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last updated 23-May-2021

What is a Private Security Company (contractor, firm) or PSC?

What are Private Security Companies (contractors, firms) or PSCs?
What are Private Military and Security Companies or PMSCs?


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Private Security Companies or Contractors (or PSCs) is an alternative way to refer to Private Military Companies (or PMCs) and can be defined as

legally established international firms offering services that involve the potential to exercise force in a systematic way and by military or paramilitary means, as well as the enhancement, the transfer, the facilitation, the deterrence, or the defusing of this potential, or the knowledge required to implement it, to clients. (*)

The "potential" to exercise force can materialize when rendering, for example, armed protection services in climates of instability (on land and sea). Transfer or enhancement occurs when delivering expert military training and other services such as logistics support, risk assessment, and intelligence gathering. Defusing is patent when private military personnel engage in the disposal of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and mine clearance. Further explanation of this definition can be found at the below cited book (pages 48-49), from which this definition is taken (page 48):

(*) Cited in Ortiz, Carlos, Private Armed Forces and Global Security: A Guide to the Issues (Santa Barbara, Denver, Oxford: Praeger, March 2010), page 48.


The alternative terms used to designate the firms that deliver private military and security services, or those that fit Carlos Ortiz's definition, would suggest that PMCs are somehow very different from PSCs or PMSCs. Ambiguities will remain, though the reader should be aware that all these terms (PMCs or PSCs or PMSCs) largely refer to the same type of firms. We prefer the term PMCs because this is the term that has been used more consistently since the 1990s and it is thus not just a matter of fashion. We use Ortiz's definition because it is the one better reflecting the variable corporate constitution of this type of firms. Use the menu on the left to explore the variable articulation of the private military industry as well as its intersection with the defense sector and other adjacent corporate fields and market niches.


Earlier versions of Carlos Ortiz's definition can be found in Ortiz, Carlos, "The Private Military Company: An Entity at the Center of Overlapping Spheres of Commercial Activity and Responsibility," in Jäger, Thomas and Kümmel, Gerhard (eds). Private Military and Security Companies. Chances, Problems, Pitfalls and Prospects (Wiesbaden: Vs Verlag, 2007), pp. 60-61 >> PDFs: page 60, page 61; and "Regulating Private Military Companies: States and the Expanding Business of Commercial Security Provision," in L. Assassi, D. Wigan and K. van der Pijl (eds). Global Regulation. Managing Crises After the Imperial Turn (Houndmills / New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), p. 206.


This is a sample list and not an exhaustive resource. While some of the entities listed above are key players and/or have been discussed in the debate on the topic, some other are emerging entities or have been incorporated into the list by request. This is a professional resource and we are simply trying to help you find the company and/or service you were looking for, be that for research or business purposes. For further information on a particular company, service, or unit, please contact the respective source.

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