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.
The name comes from the Capital Beltway, the ring road that surrounds Washington. (The entire road is officially called Interstate 495, although the eastern half is cosigned with Interstate 95, which traverses most of the East Coast.) The majority of private contractors are located, or at least headquartered, at intersections along this road in order to be close to federal agencies and legislators. There is a tendency for contractors for the various civilian departments and agencies to locate along the Maryland portion of the Beltway, while defense contractors locate nearer to the Pentagon, along the Virginia section.
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.
- name of a women's competitive travelling ice-hockey program in the DC area. The team is a member of the Mid-Atlantic Women's Hockey League.
- name of an instrumental piece of music by Frank Zappa on his "Jazz from Hell" album.
- Kathleen Day, "Riding Herd on the Bad Guy Image of 'Beltway Bandits'," Washington Post, February 9, 1994; page B1. Also Paul E. Ceruzzi, Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008). ISBN 0262033747
- Paul E. Ceruzzi, Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008). ISBN 0262033747
- "Fairfax County Beltway Bandit Gets 30 Years". Washington Post. August 20, 1968. p. B3.
- Bandits hockey
-  Institute of Mathematics, U of MN, October 06, 2011, Talk Abstract: Alton Smith Wallace Life as a Beltway Bandit, Institute for Defense Analyses "
This talk presents an insider's view of the career of a typical "Beltway Bandit" operating within the confines of the Washington, DC Beltway. While no products are produced and few services are rendered inside the "Beltway," still an industry of technical consultants flourishes providing the US Government with advice and counsel on a number of technical subjects. The speaker will discuss the technical consulting business from the perspective of a neophyte just starting a new career, and from the perspective of a senior manager in one of the Washington, DC area's premier "think tanks." Emphasis will be placed on the conduct of studies and analyses to support the Department of Defense. The discussion will identify those attributes required to succeed, and identify opportunities for minorities in the Washington, DC consulting environment.