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UNDER FIRE
SAIC in Unflattering Vanity Fair Spotlight
Defense Behemoth Part of "Military-Industrial-Counterterrorism Complex"
02/26/2007 2:54 PM ET
Paul J Richards/AFP/Getty

Of all the defense contracting companies that have seized the opportunity for growth sparked by the war on terror, few have achieved the kind of success of SAIC (Science Applications International Corportation).

As compared to the kind of logistics, construction, security, or other "brawny" support services farmed out to giants of industry like Halliburton or Bechtel, SAIC provides the "brain" for US outsourcing needs. Currently working on roughly 9,000 separate federal contracts, SAIC's 2006 revenues--most of which comes from the government--reached approximately $8 billion.

In the March issue of Vanity Fair, Donald Bartlett and James Steele look at what the US government has gotten in return for the many billions of taxpayer dollars that have gone to SAIC over recent years. Following the trend of too many defense contracts over the past five years, the piece outlines another example of failed goals, alleged overpricing, and uncomfortably cozy relations with government officials.

In describing one of SAIC's largest failed endeavors, Bartlett and Steele describe how for the NSA, SAIC was awarded a $280 million contract to design a computer system--named Trailblazer--to sort and store electronic communications. The botched effort was cancelled after four years and a billion dollar investment, though SAIC has since been awarded a new $361 million contract to attempt essentially the same thing under a new title--ExecuteLocus.

SAIC was also behind the notoriously incompetent $124 million effort to bring the FBI's computer system into the 21st century.

Steele and Bartlett trace the history of SAIC from its founding in the late 1960s, to its current iteration as an essential contributor of support services to the US government, warning that the modern SAIC--most specifically the role it played in supporting the Bush Administration's push for war in Iraq--could exemplify a new kind of military-industrial-counterterrorism complex.

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