With upwards of 70 percent of the surveillance state’s budget directed to private contractors, some of the most reliable sources for tracking intelligence trends are the companies themselves.
Case in point: the recent acquisition by SAIC, a prime government contractor, of Scitor Corporation, the most secretive and least-known of the companies that collect and analyze signals intelligence for the Pentagon.
Scitor, of Reston, Virginia, is “the biggest company you never heard of,” a former high-ranking National Security Agency officer told me when I first stumbled upon the company in 2007.
By buying Scitor (for cash), SAIC is returning to the secretive world of SIGINT and satellite imagery after losing that business to Leidos, which was created in 2013 when SAIC was split into two separate companies. The $790 million SAIC-Scitor deal was finalized on May 4.
For years, SAIC—which is formally known as Science Applications International Corporation—was one of NSA’s most important contractors, primarily as a systems integrator.
One of its specialties was fusing NSA’s digitized signals with imagery from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) for US regional commanders, who used the NSA’s and NGA’s “eyes and ears” to find targets for drone and bombing strikes during military campaigns.
SAIC was also a major NGA contractor and played a major role in the US Geospatial Intelligence Foundation, a coalition of contractors that support that agency (and closely followed the SAIC-Leidos split).
Most of SAIC’s NSA-NGA business is now managed by Leidos, which took control of 2,500 of SAIC’s 4,000 contracts when the two units were divided. Scitor, therefore, is quite a prize. SAIC describes it as a “leading national security provider” with annual revenues of $600 million, “focused on classified U.S. Air Force and intelligence community programs.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Since its founding in 1979, Scitor has done extensive work for the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology and its Office of Technical Services, the secretive unit that develops the gadgets, weapons and disguises used by spies. Some of Scitor’s contracts for the CIA have involved building and maintaining small satellites used in signals and electronic intelligence.