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Thread: PMC in COIN (general theme)

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    Default PMC in COIN (general theme)

    What role will contractors play in future COIN ops? Will their role increase, stay the same or decrease relative to the role they play today? I don't see their role doing anything but increasing given the success they are meeting in current ops. Streamline the vetting and regulating processes and almost everybody is happy.

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cobot View Post
    What role will contractors play in future COIN ops? Will their role increase, stay the same or decrease relative to the role they play today? I don't see their role doing anything but increasing given the success they are meeting in current ops. Streamline the vetting and regulating processes and almost everybody is happy.
    I'm not sure what you mean re the bolded text above. Are you saying that PMC's are conducting successful COIN operations? I'd like to hear a few examples - more than say - a tactical success here and there...

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    Afghanistan, Iraq... Contractors are playing a big role-need I say more?

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    Default Yes you do...

    Quote Originally Posted by cobot View Post
    Afghanistan, Iraq... Contractors are playing a big role-need I say more?
    Your original post implied success rather than a matter of necessity or convince. Just because PMC’s are being utilized in these COIN operations does not – by a long stretch – indicate that they might be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

    Of course, if your definiton of success is "bottom-line" profit, you have a point...

    Moreover - please look around here before assuming the Council has not discussed the pros and cons of PMCs in a COIN environment. Our search capability is just that - a capabilty.

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    Default Contractor success

    SWJED I agree the contractors have largely failed (meaning they have created more harm than good) in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, some professional outfits such as Executive Outcomes and ICI have done fanastic work throughout Africa. EO made a huge dent in the violence in Sierra Leone when nations couldn't act, but they were asked to leave (long story). I think there are select cases where contractors can be effective (must be professional, vetted organizations that operate within a prescribed legal framework) and cost effective financially and politically.

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    Default I Agree...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    SWJED I agree the contractors have largely failed (meaning they have created more harm than good) in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, some professional outfits such as Executive Outcomes and ICI have done fanastic work throughout Africa. EO made a huge dent in the violence in Sierra Leone when nations couldn't act, but they were asked to leave (long story). I think there are select cases where contractors can be effective (must be professional, vetted organizations that operate within a prescribed legal framework) and cost effective financially and politically.
    Bill,

    Could not agree more. I just take exception to sweeping generalizations about the "value" of PMCs beyond specific tactical actions and tasks in a U.S. COIN enviornment that conventional wisdom says the solution is 80% political and 20% military. PMCs are not going to give us the 80% - at least not now or in the near future. Maybe later once we sort all this out...

    Unity of effort - sometimes called unity of command - is critical and we can't get that right amongst the military and much less amongst the military and our own interagency partners. Anyone who thinks we can maintain unity of effort with PMCs playing a major role is blowing smoke.

    Dave

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    Council Member CaptCav_CoVan's Avatar
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    Default PMCs

    SWJED:
    I could not agree more. Most are trained for security work and have no interest or motive for prosecuting a true "hearts and minds" counterinsurgency operation that is 80% political and 20% military. We need to move towards a CORDS-type command structure that pulls all of the miltary, economic, poltical, justice and agricultural operations under one command quickly if we are to have any hope of success in Iraq and before we even think of integrating the PMCs..

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    You have assumed, but not demonstrated, that the use of PMCs was a failure. If you can "show me the meat", your contention might hold more weight.

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    Council Member Ray Levesque's Avatar
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    Default Contractors will go on.....

    The use of contractors will continue to grow for the following reasons:
    1. High-tech: for tech contractors the government can no longer compete on the open market. High-tech contractors are rare within military ranks today, and are rare even within civil service.
    2. Perception of decreased cost: although the short term cost of a contractor is high, the government doesn’t have to worry about keeping on a long-term employee, especially one that requires retirement. (I use the word “perception” because there’s still a debate about whether contractors are cheaper than regular employees.
    3. Contractors vs. military: this administration does not want to increase the end-strength of the US military so it has to use contractors for all kinds of work, from info-tech to security.
    4. Contractors create less of a PR problem if they are killed or captured: using contractors for all kinds of security duties means you don’t need to put soldiers. And if a contractor is killed or captured, it’s no big deal to the public at large. (Remember that there are still three US contractors being held by the FARC in Colombia – how many Americans know or care? But if they were soldiers, politicians would make an issue of it periodically.

    I don’t think the issue of “success” or “failure” is a big factor. In the end I think cost, public perception, and politics will trump “success” or “failure” because there are no standardized measurable criteria to make a valid determination – people have opinions generally based on anecdotes. In situations like that politics, public perception, and cost drive all.
    Ray

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    Default You started this thread...

    Quote Originally Posted by cobot View Post
    You have assumed, but not demonstrated, that the use of PMCs was a failure. If you can "show me the meat", your contention might hold more weight.
    Begin by providing examples ("meaty" and "weighty" would be best) of PMC success stories in Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, read my lips, this site is not about winning a battle here and there - PMCs can kick in doors with the best of them - it is all about winning small wars. Think more operational and strategic rather than tactical - that might help.

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    Well it was a surprise to me to hear people say that the use of contractors was a failure-especially in Iraq. Yes we've all heard (and heard and heard) in the press about the isolated problems, i.e. 4 BW guys getting killed in Fallujah, etc. But to define the use of contractors to be a failure on the basis of these incidents is very curious from my perspective. Typically you don't hear about contractors' daily positive (and usual) accomplishments-supplies they delivered, people they've trained, etc. However, when something does go wrong it gets plastered all over the press and it makes the people back home think that everything is falling apart over there with respect to the contractors. And things do go wrong in a war zone-nobody totally eludes the fog of war. But to define contractors' efforts as a failure, on the basis of a relatively few highly publicized events, is a mistake from where I stand. Having said that, I joined this forum because of its good rep as a place to engage in intelligent discussion about issues that interest me; so enlighten me if you think I'm wrong about the contractors in the mideast-especially Iraq. I'm certainly not omniscient. BTW, I don't deny that work needs to be done in terms of oversight, etc. but that will come with time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cobot
    What role will contractors play in future COIN ops? Will their role increase, stay the same or decrease relative to the role they play today? I don't see their role doing anything but increasing given the success they are meeting in current ops. Streamline the vetting and regulating processes and almost everybody is happy.
    The highlighted bit above is a gross generalization. Your perspective on the existence of substance behind that statement would be appreciated.
    Quote Originally Posted by cobot
    Afghanistan, Iraq... Contractors are playing a big role-need I say more?
    Yes, you do need to say much more. The simple presence of contractors in numbers does not equate to operational success. If you are able, illuminate the specific positive impacts (beyond simple mission execution) that contractors have had in current COIN ops.
    Quote Originally Posted by cobot
    You have assumed, but not demonstrated, that the use of PMCs was a failure. If you can "show me the meat", your contention might hold more weight.
    Hello, Pot calling Kettle, do you read me Kettle? You have assumed even more egregiously on your side of the equation.

    In fact, Bill is the only one who mentioned "failure", and it was certainly not in the form of an assumption. He stated clearly that the contractors have largely failed (meaning they have created more harm than good) in Iraq and Afghanistan, while going on to positive reflections of PMC impacts in other arenas.

    Again, you demand detail from others to support their point of view, but have provided absolutely no context to your own stated perceptions. Reread SWJED's post about your direction of thought.
    Quote Originally Posted by cobot
    Well it was a surprise to me to hear people say that the use of contractors was a failure-especially in Iraq. Yes we've all heard (and heard and heard) in the press about the isolated problems, i.e. 4 BW guys getting killed in Fallujah, etc. But to define the use of contractors to be a failure on the basis of these incidents is very curious from my perspective. Typically you don't hear about contractors' daily positive (and usual) accomplishments-supplies they delivered, people they've trained, etc. However, when something does go wrong it gets plastered all over the press and it makes the people back home think that everything is falling apart over there with respect to the contractors. And things do go wrong in a war zone-nobody totally eludes the fog of war. But to define contractors' efforts as a failure, on the basis of a relatively few highly publicized events, is a mistake from where I stand...
    Here, you are the one making a huge assumption. If you believe the members of this board - especially individuals like Bill Moore and SWJED - are less than enthusiastic about the overall impact of contractors on ops in Iraq due to a few media stories, you are sorely mistaken.

    As for myself, I am pretty much in line with the others that have responded. Not just the guns for hire, but the loggie guys, drivers, mechanics, tech geeks and other contractors in theater are there simply because we don't have the bodies in uniform to execute every necessary supporting mission in the larger op. Having people that can ably (more or less) fill those roles is a good thing - in the short term. However, the use of contractors in several of those roles raises many troubling operational issues; i.e. from my perspective, the over-reliance on contractors in many intelligence roles is doing long-term damage to the MI field, from which it will take a tremendous effort to recover. This is a significant negative impact that ripples well beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.

    To paraphrase what SWJED already told you - take a breath, step back from the base-line issue and look at the big operational picture. Think before you discuss.

    And don't assume that the members of this board develop their perspectives from media feeds. Even in the best of interpretations, that is insulting.

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    Wow-all I am getting is the common perspective that contractors have failed and the request that I prove otherwise. In spite of the fact that day after day, week after week and month after month, supplies are delivered, personnel are trained and security is provided. In short, in spite of the fact that contrators have largely succeeded, I'm being informed that they have failed. Again, a few highly publicized accounts of problems don't translate to a failure.

    If you are able, illuminate the specific positive impacts (beyond simple mission execution) that contractors have had in current COIN ops.
    You don't hear about all the successes (which in terms of quantity absolutely dwarf the failures) precisely because they aren't high profile missions. "Low level" missions like delivery of supplies, training and security all are important parts of COIN. Without "simple mission execution" COIN ops would be greatly handicapped.

    In fact, Bill is the only one who mentioned "failure", and it was certainly not in the form of an assumption. He stated clearly that the contractors have largely failed (meaning they have created more harm than good) in Iraq and Afghanistan, while going on to positive reflections of PMC impacts in other arenas.
    And again, my request is for some substantiation as to why he thinks the contractors' efforts could aptly be construed as "largely" a failure. Yes, there have been some sporatic problems but these haven't, to my knowledge, tainted the overall effort. If I'm missing something please enlighten me.

    you are the one making a huge assumption. If you believe the members of this board - especially individuals like Bill Moore and SWJED - are less than enthusiastic about the overall impact of contractors on ops in Iraq due to a few media stories, you are sorely mistaken.
    Hmmm, enlighten me again-where did I ever write this or even insinuate this?

    As for myself, I am pretty much in line with the others that have responded. Not just the guns for hire, but the loggie guys, drivers, mechanics, tech geeks and other contractors in theater are there simply because we don't have the bodies in uniform to execute every necessary supporting mission in the larger op. Having people that can ably (more or less) fill those roles is a good thing - in the short term. However, the use of contractors in several of those roles raises many troubling operational issues; i.e. from my perspective, the over-reliance on contractors in many intelligence roles is doing long-term damage to the MI field, from which it will take a tremendous effort to recover. This is a significant negative impact that ripples well beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Now we're getting somewhere-this is the level of analysis I was looking for-thank you.

    And don't assume that the members of this board develop their perspectives from media feeds. Even in the best of interpretations, that is insulting.
    Well if somebody has spent time there, they'd have seen the number of times things were done properly-the everyday mission successes which directly feed into the possibility of overall operational success. Again, if I'm missing something please enlighten me.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default MI Contractors as a "negative"

    Quote Originally Posted by Jedburgh View Post
    However, the use of contractors in several of those roles raises many troubling operational issues; i.e. from my perspective, the over-reliance on contractors in many intelligence roles is doing long-term damage to the MI field, from which it will take a tremendous effort to recover. This is a significant negative impact that ripples well beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Quote Originally Posted by cobot View Post
    Now we're getting somewhere-this is the level of analysis I was looking for-thank you.
    I would have to add to this that using contractors for MI is not only damaging to the field itself, but is also damaging to the reputation of the US forces globally. Many people can understand why contractors would be hred for specific support services (e.g. driving, tech support, etc.), but for something as crucial as MI and interogations? Surely this is sending a message that the administration wishes to bypass all intenational conventions surrounding prisoners - regardless of the "truth" of such a message.

    Marc
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    There are many problems with the use of PMC's in COIN. The first thing to consider is their motivation. They are a for profit company. Therefore, what is their motivation to see a solution? That being said soem things to be said. The PMC's are not the resurrection of Hoare and No 5 Commando in the Congo or Executive Outcomes in Sierra Leone. The one attempt at contractor direct involvement, MPRI running basic training at Kirkush for the new Iraqi Army did not work. If the mission needs to change, even slightly, that involves a new contract. Therefore the PMC's lack flexibility. The PMC's do good at fixed sight security, but at a certain point you have to have the locals do this, once again we are back to making money. The use of PMC's to escort convoy's works, but they really aren't integrated into military C2. This leads to them being very heavy-handed on the local population, hence a liability in COIN. Finally, the over reliance of PMC's for technological and labor support leads to an overall eroding of a military's capabilities. The PMC's provide a valuable resource for security, but there is no transition plan for them, and due to them being outside the military there are C2 issues and "butter-fly effect" issues that manifest into large problems. So in very limited roles, PMCs are great, but they are not what was and has been done in Africa in the mercenary tales of lore. Many of the PMC folks are great guys with impressive skills and resumes, but they are not the answer in any way shape or mean to COIN, and at worst, contribute to the problem.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Jimbo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    There are many problems with the use of PMC's in COIN. The first thing to consider is their motivation. They are a for profit company. Therefore, what is their motivation to see a solution?
    I certainly have to agree with you on this. As one of my favorite armchair theoreticians said:

    I say, therefore, that the arms with which a prince defends his state are either his own, or they are mercenaries, auxiliaries, or mixed. Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious, and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you.

    Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince
    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    The one attempt at contractor direct involvement, MPRI running basic training at Kirkush for the new Iraqi Army did not work. If the mission needs to change, even slightly, that involves a new contract. Therefore the PMC's lack flexibility.
    This might be handleable via a flexible contract such as that of the Landsknecht in the 15th and 16th centuries, but it wouldn't deal with the political problem of hiring mercenaries.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    The use of PMC's to escort convoy's works, but they really aren't integrated into military C2. This leads to them being very heavy-handed on the local population, hence a liability in COIN.
    Absolutely! And, just to add to the problem, there is an insidious symbolic problem as well - "obviously the 'infidel' has no principles or strong beliefs except trying to grab all the money they can; after all, they don't even have enough volunteers to guard their trucks!". Using PMCs in field support roles may create a situation where there is a perception that the Coalition's national wills are much lower than they actually are, embolding the various insurgent groups and militias to act.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    Finally, the over reliance of PMC's for technological and labor support leads to an overall eroding of a military's capabilities. The PMC's provide a valuable resource for security, but there is no transition plan for them, and due to them being outside the military there are C2 issues and "butter-fly effect" issues that manifest into large problems. So in very limited roles, PMCs are great, but they are not what was and has been done in Africa in the mercenary tales of lore. Many of the PMC folks are great guys with impressive skills and resumes, but they are not the answer in any way shape or mean to COIN, and at worst, contribute to the problem.
    Honestly, I'm not quite sure if I would agree that "they are not the answer in any way shape or mean to COIN" - there are some possibilities, but I certainly haven't seen them take place. I certainly agree that a reliance on mercenaries, and I'm using that term rather than PMCs to highlight the propaganda problem with PMCs, would be disasterous. I also agree that the "the over reliance of PMC's for technological and labor support leads to an overall eroding of a military's capabilities"; but there is a problem here. In a number of cases, the regular forces just cannot get or hold onto the right type of technological skills (in the broad sense of technology).

    At least in the case of technological mercenaries, it may be a good idea to modify their contracts such that they are also responsible for field training members of the regular forces as well as fulfilling their general contract objectives. Another problem, at least in the technology area, is that the world views of the mercenaries may be so different from the regular forces that they spend all of their time fighting each other. This was certainly the case with most Anthropologists working in WW II in the US (yes, symbolic manipulation is a technology).

    Marc
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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default 100,000 Contractors in Iraq

    A relevant article in the Wash Post today:

    There are about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, not counting subcontractors, a total that is approaching the size of the U.S. military force there, according to the military's first census of the growing population of civilians operating in the battlefield.

    The survey finding, which includes Americans, Iraqis and third-party nationals hired by companies operating under U.S. government contracts, is significantly higher and wider in scope than the Pentagon's only previous estimate, which said there were 25,000 security contractors in the country.

    It is also 10 times the estimated number of contractors that deployed during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, reflecting the Pentagon's growing post-Cold War reliance on contractors for such jobs as providing security, interrogating prisoners, cooking meals, fixing equipment and constructing bases that were once reserved for soldiers.

    Official numbers are difficult to find, said Deborah D. Avant, author of the 2005 book "The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security," but an estimated 9,200 contractors deployed during the Gulf War, a far shorter conflict without reconstruction projects. "This is the largest deployment of U.S. contractors in a military operation," said Avant, an associate professor at George Washington University.
    Best

    Tom

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    Default BW/MPRI/NG awarded $200M GPOI Contract


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    Here's a sample task order for the contract:

    http://fs2.fbo.gov/EPSData/State/Syn...equestgpoi.doc

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    Cool

    You can find everything from Lesson Plans to Training Scenarios here

    President Bush approved the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), a five-year $660 million program, on April 1, 2004. GPOI was developed to address major gaps in international peace support operations (PSO):

    the number of capable peacekeepers and the ability of countries to sustain that capacity,
    deployment and logistics support, and
    the number of gendarme units able to participate in PSOs.
    GPOI’s goals were put forth as a G-8 Sea Island Summit initiative in June 2004, where G-8 Leaders agreed to an action plan on “Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations.” This plan includes commitments to:

    train and, where appropriate, equip 75,000 military PSO troops worldwide, with an emphasis on Africa, through 2010
    develop a transportation and logistics support arrangement to help troops deploy to PSOs and help sustain them in the field
    support the Italian initiative to establish an international training center to train gendarme units to participate in PSOs, and
    coordinate capacity building efforts.
    Multinational Training Branch - MPAT & GPOI
    http://www2.apan-info.net/mpat/index.aspx?ct=19

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