Who Am I? The Blurring of the Private Military and Security Company (PMSC) Category

  • Berenike Prem
  1. 1.Witten/Herdecke University Witten Germany



This chapter argues that is it not just the academic literature on the privatization of security that is going beyond PMSCs, but PMSCs themselves stretch conceptual boundaries. In fact, what we so casually refer to as ‘the PMSC industry’ is but an assemblage of extremely diverse and fluid corporations whose activities converge and intersect with parallel industries. How can we explain this slippery nature? Drawing on evolutionary economics and sociological institutionalism, this contribution advances a co-evolutionary framework for explaining how and why firms in the U.S. ‘market for force’ have evolved and developed over time. The analysis suggests that major transformations within the industry, from ‘kitchen porter’ kind of functions to armed security provision, to today’s multi-service organizations, are market-induced. They reflect the interests and preferences of the U.S. government as the single largest client of private military and security services. At the same time, the twentieth century norm of the state monopoly over violence has placed major constraints on the development of the industry, pushing PMSCs to divest themselves from combat roles and armed security services. This retreat, however, often remains a merely symbolic one since PMSCs continue to compete for lucrative security contracts and have resurfaced in quasi-combat roles: as operators of drones and cyber warriors.


  1. Abrahamsen, R., & Williams, M. C. (2011). Security beyond the state. Private security in international politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Academi. (2011). Leading training and security services provider Xe services announces name change to ACADEMI. Accessed March 11, 2013, from http://academi.com/press_releases/1
  3. Academi. (2013a). Recruit highly skilled personnel. Accessed March 13, 2013, from http://academi.com/pages/assess/assess-overview/recruit-highly-skilled-personnel
  4. Academi. (2013b). Training cadre. Accessed March 11, 2013, from http://academi.com/pages/train/train-overview/training-cadre
  5. Academi. (2017). Managed support services. Accessed Feburary 24, 2017, from https://www.academi.com/pages/managed-support-services
  6. Ashforth, B. E., & Gibbs, B. W. (1990). The double-edge of organizational legitimation. Organization Science, 1(2), 177–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Avant, D. (2005). The market for force: The consequences of privatizing security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ballhaus, W. L. (2009a). Statement by William L. Ballhaus, President and CEO of DynCorp International LLC, before the commission on wartime contracting. Accessed July 01, 2013, from http://www.dyn-intl.com/media/590/cwc_ii_draft_statement_for_the_record_9_14_2009.pdf
  9. Ballhaus, W. L. (2009b). Statement by William L. Ballhaus, President and CEO of DynCorp International, before the commission on wartime contracting. Accessed July 01, 2013, from http://www.dyn-intl.com/media/593/8-11-09_cwc_hearing_ballhaus_statement_for_the_record.pdf
  10. Baum, J. A. C., & Singh, J. V. (1994). Evolutionary dynamics of organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Beerli, C. (2012). A humanitarian perspective on the privatization of warfare. Accessed October 15, 2013, from http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/statement/2012/privatization-war-statement-2012-09-06.htm
  12. Beese, C. (2004). Regulation – An armorgroup perspective (private security companies). Accessed November 06, 2015, from http://web.archive.org/web/20061024012650/http://www.armorgroup.com/mediacentre/publications/?year=2004
  13. Blackwater. (2007). Global stabilization. Accessed March 03, 2013, from http://web.archive.org/web/20070925092502/http://www.blackwaterusa.com/securityconsulting/Global_Stable.asp
  14. Blackwater. (2009). Supply chain management. Accessed March 12, 2013, from http://web.archive.org/web/20090120042440/http://blackwaterusa.com/mobility_logistics/ML_supply_chain.html
  15. Blyth, M., Hodgson, G. M., Lewis, O., & Steinmo, S. (2011). Introduction to the Special Issue on the Evolution of Institutions. Journal of Institutional Economics, 7(3), 299–315. doi:10.1017/S1744137411000270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Brooks, D. (2004). The challenges of African peace keeping. Accessed April 25, 2012, from http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa96360.000/hfa96360_0f.htm
  17. Brooks, D. (2006). Congressional testimony by Doug Brooks before the committee on government reform, subcommittee on national security, emerging threats, and international relations. Accessed July 17, 2013, from http://web.archive.org/web/20061002231637/http://ipoaonline.org/en/gov/ipoa-shays.pdf
  18. Brooks, D. (2007). IPOA testimony before the house armed services committee, subcommittee on oversight and investigation. Security sector reform in Iraq: Enhancing the role of the private sector. Accessed July 17, 2013, from https://lapa.princeton.edu/conferences/military07/restricted/brooks_april_military07.pdf
  19. Brooks, D. (2010). Are contractors military? Terminology matters, especially in international regulations and law. Journal of International Peace Operations, 5(5), 4.Google Scholar
  20. Brooks, D. (2011). A decade in stability. ISOA’s rise from Sierra Leone to Washington D.C. and around the world. Journal of International Peace Operations, 6(5), 4–34.Google Scholar
  21. Brooks, D., & Chorev, M. (2008). Ruthless humanitarianism. Why marginalizing private peacekeeping kills people. In M. Caparini, D.-P. Barker, & A. Alexandra (Eds.), Private military and security companies: Ethics, policies and civil-military relations (pp. 116–131). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Brunsson, N. (2002 [1989]). The organization of hypocrisy: Talk, decisions and actions in organizations (Reprinted ed.). Oslo: Copenhagen Business School Press.Google Scholar
  23. Buzan, B., Weaver, O., & de Wilde, J. (Eds.). (1998). Security: A new framework for analysis. Boulder: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  24. CAAT. (2013). Submission from the campaign against arms trade to the defence committee’s inquiry “Towards the next Defence and Security Review”. Accessed June 02, 2014, from http://www.caat.org.uk/resources/publications/government/def-com-next-sdsr-april2013.pdf#page=4&zoom=auto,-82,720
  25. Clinton, H. R. (2010). Leading through Civilian power. Redefining american diplomacy and development. Foreign Affairs, 89(6), 13–24.Google Scholar
  26. Constellis. (2017). Who we are. Accessed Feburary 10, 2017, from https://constellis.com/who-we-are/overview
  27. Control Risks. (2014a). Ethical and independent. http://www.controlrisks.com/AboutUs/Pages/EthicalAndIndependent.aspx
  28. CusterBattles. (2005). About us. Accessed Feburary 24, 2017, from http://web.archive.org/web/20050206170821/http://www.custerbattles.com/aboutus/index.html
  29. Cutler, C. (2010). The legitimacy of private transnational governance: Experts and the transnational market for force. Socio-Economic Review, 8(1), 157–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. DeWinter-Schmitt, R. (Ed.). (2013). Montreux five years on: An analysis of state efforts to implement montreux document legal obligations and good practices. Washington, DC: Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law, American University.Google Scholar
  31. DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48(2), 147–160. doi:10.2307/2095101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. DoD. (1996). Improving the combat edge through outsourcing. Accessed May 18, 2015, from http://www.defense.gov/Speeches/Speech.aspx?SpeechID=890
  33. DoD. (2001). Quadrennial defense review report. U.S. Department of Defense. Accessed May 18, 2015, from http://www.comw.org/qdr/qdr2001.pdf
  34. Dosi, G., & Marengo, L. (2007). On the evolutionary and behavioral theories of organizations: A tentative roadmap. Organization Science, 18(3), 491–502. doi:10.1287/orsc.1070.0279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Dosi, G., & Nelson, R. R. (1994). An introduction to evolutionary theories in economics. Journal of Evolutionary Economics, 4(3), 153–172. doi:10.1007/bf01236366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Dunigan, M. (2011). Victory for hire: Private security companies’ impact on military effectiveness. Stanford: Stanford Security Studies.Google Scholar
  37. Dunigan, M., & Petersohn, U. (2015). The markets for force: Privatization of security across world regions (1st ed.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  38. DynCorp International. (2010). Casals & associates joins dyncorp international. Accessed October 31, 2014, from http://www.casals.com/2010/01/casals-associates-joins-dyncorp-international
  39. DynCorp International. (2012). DynCorp response to report raising human rights concerns over its operations. Accessed July 16, 2013, from http://www.business-humanrights.org/Links/Repository/1013843/jump
  40. DynCorp International. (2013a). Aviation. http://www.dyn-intl.com/what-we-do/aviation.aspx
  41. DynCorp International. (2013c). Contingency operations. http://www.dyn-intl.com/what-we-do/contingency-operations.aspx
  42. DynCorp International. (2013d). Overview. http://www.dyn-intl.com/about-us/overview.aspx
  43. DynCorp International. (2013g). Values & code of conduct. http://www.dyn-intl.com/about-us/values-code-of-conduct.aspx
  44. Einstein, M., & Rollins, J. (2010). Introduction: Market. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 38(3/4), 13–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. FAIR. (1998). The federal activities inventory reform act of 1998, Pub L No 105-270 § 5(2)(A), 112 Stat 2382.Google Scholar
  46. FCO. (2009). Public consultation on promoting high standards of conduct by private military and security companies (PMSCs) internationally: Summary of responses. Accessed April 02, 2014, from http://psm.du.edu/media/documents/national_regulations/countries/europe/united_kingdom/united_kingdom_fco_consultation_standards_conduct_pmsc_internationally_summary_2010.pdf
  47. Fielding-Smith, A., Black, C., Ross, A., & Ball, J. (2015, July 30). Revealed: Private firms at heart of US drone warfare. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  48. Finnemore, M., & Sikkink, K. (1998). International norm dynamics and political change. International Organization, 52(4), 887–917. doi:10.1162/002081898550789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Geels, F. W. (2014). Reconceptualising the co-evolution of firms-in-industries and their environments: Developing an inter-disciplinary triple embeddedness framework. Research Policy, 43(2), 261–277. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2013.10.006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ginzel, L. E., Kramer, R. M., & Sutton, R. I. (2004). Organizational impression management as a reciprocal influence process: The neglected role of the organizational audience. In M. J. Hatch & M. Schultz (Eds.), Organizatiobal identity. A reader (pp. 223–261). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Grunberg, M. (2004, May 3). Mit einem Fuß im Grab. Der Spiegel (p. 142).Google Scholar
  52. Hagedorn, A. (2014). The invisible soldiers: How America outsourced our security. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  53. Hague, W. (2010). Written ministerial statement. Promoting high standards of conduct by private military and security companies internationally. Accessed January 15, 2014, from http://psm.du.edu/media/documents/national_regulations/countries/europe/united_kingdom/united_kingdom_written_ministerial_statement_standards_pmscs_2010.pdf
  54. Hall, P. A., & Taylor, R. C. R. (1996). Political science and the three new institutionalisms. Political Studies, 44(5), 936–957. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9248.1996.tb00343.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Harris, S. (2014, November 12). The Mercenaries. Slate.Google Scholar
  56. Hennigan, W. J. (2015, January 21). Defense contractors see opportunity in cybersecurity sector. Los Angeles Times.Google Scholar
  57. Herbst, K. (2013). Searching for legitimacy – Private military and security companies (PMSCs). Overcoming ingrained stereotypes. Security Journal, 26(3), 280–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Hodgson, G. M. (2013). Understanding organizational evolution: Toward a research agenda using generalized Darwinism. Organization Studies, 34(7), 973–992. doi:10.1177/0170840613485855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Howell, A. (2007). Prepared statement by Andrew G. Howell for the committee on oversight and government reform. Accessed April 09, 2013, from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-110hhrg36546/html/CHRG-110hhrg36546.htm
  60. Human Rights First. (2008). Private security contractors at war. Ending the culture of impunity. Accessed June 9, 2013, from http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/08115-usls-psc-final.pdf
  61. Huskey, K., & Sullivan, S. (2012). United States: Law and policy governing private military contractors after 9/11. In M. Sossai & C. Bakker (Eds.), Multilevel regulation of military and security contractors: The interplay between international, European and domestic norms (pp. 331–380). Oxford: Hart.Google Scholar
  62. IDS International. (2017). Who we are. Accessed Feburary 24, 2017, from http://www.idsinternational.net/who-we-are
  63. Interview#6. (2014, May 16). NGO representative. Personal Interview. London.Google Scholar
  64. Interview#9. (2014, May 29). NGO representative. Telephone Interview.Google Scholar
  65. IPOA. (2007). IPOA endorsement of MEJA expansion and enforcement act. Accessed July 17, 2013, from http://web.archive.org/web/20110123164053/http://ipoaworld.org/eng/press/133-20071002mejaexpansionact.html
  66. IRG Selected to Implement Key Post-War Reconstruction. (2003, March 13). PR Newswire.Google Scholar
  67. Isenberg, D. (2009). Shadow force. Private security companies in Iraq. Westport, CT.: Praeger Security International.Google Scholar
  68. Joachim, J., & Schneiker, A. (2012). New humanitarians? Frame appropriation through private military and security companies. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 40(2), 365–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Joachim, J., & Schneiker, A. (2014). All for one and one in all: Private military security companies as soldiers, business managers and humanitarians. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 1–22. doi:10.1080/09557571.2013.867300.
  70. Kinsey, C. (2006). Corporate soldiers and international security: The rise of private military companies. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  71. Krahmann, E. (2010). States, citizens, and the privatization of security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Krahmann, E. (2013). The United States, PMSCs and the state monopoly on violence: Leading the way towards norm change. Security Dialogue, 44(1), 53–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Krahmann, E. (2016). Choice, voice, and exit: Consumer power and the self-regulation of the private security industry. European Journal of International Security, 1(01), 27–48. doi:10.1017/eis.2015.6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Krasner, S. D. (1999). Sovereignty: Organized hypocrisy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Kruck, A. (2013). Theorising the use of private military and security companies. A synthetic perspective. Journal of International Relations and Development, 17, 112–141. doi:10.1057/jird.2013.4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. L-3 Communications. (2008). Press release. L-3 Acquires International Resources Group Ltd. Accessed December 22, 2016, from http://www.defense-aerospace.com/articles-view/release/3/100396/l_3-acquires-international-resources-group.html
  77. Leander, A. (2005). The power to construct international security: On the significance of private military companies. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 33(3), 803–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Leander, A. (2010). The paradoxical impunity of private military companies: Authority and the limits to legal accountability. Security Dialogue, 41(5), 467–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Leander, A., & van Munster, R. (2007). Private security contractors in the debate about darfur: Reflecting and reinforcing neo-liberal governmentality. International Relations, 21(2), 201–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Lewin, A. Y., & Volberda, H. W. (1999). Prolegomena on coevolution: A framework for research on strategy and new organizational forms. Organization Science, 10(5), 519–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Liu, H.-Y. (2015). Cybersecurity and cyberwarfare as emerging gaps in private military and security company regulation: Thoughts for the UN working group on the use of mercenaries. Accessed Feburary 24, 2017, from http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Mercenaries/WG/Event2015/HinYanLiu.pdf
  82. Lynn, M. (2006, November 2). Men with guns are the new dotcoms. The Spectator.Google Scholar
  83. McFate, S. (2014). The modern mercenary: Private armies and what they mean for world order. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  84. McGarry, B. (2012, December 18). Retired veterans beat textron for nearly $1 billion military drone contract. The Washington Post.Google Scholar
  85. Messner, J. J. (2007). What’s in a name? The importance of language for the peace and stability operations industry. Journal of International Peace Operations, 2(6), 24.Google Scholar
  86. Morgan, G. (2006). Images of organization. Thousands Oaks: SAGE.Google Scholar
  87. Nagaraj, V. K. (2015). ‘Beltway Bandits’ and ‘Poverty Barons’: For-profit international development contracting and the military-development assemblage. Development and Change, 46(4), 585–617. doi:10.1111/dech.12164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Obama, B. H. (2011). Remarks by the president on the Middle East and North Africa. Accessed July 13, 2013, from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/19/remarks-president-middle-east-and-north-africa
  89. OBM. (2003). Performance of commercial activitites, circular No A-76 revised. White House Office of Management and Budget.Google Scholar
  90. Oliver, C. (1991). Strategic responses to institutional processes. Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 145–179. doi:10.5465/amr.1991.4279002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Østensen, Å. G. (2011a). In from the cold? Self-legitimating the market for private security. Global Change, Peace & Security, 23(3), 369–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Østensen, Å. G. (2011b). UN use of private military and security companies. Practices and Policies. Accessed.Google Scholar
  93. Pattison, J. (2014). The morality of private war: The challenge of private military and security companies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Percy, S. (2007). Mercenaries. The history of a norm in international relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Percy, S. (2012). Regulating the private security industry: A story of regulating the Last War. International Review of the Red Cross, 94(887), 941–960.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Petersohn, U. (2010). Sovereignty and privatizing the military: An institutional explanation. Contemporary Security Policy, 31(3), 531–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Petersohn, U. (2014). Reframing the anti-mercenary norm: Private military and security companies and mercenarism. International Journal: Canada’s Journal of Global Policy Analysis, 69(4), 475–493. doi:10.1177/0020702014544915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Petersohn, U., & Dunigan, M. (2015). Introduction. In M. Dunigan & U. Petersohn (Eds.), The markets for force. Privatization of security across world regions (pp. 1–19). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  99. Pfeffer, J., & Salancik, G. R. (2003). The external control of organizations: A resource dependence perspective (Stanford business classics). Stanford: Stanford Business Books.Google Scholar
  100. Pingeot, L. (2012). Dangerous partnership. Private military & security companies and the UN. New York: Global Policy Forum.Google Scholar
  101. Pingeot, L. (2014). Contracting insecurity. Private military and security companies and the future of the United Nations. Accessed April 23, 2014 from http://www.globalpolicy.org/images/pdfs/GPFEurope/PMSC_2014_Contracting_Insecurity_web.pdf
  102. Power, H. (2008, March 21). Troubled ArmorGroup secures sale to G4S. The Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  103. Prince, E. (2007). Statement by Erik D. Prince, chairman and CEO of Blackwater USA, for the house committee on oversight and government reform. Accessed April 11, 2013, from https://house.resource.org/110/org.c-span.201290-1.1.pdf
  104. Roitz, F. (2009). Statement by Fred Roitz, executive vice president of contracts and sales of Xe Services LLC, before the commission on wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Accessed April 09, 2013, from http://cybercemetery.unt.edu/archive/cwc/20110929220814/http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/docs/hearings/20091218/Statement_of_Exec_VP_Fred%20Roitz_Xe_Services.pdf
  105. Roles and Missions Commission of the Armed Forces. (1995, May 24). Directions for defense. Report to congress, the secretary of defense, and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Accessed December 30, 2016, from http://web.archive.org/web/20130702134600/http://www.fas.org/man/docs/corm95/di1062.html
  106. Rosenkranz, R. B. (2007). Statement by Robert B. Rosenkranz, president government services division of DynCorp International, before the subcommittee on management, investigation, and oversight committee on Homeland Security. Accessed July 02, 2013, from http://web.archive.org/web/20130301235110/http://dyn-intl.com/media/596/increasing_border_patrol.pdf
  107. Ryder, D. J. (2010). Statement by Ronald J. Ryder, Vice President and Program manager of DynCorp International LLC, before the commission on Wartime Contracting. Accessed Feburary 12, 2016, from http://cybercemetery.unt.edu/archive/cwc/20110929215906/http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/docs/hearing2010-06-21_testimony-Ryder.pdf
  108. Sandline International. (2004). Closure of Sandline’s operations, 04/16/2004. Accessed May 14, 2013, from http://www.sandline.com/comment/list/comment48.html
  109. Scherer, A. G., Palazzo, G., & Seidl, D. (2013). Managing legitimacy in complex and heterogeneous environments: Sustainable development in a globalized world. Journal of Management Studies, 50(2), 259–284. doi:10.1111/joms.12014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  110. Schmid, M., & Wuketits, F. M. (1987). Evolutionary theory in social science. Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  111. Schreier, F., & Caparini, M. (2005). Privatising security: Law, practice and governance of private military and security companies. Occasional Paper No. 6, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).Google Scholar
  112. Scott, W. R. (2008). Institutions and organizations: Ideas, interests and identities (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  113. Simmonds, M. (2012). Written ministerial statement. Private security companies. Accessed August 21, 2013, from http://psm.du.edu/media/documents/national_regulations/countries/europe/united_kingdom/uk_2012_fco-statement_adoption_of_asis-psc1.pdf
  114. Singer, P. W. (2008). Corporate warriors: The rise of the privatized military industry. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  115. Spearin, C. (2008). Private, armed, humanitarian? States, NGOs, international private security companies and shifting humanitarianism. Security Dialogue, 39(4), 363–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  116. Suchman, M. C. (1995). Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. The Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–610.Google Scholar
  117. Taylor, T. (2004). Contractors on deployed operations and equipment support. Defence Studies, 4(2), 184–198. doi:10.1080/1470243042000325896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  118. van de Ven, A. H., & Poole, M. S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. The Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 510–540. doi:10.2307/258786.Google Scholar
  119. Volberda, H. W., & Lewin, A. Y. (2003). Co-evolutionary dynamics within and between firms: From evolution to co-evolution. Journal of Management Studies, 40(8), 2111–2136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  120. Xe Services. (2009). International training. Accessed March 01, 2013, from http://web.archive.org/web/20090801032443/http://xecompany.com/Adv.Training.html

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018
This entry was posted in Academic and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply