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  1. #1
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    Default PMCs: What is the media missing?

    Im hoping the readers of the Small Wars Journal can assist me with some stories we at American Public Media are working on exploring private military contracting and the evolving business of war.

    Were interested in learning about the business of contracting from the people who have the most direct knowledge of it: contractors, those who manage contracts, and soldiers who have worked with (or are thinking about becoming) contractors. From your experience or perspective, what are the important aspects of contracting that the media are missing?

    You can share what know with us by answering a few questions here:

    http://tinyurl.com/37qp67

    (Nothing submitted leaves the newsroom without the permission of the respondent. That means no spam, no marketing, no calls asking you to become a member of public radio.)

    You can also contact me directly. Please dont hesitate to forward this message to anyone else you think could help us report on this issue.

    Regards,

    Lea Coon
    Public Insight Journalism
    American Public Media
    lcoon@americanpublicmedia.org

    Learn more about the Public Insight Network here:
    http://minnesota.publicradio.org/pub...lism/faq.shtml

  2. #2
    Council Member sgmgrumpy's Avatar
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    This report summarizes what is currently known about companies that provide personnel for security missions in Iraq and some sources of controversy surrounding them."

    A copy of the report was obtained by Secrecy News.
    Private Security Contractors in Iraq:
    Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues
    Good Luck

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Well, not necessarily an "in Iraq" story, but I am currently a Military Contractor in Hohenfels, Germany, at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center. My job is to write "training scripts" for various units who want a more sophisticated type of training. Our "scripts" include complex scenarios that reflect what is really happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

    A couple things that don't get mentioned about some PMC positions: First, the Army's rotation/promotion/assignment system makes it unlikely that an Active Army guy would be very good at doing this particular job. It requires a combination of Knowledge, Skills and Ability that would be tough to get just by picking a guy at random and assigning him/her to my position. I have an unusually varied (military and civilian) background, in addition to decent writing abilities.

    Second, while contributing to the fight as a contractor, I, as well as several of my fellow writers, are also Reservists, (we're all prior Active Duty, as well) who drill on weekends, do the Annual Training thing, and are subject to and have been mobilized for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The pay is not super-great, especially when compared to the Active Duty Army. I get paid significantly less as a contractor than I would earn as an Active Duty Officer. When you see that a truck driver or security guy gets paid $100,000 to $150,000 to go to Iraq for a year, you really need to look at the entire package that is offered to an Army guy. I have a friend who is an E-6/SSG, with 9 kids (I kid you not), and because of the kids, he receives benefits worth more than I do as a contractor. (Free [or nearly free] housing and medical care, for instance.)

    I've been an ROTC contractor, as well, and there is a program where I like contractors over active duty soldiers. First of all, everyone in the program is either retired military, or at least reserves, so they "know the deal." Second, the contractors tend to be able to relate better to civilian kids and civilian institutions.

    During my tour in Iraq, we dealt with contracts and contractors (This was during the opening phase) and there was significant waste during that time, primarily because the Army was sloppy, and didn't ensure proper contract supervision. Lots of times, soldiers were doing work specified in the contract for the contractor, so we were being billed for work by the contractor that soldiers, mainly in ignorance, were doing themselves.

    Mostly the contracting officers failed to communicate to the (Army) people supervising the contracts what their duties/rights/obligations were, so the people supervising the contracts, in the interest of "getting things done" caused the Army to "steal from itself."
    Last edited by 120mm; 07-12-2007 at 04:55 AM.

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    John Robb has written a bit about how PMC's show the weakness of the nation state....
    Might want to check his blog out.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    The best online writing I've seen about PMCs and PICs (private intelligence contractors) is on R. J. Hillhouse's blog.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    The best online writing I've seen about PMCs and PICs (private intelligence contractors) is on R. J. Hillhouse's blog.
    The most useful scholarly books are Peter Singer's and Deborah Avant's.

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    Just checking in.

    The suggestions and insights have been very helpful. In addition to the quality of the responses here, I also appreciate the way the thread is going because it's been very difficult to get people to talk to me frankly. Why is this?

    I realize it's an exceedingly difficult issue. But in spite of the fact that there is a lot more heat than light produced in the discussions and coverage of PMCs, I was anticipating more people to speak about their perspective and experiences through other outreach I've attempted. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but - really - why is it that people outside of this particular forum are so hesitant to talk about this issue? Any ideas?

    Thanks again, lea

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Lea,

    Quote Originally Posted by leaAPM View Post
    I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but - really - why is it that people outside of this particular forum are so hesitant to talk about this issue? Any ideas?
    Well, I have a suspicion that it has to do with several forms of groups dynamics. I think that 120mm's post pointed to one form of this - people flow back and forth between being a "contractor" (loosely defined) and a being active. If you look at it in that way, you can see that the PMCs and the active forces are really a single professional area, at least in the US, in the sense used by Abbott (Andrew Abbott, The System of Professions, 1988, University of Chicago Press). The expansion of PMCs since the Iraq war has, IMHO, just expanded and reinforced this connection (you can see it in some of the HR stats, say re-enlistments amongst junior officers and the use of re-up bonuses).

    Now, I'm looking at this as a civilian academic (I'm a Canadian Anthropologist) who has never been in the military, so I could easily be wrong . Still and all, the US does have a pattern of having dual professions, one private and one state, in a umber of areas (e.g. law enforcement and private detectives is one example). I think that this pattern of dual professions is now being replicated in the military area more heavily than it used to be.

    Now,you asked why people won't talk about it (outside of here ), and I would suggest that it is a matter of group dynamics and the interplay between the two professional areas. Most strongly bonded groups don't talk to "outsiders" and, I suspect, as the ties between PMCs and the active services get stronger (via a whole slew of routes such as personnel, contracting, shared service in the field, etc.), they are becoming "closer" as a single group and this "don't talk to outsiders" trait is becoming stronger.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member Abu Buckwheat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by leaAPM View Post
    ... it's been very difficult to get people to talk to me frankly. Why is this?

    I realize it's an exceedingly difficult issue. But in spite of the fact that there is a lot more heat than light produced in the discussions and coverage of PMCs, I was anticipating more people to speak about their perspective and experiences through other outreach I've attempted. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but - really - why is it that people outside of this particular forum are so hesitant to talk about this issue? Any ideas?
    As a former PMC/PIC manager I have spoken about this extensively on the lightfighter.net forum and even reviewed the film on contractors and Rob Pelton's book (in complete disclosure he is a friend of mine).

    I am a big advocate of the use of the PMI/PIC community but I am also one of the biggest advocates that says it must be placed under military control and authority.

    The problem is the "M" word ... everyone keeps calling PM/PICs "Mercenaries" when if fact they have been contracted by the USG or subcontractor to meet specific force protection goals ... not the traditional finance motivated mercenaries the movies portray. There are no "mercenaries" in Iraq or Afghanistan withthe exception of some foreign terrorists and criminals who are paid for attacks on the coalition ... but on the American people do have jobs, for which they are oaid and which may result in them carrying a defensive weapon.

    The few "mercenaries" who were in Iraq all went home to South Africa in 200, formed up to conduct a coup in Equitorial Guinea and got caught in Zimbabwe ... end of mercenaries. In a word its why PMCs are so touchy.
    Putting Foot to Al Qaeda Ass Since 1993

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Abu Buckwheat,

    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Buckwheat View Post
    The problem is the "M" word ... everyone keeps calling PM/PICs "Mercenaries" when if fact they have been contracted by the USG or subcontractor to meet specific force protection goals ... not the traditional finance motivated mercenaries the movies portray. There are no "mercenaries" in Iraq or Afghanistan withthe exception of some foreign terrorists and criminals who are paid for attacks on the coalition ... but on the American people do have jobs, for which they are oaid and which may result in them carrying a defensive weapon.

    The few "mercenaries" who were in Iraq all went home to South Africa in 200, formed up to conduct a coup in Equitorial Guinea and got caught in Zimbabwe ... end of mercenaries. In a word its why PMCs are so touchy.
    I'd certainly agree with that! Symbolically, "mercenary" does have connotations of "devil" compared with the "angel" of a soldier in national service. What I find fascinating, and this is from the angle of looking at symbol shifts, is the terminology change to "Private Military Contractor". I think that there is a real fight (at the symbolic level) over whether or not the term "contractor" is just "mercenary" in another form. Remember, I talking at the symbolic level of, say, national discourse.

    I think that the US may have a really nasty situation for this in the sense that there is a very vocal group, and I think you know who I mean , who argue that anyone who is armed and accepting payment is a "mercenary" in the pejorative sense ("myrmidon" is another word that often shows up - too bad most of that crowd doesn't know where it comes from ). Using the term PMC in some ways just plays into their hands - hey, they're like "private" man and, like, obviously running dogs of the capitalist oppressors !!!!!

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Maybe folks are reluctant to talk because we are still in the early stages of this date. We haven't even kissed yet, but you are asking some exceptionally intimate questions, if you'll pardon the weak metaphor. Some of us lurkers are trying to establish your bona fides and agendas before "coming out."

    Some of the underlying problems, in my mind are related to how the MSM treats information provided them. We're a little concerned that our comments, offered in frankness will be reduced to soundbites centered on the "outtake". Nobody wants to read/hear "general admits defeat in Iraq" for a 30 second caveat following a 20 minute positive assessment of his mission.

    A second problem in dealing with this specific issue is that previous authors have sometimes been exceptionally lax in their treatment of the subject. Many don't differentiate among the various flavors of contractors, then paint broad brush condemnations of groups or sub-groups based on extrapolation. Steve Metz' recent monograph does a very good job of differentiating among these groups. Bottom line: there are not 100,000 gun-toting mercenaries running around Iraq earning $10,000 a day. This issue deserves serious study, which I hope you are willing to do.

    Coming out.

    I was a contractor in Afghanistan several years ago. The Army determined that it needed someone with my education, experience and expertise to assist in rebuilding parts of the government there. We worked for and with active duty, reserve and coalition officers. We were not allowed to carry weapons or drive vehicles. We provided eee not easily available from other sources. Many of the active officers were moving through TDY back then, on loan from their real jobs, which may or may not have been tied to the mission at hand. Reservists were somewhat longer term, and sometimes brought civil sector expertise, but rarely at the highest levels of government. The slimey contractors could be custom ordered and were not subject to service rotation. Many stayed for several years. Most were not motivated by money because the suck level was high enough to make that unlikely. We were not paid thousands a day. Most of us were just hard-working Joes trying to make a difference.

    So, if you're going to examine the role of PMCs, I just ask that you do so thoroughly and fairly. There are issues out there. As someone already alluded to, contract administration needs to be improved, and where malfeasance is found, it needs to be crushed. The issue does not devolve to the simplicity of GI good, contractor bad; blue badge good, green badge bad.

    'Nuf said.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default The M Word

    I have posted on here in different threads my concerns on PMCs. You can find those simply by looking at my profile.

    I have dealt with the subject of mercenaries in my writings on the Congo in the 1960s. That was a different realm and a different time.

    I believe that the subjects of mercenaries versus contractors remains a valid linkage and a valid distinction. The leap from contractor to mercenary is neither broad nor distinct. It is there nonetheless.

    For a look at my own dealings with what became a UN hired mercenary operation see my memoirs Journey into Darkness: Genocide in Rwanda on Amazon or Texas A&M University Press. I lay out how I arranged to get a private security contractor to address security in the refugee camps in eastern Zaire in 1994. That initial foray later expanded as things do iin the Congo to a semi-mercenary operation using Zairian military forces on a private contract to provide security for the humanitarian community inside the country of Zaire.

    Finally I would say that Abu Buckwheat is in this case misinformed when it comes to the idea that the old days of the guns for hire mercs is gone. That is hardly the case. Mercs in one form or fashion have played large roles in Latin America's drug trade. In my old stomping grouns of eastern Zaire and Rwanda, the resurgent Hutu killers in eastern Zaire hired Serbian mercenaries as advisors and combatants. The Rwandan Defense Forces made short work of them. The Congo (old Zaire) remains an area where merc work is to be had if you know the right folks. I suspect that Zimbabwe will soon develop into a merc market if it has not already.

    Best

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    Finally I would say that Abu Buckwheat is in this case misinformed when it comes to the idea that the old days of the guns for hire mercs is gone. That is hardly the case. Mercs in one form or fashion have played large roles in Latin America's drug trade. In my old stomping grouns of eastern Zaire and Rwanda, the resurgent Hutu killers in eastern Zaire hired Serbian mercenaries as advisors and combatants. The Rwandan Defense Forces made short work of them. The Congo (old Zaire) remains an area where merc work is to be had if you know the right folks. I suspect that Zimbabwe will soon develop into a merc market if it has not already.
    Whoops! Ha ha ... I forgot about the Serbs in Central Africa. Maybe I am subconciously trying to ignore that part ... but still, I can't equate PM/PICs in Iraq with Mercenaries at this time.
    Putting Foot to Al Qaeda Ass Since 1993

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    Groundskeeping Dept. SWCAdmin's Avatar
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    I encourage SWC members to push Lea's request around to those you might know who have something to say. Of course, I think this forum is a the best spot for it, so please encourage them to sign up. Lea also would love some traction at the survey he has running.

    Thanks for those good resources so far in this thread.
    Quote Originally Posted by leaAPM View Post
    Were interested in learning about the business of contracting from the people who have the most direct knowledge of it: contractors, those who manage contracts, and soldiers who have worked with (or are thinking about becoming) contractors. From your experience or perspective, what are the important aspects of contracting that the media are missing?

    You can share what know with us by answering a few questions here:

    http://tinyurl.com/37qp67

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