A terrorist would kill for this view. The 11th-floor office of Fortress America, an Arlington, Virginia, company located at the heart of the disaster economy, is surrounded by opportunities for mayhem.

To the west, the suburbs of Washington, DC, sprawl toward Dulles International Airport, the transit point for 63,000 passengers a day. The Pentagon lies a few miles southeast, and still higher-profile targets – the White House, Capitol Hill – are just east, across the Potomac. At the base of the building, a DC Metro station handles thousands of commuters every day.

But when Tom McMillen looks out these windows, he sees different opportunities – for baggage screening machines, biological and nuclear sensors, data analysis software, video surveillance, and high tech gear for emergency personnel. McMillen founded Fortress America last winter as a corporate shell, or so-called blank check company. In July, with no product, no revenue, and certainly no profits, he managed to raise $46.8 million in an IPO based on a simple promise: to spend at least $30 million acquiring a company in the business of preventing, deterring, or cleaning up after a disaster. Now he’s looking for somewhere to invest the money.

By Evan Ratliff

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