A Closer Look at Five Large Private Military Contractors

A Closer Look at Five Large Private Military Contractors

American private military contractor companies basically did not exist until the 1980s. The 1893 Anti-Pinkerton Act basically banned paramilitary organizations. Then, in 1978, the General Accounting Office reversed its strict interpretation policy. Several companies, 10 of which are listed below, quickly stepped up to take advantage of the new law.

As contractor duties expanded, the possibility of injury expanded as well. These incidents include trauma injuries, like gunshot wounds and falls, as well as occupational diseases, like hearing loss and toxic exposure. The Defense Base Act compensates these victims for their lost wages and medical bills. A Defense Base Act lawyer guides these claims through the system and obtains maximum compensation in a minimal amount of time.


The company, originally known as Blackwater and later called Xe, is now a division of the Constellis Group. Academi’s major contact is with the CIA. The company also has some large contracts with the U.S. State Department.

Former Navy SEAL Eric Prince started their company in 1996. By 2006, Blackwater was the primary diplomatic security contractor in Iraq. Blackwater contractors had duties elsewhere as well. These duties included escorting a supply convoy through Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007.

The facts remain unclear to this day. Probably because they believed they were under attack, Blackwater contractors opened fire on a crowd, killing over a dozen civilians. After a long court saga, four Blackwater contractors were convicted of technicalities. President Donald Trump pardoned them.

Our Defense Base Act lawyers do not represent contractors in criminal actions. That is not our gig. But we do stand up to the big insurance companies during the long and often frustrating DBA legal compensation process.


Before a 1998 merger, the Kellogg Company was a prominent heavy construction and petroleum company. Brown & Root was a Texas construction company that allegedly had some shady connections to an allegedly shady Texas politician. Between 1998 and 2006, KBR was a division of Haliburton. Today, it is a separate company with headquarters in downtown Houston.

In Southwest Asia, KBR provided military contractors and construction services to the U.S. government. In fact, in the early 2000s, KBR employed more American private contractors and had a larger contract with the U.S. government than any other firm in Iraq. The company’s roughly 14,000 U.S. employees in Iraq provide logistical support to the U.S. military. Some U.S. Marines revived the Vietnam-era nickname “Burn & Loot” as a name for the company during the Iraq War.

Private military contractors served in Vietnam and other theaters of operation before 1978 but in much more limited roles. KBR contractors in Vietnam  (or rather Brown & Root contractors back then) worked exclusively in support roles, like construction and training. However, these well-trained contractors could pick up rifles if needed.

MAG Aerospace

Contractors for this Fairfax-based company log about 100,000 flight hours a year in five continents, usually in surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance services operations, training, and technical services. MAG Aerospace has contracts with the U.S. government as well as the United Nations and other sovereign foreign governments, like Mali.

The diversity of contracts brings up some interesting points about eligibility for DBA wage replacement and medical bill payment.

These benefits are available if a qualified contractor is injured in an overseas war zone. Let’s break these requirements down.

Generally, DBA benefits are available to contractors who work for the DoD, State Department, or another government agency. However, some contractors who work for sympathetic foreign governments are also eligible for benefits. The injury must be a physical injury. So, benefits are available for PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a physical brain injury, not an emotional disorder. Finally, any country that has any U.S. military presence, even a Marine guard in an embassy, is a “war zone” for DBA purposes.

Northrop Grumman

This Virginia-based multinational corporation has over 95,000 employees and annual revenues that exceed $30 billion. It’s mostly a military hardware company. Northrop Grumman currently leads the development of the B-21 Raider, a long-range, stealth strategic bomber that can drop conventional and nuclear weapons; it will replace Northrop’s own B-2 Spirit, the world’s only known stealth bomber. Among its other current projects are the development and production of the James Webb Space Telescope, an orbiting observatory launched in 2021, and the production of the solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System program. It was the sole bidder on the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, which aims to develop and build a new intercontinental ballistic missile.

According to the company, the McLean, Virginia-headquartered Defense Systems sector works on “the entire life cycle of civil and defense platforms and capabilities through a range of services.” Vinnell, a Northrop Grumman subsidiary, provides training and communications for the military. In 2003, it landed a $48 million contract to train the Iraqi Army. Two years later, the United Kingdom gave the company a $1.2 billion AWACS radar maintenance contract.

Northrop Grumman is a diverse company, and private military contractors serve in diverse combat and non-combat roles. In short, private military contractors help U.S. forces win overseas wars. Perhaps more importantly, private military contractors help the United States win the peace. They help ensure that popular and secure democratic governments replace the military strongmen who usually rule places like Iraq and Syria.

Triple Canopy

This Reston-based company was heavily involved in the Iraq War. The company guarded Coalition Provisional Authority headquarters throughout the country. In April 2009, the government assigned Blackwater contracts, which was then under investigation for rule-breaking and violence, to Triple Canopy. Previously, Triple Canopy had been responsible for contracts outside of Baghdad, whereas those contracts the firm took over were mainly based in Baghdad.

Like all contractors, Triple Canopy contractors often sustain combat and non-combat injuries. In September 2005, an exploding IED killed four Triple Canopy team members, along with 13 others, in Basra, Iraq. Five years later, a rocket attack on Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone killed three Triple Canopy personnel and wounded 15 more.

Adam Hermanson, an employee of Triple Canopy and a U.S. Air Force veteran, died September 1, 2009, after apparently being accidentally electrocuted while showering in his quarters at a company installation inside Baghdad’s protected Green Zone.

Defense Base Act benefits are available if the victim establishes a nexus (indirect connection) between deployment and injury. Therefore, all these victims and survivors can count on the DBA in their time of need.

For more information about DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.