Last week, one of the biggest names in military-intelligence contracting, SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation) acquired “the biggest [military-intelligence] company you’ve never heard of,” Scitor, for $ 790 million.
That quote about Scitor was told by a former NSA officer to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, author of the definitive book on the military-intelligence complex, “Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing”. In the press release, SAIC describes its newest acquisition as “a leading national security provider focused on classified US Air Force and intelligence community programs,” with annual revenues of $ 600 million.
Scitor is headquartered in Reston, Virginia, a few miles from SAIC’s headquarters, just across the Potomac from every military-intel contractors’ favorite feeding trough. But Scitor runs a large operation center in Sunnyvale, just a few blocks from Moffett Field.
In a recent post, Shorrock describes the secretive Scitor’s business:
“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.”
One such intelligence gadget produced via Scitor’s Sunnyvale operation—a 175-foot, V-shaped helium Near Space Maneuvering Vehicle drone, the “Ascender,” designed to hover 120,000 feet above the earth to conduct surveillance and communications operations.
According to Shorrock, Scitor is also heavily involved in the Afghanistan war. One intelligence contractor on Scitor’s payroll in Afghanistan was Erin Simpson, who today heads Caerus, the private intelligence contractor founded by the guru of the Obama Administration’s counterinsurgency strategy, David Kilcullen. In other words, Scitor is as connected as it gets in the world of private military-intel contracting.
For SAIC, which recently split into two firms—Leidos, which took most of the military-intelligence contracts, and the new SAIC, which focused on IT and infrastructure—the Scitor acquisition represents “quite a prize,” in Shorrock’s words: a return to the original core business. With Scitor, it’s as if SAIC’s split created two contractor heads, rather than two different business operations.
This merely scratches the surface of one of the biggest Silicon Valley firms you’ve never heard of. And it serves as a reminder that Silicon Valley is a pure creation of the US government military-intelligence complex, a relationship that today’s tech heroes would rather we all forgot—a relationship embedded in Santa Clara County’s genetic coding, no matter how well those secrets are kept.