Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2022

Department 1

Public Policy


The global expansion of armed private contractors has led to a revived interest in researching armed private contracting firms, especially investigating how their personnel have functioned as an extension of state foreign policy. However, the literature on the industry contains a confusing diversity of terms when reviewing such firms, whether private military company, private security company, private military security company, or even just mercenary. Using the Singer (2010) ‘tip of the spear’ typology, I analyze the distinctions across armed private contracting firms and discuss the differences between armed private contractors and conventional militaries, armed private contractors and mercenaries, and highlight the differences between private military companies and private security companies. I find several substantive distinctions, including recruitment and retainment, rent-seeking behavior and compliance with international regulations, and expected threat environment, respectively. Armed private contracting firms will continue to influence international security dynamics and necessitate further research and attention.


Written for PP 401: Advanced Topics in Public Policy