This is a guest article by D. Alan Johnson, his latest book Asgaard explores the role of US military Contractors in far flung parts of the globe. D. Alan Johnson is well equipped to write not only Asgaard, but also this article. He is what he writes about! Since the mid 1980’s he has been a private military contractor – Simon

Introduction:  Private Military Contractors are in demand all over the world by governments seeking to augment their military and maintain an edge over their adversaries. Contractors take care of high tech missiles and free up fighting soldiers by managing mess halls. But another facet of this PMC business is the corporate sector. These jobs are never advertised, but contractors play a part in the strategic decision making and vital running of a large multinational.

In Part One we discussed how corporations use Private Military Contractors to boost their security mechanisms, especially in troubled areas. This article will deal with the corporate need for:


This has been called the Information Age, but we have moved past that and into the Intelligence Age. Information is only a collection of facts. While valuable, the number of facts in the world has multiplied to the point that one can drown in the deluge of new information pouring out every day. No executive can keep up with the reading required, much less think through the implications of that mass of information.

Intelligence, on the other hand is information that has been analyzed by a human brain. Irrelevant facts are thrown out. Significant tidbits are emphasized. Then patterns, intersections, coincidences, and inferences are mixed with human judgment and intuition to bring out a report about the subject at hand. This report will include a recommendation for action.

Governments have used intelligence collection, analysis, and reporting for centuries. Sun Tzu wrote of the need for intelligence. One of the greatest spymasters in history was a general named George Washington. Only in the last two hundred years have corporations started to use these tools to protect and grow their businesses.

The Japanese trading companies were some of the first to use a codified and formal intelligence system. The first recorded use of a corporate intelligence department in the USA is John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil in 1878. His intelligence department used a massive card file with information on his competitors, customers, suppliers, and financiers. It took several highly publicized corporate espionage cases such as the one where Boeing lost a huge amount of Research and Development data to Airbus to change the American mindset. Since then, almost every corporation in the Fortune 500 has started a competitive intelligence department.

A disclaimer goes here. Intelligence is legal. Espionage is not. The Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals abides by a strict code of conduct. You can read the Code of Conduct at

In this environment, American companies are hiring Private Military Contractors both as permanent employees and on a project by project basis. These men and women have a set of skills that easily transfer into the civilian world such as foreign language, elicitation, agent recruitment and development, and analysis. Their corporate clients usually task them with organization, collection, and counter-intelligence.


When a corporation realizes that they need a Competitive Intelligence Department, they often look to the PMC community to find a person or team to organize the unit. Often these groups are hidden within the Security Department. Other times they are an office reporting directly to the CEO and listed on the Organizational Chart as the “Special Studies Task Force” or other such nonsense.

Most often the companies look to retired officers from Military Intelligence, Special Forces, or the CIA. Occasionally, persons are chosen from the law enforcement field such as the FBI or Customs. I have seen an East Texas Sheriff hired to run a large unit in West Africa. These men and women are tasked with “standing up” an intelligence unit from scratch.

This means:

•    Hiring collection agents, analysts, researchers, and writers
•    Developing written policies and procedures
•    Teaching unit personnel how to fit into the intelligence cycle
•    Teaching senior corporate officers the uses and limitations of the Unit
•    Developing a team that includes senior management, agents, and analysts.

Temporary personnel are often hired to organize for big events. The biggest of these events are the industry’s annual trade shows. While most see these extravaganzas as a time to show new wares to potential customers, the wise CEO sees an intelligence opportunity and, concurrently, an intelligence nightmare. Senior management, presenters, salesmen, and booth personnel all need to be briefed on how to elicit information from customers and competitors, who to report to, and how to keep from giving away important information. Senior management is briefed on other senior management, including personal and family data, plus who to seek out and who to avoid.

The temporary personnel may also be used to man the command center, usually a room in the convention hotel. Key corporate officers will report for a morning brief and a daily debrief. Some may even be wired for sound and video.

The number of temps hired could be as low as one for a plumbers’ convention, or as high as twenty-five for the Paris Air Show, the Mother of All Trade Shows.


Established intelligence units often hire free lance PMC’s to assist in collection efforts. When one company is familiar with another’s intelligence personnel, a fresh face might just be the ticket. Collection can be drinking beer in a dive known to be a hangout of company scientists to flying an aircraft over the competitor’s offices and tracking the movements of the CEO and CFO.

The most sophisticated collection operations take place in war zones where a company may hire a professional to run a string of agents reporting on a guerrilla group, drug cartels, or a hostile warlord. These corporate field agents are careful not to go against US policy, and most share any intelligence gathered with the US intelligence community.

My one experience with this type of operation included a weekly CD-ROM dropped off to a senior US agent. The encrypted CD contained both raw reports and our analysis of information from our agents. The host nation knew of our operations. In fact, several times I took their intelligence chief out on missions. Sometimes we shared our finds with the host nation, and sometimes they were company confidential. But we always shared with US intelligence.


Often a corporation is so busy trying to find out about their competitors, foreign governments, and criminals in their area of operations that they forget that there are folks trying to get their secrets. Smart corporations hire contractors to survey their operations and identify weaknesses where R&D, marketing plans, proprietary processes, and pricing structures could be in danger of being snagged by a competing intelligence professional.

The first place that a contractor will look is at the key personnel. Scientists have been known to give out precious R&D data during a phone interview to a person posing as a student researching a graduate dissertation. Others tend to brag at the bar.

So, the consultant gives classes to senior management, executive assistants, scientists, accountants, and technical writers. These classes zero in on how to tell when one is being pumped for confidential data, how to handle sensitive documents, and what the signs are that one is being surveilled.

Some corporations even hire a consultant to probe their defenses. In one test like this, a well-known consultant showed up at the CEO’s office after just a few days with an almost complete picture of the company’s balance sheet, pricing structure, and master marketing plan. It only took a couple of nights at a bar talking with some accountants and a few hours diving in the dumpster where he recovered imperfect copies that had not been shredded.

In order to make strategic decisions, corporate officers and boards must have current intelligence. More organizations are relying upon a formal intelligence unit. As the unit matures, PMC’s provide the flex needed to fill in for big trade shows and for expansion to dangerous overseas bases. Finally, the wise company understands counter-intelligence and their own vulnerability. They hire skilled men and women to plug the gaps in their own backyard. Private Military Contractors are often the only ones with the skill sets needed to stand up an intelligence department, oversee a collection effort, and institute a counter-intelligence program.

D. Alan Johnson

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