Defense Contractors or military contractor is a business organization or individual that provides products or services to a military department of a government. Products typically include military aircraft, ships, vehicles, weaponry, and electronic systems. Services can include logistics, technical support and training communications support, and in some cases team-based engineering in cooperation with the government.
Military contractors do not generally provide direct support of military operations. Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions military contractors engaged in direct support of military operations may be legitimate targets of military attacks. Compare to a private military contractor.
Defense contracting has expanded dramatically over the last decade, particularly in the United States, where in the last fiscal year the Department of Defense spent nearly $316 billion on contracts. Contractors have also assumed a much larger on-the-ground presence during recent American conflicts: during the 1991 Gulf War the ratio of uniformed military to contractors was about 50 to 1, while during the first four years of the Iraq War the U.S. hired over 190,000 contractors, surpassing the total American military presence even during the 2007 Iraq surge and 23 times greater than other allied military personnel numbers. In Afghanistan, the presence of almost 100,000 contractors has resulted in a near 1 to 1 ratio with military personnel.
Private Military Company (PMC), or private military or a security company, provides military and armed security services. These combatants are commonly known as mercenaries, though modern-day PMCs euphemistically prefer to refer to their staff as security contractors or private military contractors.
The services and expertise offered by PMCs are typically similar to those of governmental military or police forces, most often on a smaller scale. While PMCs often provide services to train or supplement official armed forces in service of governments, they can also be employed by private companies to provide bodyguards for key staff or protection of company premises, especially in hostile territories. However, contractors who use offensive force in a war zone could be considered unlawful combatants, in reference to a concept outlined in the Geneva Conventions and explicitly specified by the US Military Commissions Act.
Government Contractors is a private company that produces goods or services under contract for the government. Often the terms of the contract specify cost plus – the contractor gets paid for its costs, plus a specified profit margin. Laws often require governments to award contracts to the low bidder. Some communities are largely sustained by government contracting activity; for instance, much of the economy of northern Virginia consists of government contractors employed directly or indirectly by the federal government of the United States.