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IBM buys spook-riddled DC services expert

Financial terms not made public. You don't say

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Spending on defence and security is probably the one sure growth market in the United States. It therefore comes as no surprise that IBM has acquired an obscure, but well-connected, IT services company called National Interest Security Company. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Working for the government and the IT industry at the same time seems to cause a kind of Tourette's Syndrome in people. I scanned the press release announcing the IBM deal to buy NISC several times, and the two companies used the words "strategic," "services," "information management," "capabilities," and "effectiveness" so often that my eyes started to water.

When I was done reading, I still had no concrete idea what NISC does or why IBM might want to buy it. This is not just bad writing - well, it is really awful writing, a thing I know a thing or two about - but intentional obfuscation.

Making jokes about NISC is probably not all that bright, however. The company's chief executive officer, Andrew Maner, worked in the White House press office of president George H W Bush. He was according to his company bio, involved there in nation building in Somalia. We can see how well that worked out.

In the administration of president George Bush, Maner was tapped to be chief financial officer for the Department of Homeland Security, running its $50bn budget. He was also chief of staff for customers and border protection, charged with integrating all of the border patrol agencies into a seamless whole. Well, sort of. The porous Mexican border problem was excluded.

Exactly what NISC does may not be clear, but the company - which is based in Fairfax, Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington, DC - is packed with former military and government employees (lots of them from the Central Intelligence Agency) with decades of experience. The company has over 1,000 employees, but its annual sales are not known since it is privately held.

NISC was owned by private equity firm DC Capital Partners, which was founded by Thomas Campbell in 2006 to invest in defence and federal contractors. Campbell has run a number of equity funds bearing Veritas Capital in their names, and prior to that was one of the founders of Wasserstein & Perella's merchant banking group. Campbell cut his teeth at Manufacturer's Hanover Trust (eventually eaten by what is now JPMorganChase), arranging loans for leveraged buyouts.

Former Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and General Michael Hayden, who was director of the National Security Agency and the CIA under the second president Bush, are on the DC Capital Partners and NISC boards. So is Henry Crumpton, former coordinator for counterterrorism for the Department of State.

Last summer, Les Drieling, a technical advisor to the CIA's National Clandestine Service, and Maria Magoulas-Perkins, an executive manager at the NSA and a senior staff member on the the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, both joined NISC to add data analytics and foreign language processing expertise to the services that the company peddles to Uncle Sam.

IBM says that NISC has services and IT expertise in defence, healthcare, energy, logistics, and security. It claims it will tuck the acquired company into its Global Business Services unit, to build out its business analytics and optimization (BAO) efforts in the public sector. Expect lots of talk about "smart government" from Big Blue, and for NISC employees to play a part in getting deals done, as BAO systems do all kinds of dicing and slicing of all kinds of data.

As part of the deal, IBM is also picking up another DC Capital Partners firm called Technology and Management Services, which sells consulting and IT services to the Department of Energy as well as to the Department of Homeland Security.

IBM expects the acquisitions to be completed by the end of the first quarter. ®

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