Beltway bandit

Beltway bandit is a term for private companies located in or near Washington, D.C., whose major business is to provide consulting services to the US government. The phrase was originally a mild insult, implying that the companies preyed like bandits on the largesse of the federal government, but it has lost much of its pejorative nature and is now often used as a neutral, descriptive term.[1][2]

The term refers to the Capital Beltway, which is a ring road that surrounds Washington. Many federal government contractors have offices and headquarters near the Beltway because of its proximity to federal agencies and legislators. Civilian contractors tend to locate along the Maryland portion of the Beltway, while defense contractors tend to locate along the Virginia section, which is closer to the Pentagon.[2]


An early use of the term may have been from a description of thieves who took advantage of the newly constructed Beltway to rob houses from their back yards, which were now exposed to the highway. Neighbors would not have seen them from the front yards, and by the time the police arrived, the thieves would have used the Beltway to escape to another state, when communications between Virginia and Maryland police departments was fairly rudimentary.[3]

In popular cultureEdit

"The Beltway Bandits" is an instrumental piece of music by Frank Zappa on his 1986 Jazz from Hell album. Beltway Bandits is also the name of Mid-Atlantic Women's Hockey League (amateur ice hockey) team in the DC area.[4]


  1. ^ Day, Kathleen (9 February 1994). "Riding Herd on the Bad Guy Image of 'Beltway Bandits'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 December 2017.
  2. ^ a b Ceruzzi, Paul (2008). Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005. MIT Press. ISBN 0262033747.
  3. ^ "Fairfax County Beltway Bandit Gets 30 Years". Washington Post. August 20, 1968. p. B3.
  4. ^ Bandits hockey
  • Wallace, Alton Smith. Life as a Beltway Bandit. 1996–1997 Mathematics in High Performance Computing. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis: Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications. Archived from the original on December 9, 2004. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  • Ellis, Mike, ed. (December 5, 2016). "Talk like the locals in Warshington, DC: Hollywood for ugly people". Slanguage. Retrieved December 12, 2017. beltway bandit: Consulting company which does lots of government business.
  • Example in a work of fiction: Ringo, John (2000). "Ch. 14: Habersham County GA, Sol III – 20:25 December 24th, 2001 AD". A Hymn Before Battle. Baen Books. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved December 12, 2017. One of the recent reports generated by some Beltway Bandit, one of the numerous consulting firms on Washington's Beltway that provided specialized studies for the United States government, dealt with climatological changes.