Special Operations Spending Quadruples

The U.S. Special Operations Command’s spending since 2001 has quadrupled, with an almost fivefold increase in revenue for its four largest defense contractors, according to a Bloomberg Government study.

The amount paid to the top four defense contractors supplying the special ops command with equipment and services -- New York-based L-3 Communications Holdings, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co. (RTN), Florida-based Harris Corp. (HRS) and Chicago-based Boeing Co. (BA) -- has increased from $194.8 million in fiscal year 2001 to $949.9 million in fiscal 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The amount of prime contract awards to small businesses, which are often more nimble in producing specialty products, has increased even faster -- almost sixfold for procurement, research and development -- from $121.2 million in fiscal 2001 to $702.4 million in fiscal 2010, according to the study, published today.

The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as missions elsewhere to fight terrorists, have resulted in the Tampa, Florida-based command needing more aircraft, small vessels, ground vehicles, communications gear and computer equipment. The command also has issued contracts for actors to play guerrillas in training exercises and for simulated land mines and mortars that fire paint.

A group of Navy SEAL trainees lie in the frigid Pacific surf, on order, 2000 at the Coronado Naval Amphibious Base, San Diego, California. Photographer by Joe McNally/Getty Images Close

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A group of Navy SEAL trainees lie in the frigid Pacific surf, on order, 2000 at the Coronado Naval Amphibious Base, San Diego, California. Photographer by Joe McNally/Getty Images

Other technologies the command is interested in include weapons to incapacitate suspects temporarily for identity checks, and “sonic projection” research to electronically beam a message into one person’s head that couldn’t be heard by others to confuse a hostage-taker or get a secret message to his captive.

The command’s non-war base budget has almost tripled from $2.3 billion in fiscal 2001 to $6.3 billion in fiscal 2011. Add the money the command has spent fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and the organization’s total budget amount has quadrupled the past 10 years to $9.8 billion in fiscal 2011.

The command’s forces include Army Green Berets who specialize in guerrilla warfare, Air Force commandos who fly the operatives to hot spots around the world and Navy SEALs who specialize in amphibious operations.

The command also oversees elite counter-terrorism units, such as Delta Force from the Army and SEAL Team-6, which carried out the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound and killed him on May 2.

To contact the reporter on this story: Douglas Waller in Washington at dwaller10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Stoughton at sstoughton@bloomberg.net

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