Matthew Yglesias nails yet another problematic element of the American security state. As he puts it:
An established government bureaucracy has, of course, considerable capacity to lobby on behalf of its own interests. That’s particularly true when the bureacracy’s leadership can claim possession of secret information. But it’s also constrained in certain respects. The National Security Agency can’t bundle campaign contributions, give money to independent expenditure campaigns, or offer nice paydays to former congressional staffers.
But if you take a few billion dollars worth of intelligence spending and transfer it onto the Booz Allen balance sheet, then political organizing around the cause of higher intelligence spending can avail itself of the tools of private enterprise along with the tools of bureaucratic politics.
I think this is really quite important. Government agencies are very good at defending their payrolls and influence. Major government contractors are also very good at defending their payrolls and influence. And they’re good at it in complementary ways — their ways of defending their budgets are perhaps even synergistic. We have, I take it as given, a major problem with a cancerous national intelligence sector, and their reliance on contractors makes the cancer that much harder to excise.