Red Gate Group. The name is somewhat ominous. But don’t get too excited. It isn’t Blackwater and it’s only a $10 million a year operation. There’s no scandal; no hidden political contribution; no device that doesn’t work; there’s nothing unique at all. In fact it’s merely one of literally hundreds of companies just like it. And if and when it’s gone — when it’s likely sold to some bigger company for a handsome profit — a Blue Gate or Black Gate or Green Gate Group will take its place.

Red Gate Group is in the business of killing – there’s no other less blunt way to put it. No one at the company pulls a trigger or pushes a button, they are merely part of a vast ecosystem that runs the war against terrorism. They produce nothing. They employ former military and intelligence people and other technology experts attracted to war. They depend upon military leaders who themselves can’t wait to retire and make millions working for just such companies. They compete for contracts, where they then play a role shaping their own relevance, implementing unwavering policies.

Red Gate – up-and-coming according to Washington Technology — grows annually in its services provided to the military’s Special Operations Command and the intelligence community. The Chantilly-based company was founded in 2006 by two retired Army officers — Ernest Benner and Wade Jost. They are both West Point grads and they come out of that world: that world of special operations and contracting. According to the company’s LinkedIn page, they offer

“specialized knowledge operating in three main functional areas: Intelligence and Operations; Science, Technology, and Acquisitions; and Information Technology. Across these functional areas Red Gate Group provides world class consulting expertise in efficient program management, contemporary multi-tiered training techniques, and cutting-edge technical services”

Red Gate’s specialty, when you wipe away all of the business speak, is targeting. It’s virtually impossible to say who the United States government wants to target anymore: Zawahiri, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Koni, ISIS/ISIL, al Qaeda, al Shabaab, Boko Haram, Haqqani, Houthis or a hell of a lot other H’s. The list is vast.

But it’s clear who Red Gate wants: They’ve got a number of openings right now for people who can set up the kill. An All-Source/Targeting Analyst who works at Red Gates, the job description says, would be responsible for tracking “networks or individuals within networks ... [or] vulnerabilities” within networks. Minimum of ten years experience. Top Secret clearances with access to Sensitive Compartmented Information demanded. PowerPoint capable. They are looking for people willing to both work in Washington and in “uncertain, or hostile environments while living in austere conditions for extended periods.” The country is virtually immaterial, even the subject matter is irrelevant: counter-terror, counter-drug, counter-counter-counter.

I say so much about Red Gate is immaterial because it’s as interchangeable as the country or the mission. More than two dozen companies moreover are competing right now to hire experience, qualified and cleared targeters, competing with each other for the same contracts, offering bonuses and benefits to make their numbers. Just look at – no pun intended: there are 65 job advertisements looking for targeters of various kinds; at Glassdoor there are 91 announcements.

The list of companies in this space is vast, the need as endless as the target list. New companies are still springing up to offer their services, competing with each other to hire former military and CIA people to “man” (person) the government computers. But it’s also public companies that are a part of any institution’s investment portfolio: Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, Leidos.

Red Gate Group just also happens to have three retired generals on their payroll. One is Lieutenant General Frank Kearney, who was Deputy Director for Strategic Operational Planning at the National Counter-Terrorism Center before he retired. Brigadier General Marty Schweitzer, was the former Joint Staff Deputy Director for Regional Operations – or the day-to-day officer in charge of running targeting operations – before he retired.

Another is Major General Lee Price, who was Deputy Acquisition Executive for Special Operations Command and the Army’s first female Program Executive Officer before she retired. They lend their names and “expertise” to Red Gate, helping to get contracts and attract junior officers to do the work. They all run their own consulting companies and sit on a gaggle of boards, providing, ahem, more expertise.

Again, I can’t repeat enough that Red Gate Group is hardly unique. With fewer than 50 employees, I see on its website that it’s also busy staffing up the office of the Under Secretary of the Defense for Intelligence in the Pentagon, where the policies get made. So just to be clear: The same no-name company sits at the right arm of those at the top making the policies and then sits at the keyboards to implement the same policies.

Wanted: Targeting Analyst — Expert. Bush to Obama, Democratic to Republican Congress, nothing much changes. The loci of the global drone war is hardly the CIA anymore. Oh, the agency might take the lead for strikes in Pakistan, but even there, saying that the Agency is running the spying and killing apparatus is ignorant and evasive. If anything, the National Counterterrorism Center is a better hub to point to (Kearney’s old outfit), except that the military’s Special Operations Command (Price) also runs its own operation under the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Schweitzer) and literally tens of thousands of pilots, sensor operators, analysts, weaponeers, lawyers and more toil away daily at this constant task. The drone strikes are relentless, and in that, the U.S. government argues, plots are disrupted and terrorists are kept at bay.

Am I being unfair? Why pick on Red Gate? It’s just another company; I said so myself. They are just one of thousands of contractors we’ve been talking about for years. They are providing security services, the blowhards in Washington and academia will say, because “the people” don’t want to make the sacrifices. They aren’t doing the important work of making decisions. And in there I guess I kind of agree: it isn’t the most important work, it’s just business.

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[Screenshot courtesy of Photo of Major General Lee Price courtesy of LinkedIn.]