider. While in the past it has distanced itself from the industry, the pressure to do more with less manpower and fewer resources has meant the MoD has had to rethink its position towards PSCs. Even so, there is still no plan in place to utilise them in the event of a military intervention; neither has the idea been rejected, however. Instead, the MoD is taking a pragmatic approach towards the industry as highlighted in the Tiger Team Final Report. The report noted that ‘If in exceptional circumstances … [PSCs] are contracted to contribute to Force Protection, the MoD should adopt an approach similar to the US DoD and engage directly with the [PSCs]’ (Ministry of Defence 2010). Commercial opportunities are also likely to multiply over the next few years. As demand for natural resources expands, oil and mining companies may find themselves working in ever more hostile environments. This in turn may require additional security arrangements to protect staff and assets from attacks by well-armed and organised terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. Ultimately, the future market for PSCs looks very buoyant for the time being. This is especially so with intrastate warfare on the rise and the need for governments, international organisations, NGOs and corporations to ensure the safety of their employees.


As the chapter explains, the history and rationale behind the outsourcing of UK military logistics and security services are quite different. Outsourcing military logistics has its roots in defence management reform, which can be traced back to the 1950s–1960s. Importantly, the primary reason for outsourcing logistics remains the need to bridge the gap between political and strategic aims and military resources as well as meeting the technological demands of modern sophisticated weapons systems. Without the market, the military would be left with gaps in capabilities thus threatening the success of a military operation. More recently, the decision to outsource has also been the result of operational imperatives, which will remain key considerations behind any decision to use contractors for the foreseeable future. Finally, outsourcing military logistics is today a central aspect of British defence policy that is not going to change anytime soon.

As mentioned above, the history behind outsourcing security services to PSCs is very different even though some of the drivers may be the same (filling the resource gap and economic efficiency). PSCs have been established in Britain since the mid-1970s. Since their inception, they have looked to the commercial sector for the majority of their contracts. The market for government security services was, until Iraq, somewhat restricted in terms of the scope and scale of contracts, thus limiting future profits. This changed with Iraq. Not only did contracts become considerably larger in size than previously; the range of security activities outsourced also dramatically increased. Nor is the British government inclined to halt the practice of using them, given the reliability that companies have demonstrated over the past few years. It is evident then, that we can expect more not less use of PSCs in the coming years.


With the UK military outsourcing so many of its support functions it now resembles what Taylor (2004, 186–190) and Kinsey (2009, 17–29) refer to as a core competency military force. The responsibilities of such a force include high intensity warfighting, counter-insurgency operations, counter-terrorist operations, peace enforcement operations, classic peacekeeping and military aid to the civilian authority (MACA).

Supporters of outsourcing to the market believe it is more efficient than using public bodies to deliver pubic services. Critics, however, claim that outsourcing is being driven more by ideology than by cost-efficiency. See Krahmann (2010).


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