Data collection

The data collection started with summarising reported and studied cases offered by the
literature and company homepages. Since validity and reliability are crucial, the events were cross-checked with other sources before insertion into the database. Secondly, LexisNexis was used to search in all available English news sources, including main international newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, The Times (London), Newsweek, The Financial Times, The Economist and Time magazine. While searching the news articles, different keywords were evaluated and finally systematised along a specific configuration. Thirdly, the gathered data were supplemented by information received by news services (Alertnet, IrinNews, CrisisWatch database, Human Security Gateway, BBC Monitoring), and regional internet gateways (AllAfrica.com, Africa Confidential, Reliefweb).

Unit of analysis

At first sight it seems obvious to use single contracts between a client and a contractor as the unit of analysis. However, since information gathering on single contracts (contract variant) is hampered by complexity and information access, the PSD is composed of data about the aggregated contractual relationships between a Client and the Number of Companies handling a specific Task in a specific Location. This event based unit of analysis is defined as every constellation where the variables Client, Location, Task and For Client and/or For Third Party are constant but the variable Year varies, i.e. a single event is composed of an event-time series which indicates the duration of an aggregated contractual relationship. It follows that any evidence of change in the variables Client, Location and Task as well as For Client and/or For Third Party constitutes a new event.

Aggregated Contractual Relationship*

Client Location Year Task For Client For third party No. of firms
USA IRQ 2003 4 1 0 3
USA IRQ 2004 4 1 0 5
USA IRQ 2005 4 1 0 7
USA IRQ 2006 4 1 0 5
USA IRQ 2007 4 1 0 8

*This is just an example, not real data.

In sum, an aggregated contractual relationship is defined as a configuration of variables (event) that covers the contract partner, the supplied task and the location, and finally where and by whom services are consumed.

The Task Variable

The Task Variable

Scale Task Description
1 Combat and military operations Armed private actors are directly involved in military operations and fighting
2 Military assistance Private actors provide military training and consulting (e.g. tactics) to parties
3 Operational support Private actors operate and/or maintain combat-related goods (e.g. weaponary, satellites) and/or fulfil certain functions in the command and control chain
4 Logistics support Transportation of soldiers and/or combat-related goods
5 Intelligence Private actors provide risk assessments, reconnaissance or translation services and/or are part of interrogations
6 Quasi-police tasks (prevention) and border patrol Private actors provide services that would usually be ascribed to the police, including the safety of public places and/or protection of state and local borders
7 Security/protection (individuals and facilities) Private actors provide (mobile) security for individuals and/or facilities; this task refers to protective services details
8 Police advice and training Similar to military assistance, private actors providing training and/or consulting to police forces
9 Demining Military and humanitarian demining for the destruction and removal of land and/or naval mines
10 Humanitarian aid Private actors provide armed material or logistical services for humanitarian purposes such as transportation of food in crisis zones
11 Weapons disposal/destruction Deinstallation, destruction and disposal of warfare-related goods and facilities
12 Facility and infrastructural build-up Private actors construct and build military infrastructure such as military bases


The main variable under observation is the use of PMSCs in failing states, which is labelled as Task. It is measured with a 12-point scale, which covers most services provided by PMSCs. The scale is sensitive for different military and security tasks and allows for variation in the degree of outsourcing. Due to its conceptualisation, it can be used in analogy to the tip of the spear logic (Singer, 2008: 93, Figure 6.2) as well as a scale of organic core functions of military and policing organisations.