The recent US government shutdown cost Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) more than $20 million in lost revenue according to their chief financial officer, Lloyd Howell, speaking to investors on 1 February. The reason that BAH was hit so hard is that Government employees can claim back pay now that the shutdown is over, but most government contractors cannot.
Where might you have heard of BAH? Well, BAH is typical of the way that government intelligence agencies are supplemented by private intelligence companies that wield tremendous power as a result. BAH serves key US government intelligence agencies including the CIA and NSA. 67% of BAH employees have held or currently hold government security clearance – that is estimated to be over 1,000 officers. In 2013, Bloomberg described BAH as “the world’s most profitable spy organisation”. In June 2013, Edward Snowden was a Booz Allen contractor working for the NSA and stationed at a listening post in Hawaii when he made his revelations about mass state surveillance before fleeing to Russia. In August 2016, the FBI arrested Harold Thomas Martin III on suspicion of leaking classified information. Martin was a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor who had also worked for the NSA. The FBI seized 50Tb of data including the names of covert intelligence officers. This was the biggest ever theft of classified US data – more even than Snowden stole. It is not clear whether Martin’s activities were malicious or whether he was a hoarder with mental health issues. He is due to stand trial in June 2019.
BAH is known on Capitol Hill for its generous political donations and its considerable lobbying power. There are accusations by some observers that this power is used to bolster state surveillance and the role private intelligence organisations within it. The company certainly does well from its government intelligence work: it derives 97% of its revenue from government contracts and its total revenue in the 2018 financial year was $6.2 Billion.