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PMCs and Entrepreneurs Applied capitalism. Making money in the war zone, and the issues that go with it.

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Old 10-18-2007   #21
SteveMetz
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in terms of resoving the immediate and near term problem. His proposal also goes a long way toward defining what should be the proper command relationship between PSCs and the USG in future operations. What he doesn't address - and this is not a criticism - is the proper role of PSCs (and other contractors.

The expanded role of contractors including PSCs was a long time in the making. I watched contracting expand during the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations long before the current war. I have seen contractors, including PSCs, performing appropriate roles extremely well. But I have also seen abuse and, more importantly, role expansion into areas that I believe properly belong to the government and the government alone.

One issue in contracting - especially for PSCs - is the terms of the contract. I am quite sure that the terms of Blackwater's contract with DOS are reasonably interpreted to protect their FSO charges against any and all threats by whatever means are necessary. Such a contract - one that is open to this type of interpretation - is certainly a part of the problem. The culprit here is not the PSC but its client (in this case DOS which seems to have forgotten that its FSOs are commissioned officers of the USG and, therefore, can be required to take risks that other civilian employees do not have to take). At the same time, the PSC should not be off the hook for overzealous (at best) behavior in what appears at first glance to be a "shoot first and ask questions later" approach to personnel security. Mr, Nance's proposal would go a long way toward resolving this problem as well as providing time to develop appropriate policies and roles for government contractors and, especially, PSCs.
It's amazing that attention is just now falling on this. T.X. Hammes made the same point about security details several years ago. Ricks quoted him in Fiasco (which, incidentally, I'm currently re-reading as research for my book. )
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Old 10-18-2007   #22
John T. Fishel
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Default Gosh, Steve...

And I thought that my comments were 'original" since they were based on experiences and observations as a soldier, a contractor, and a DOD civilian.
It is interesting that others made similar observations earlier. Since my education is sorely lacking in that I have never read Hammes and haven't gotten around to Rick's yet, would you be good enough to provide the full Hammes citation and the Ricks page citation?

Thanks

JohnT
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Old 10-18-2007   #23
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I almost find it amusing in that I worked the same issue in Goma in 94 with Stan and we were trying to improve security in the camps for international organizations and NGO workers, The solution was to get a Zairian-Israeli security firm to take on the job and that happened over time and some metamorphisis.

State was against given anyone the authority to shoot as needed because they were not in the camps. My DCM declared the folks I was recruiting to be "thugs."

Now it seems it is shoot anyone who even seems a threat to an FSO.

Tom
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Old 10-18-2007   #24
John T. Fishel
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Default In the immortal words of Bob Dylan,

the times they are a'changin'. Although, it was clear in the 80s in Panama that State was more concerned about threats to the precious bodies of their FSOs (and their comforts) than running any personal risk. (Perhaps, I am being too harsh.)
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Old 10-18-2007   #25
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And I thought that my comments were 'original" since they were based on experiences and observations as a soldier, a contractor, and a DOD civilian.
It is interesting that others made similar observations earlier. Since my education is sorely lacking in that I have never read Hammes and haven't gotten around to Rick's yet, would you be good enough to provide the full Hammes citation and the Ricks page citation?

Thanks

JohnT
I also quote T.X. on that point in my Rethinking Insurgency monograph. Guess you haven't gotten around to THAT either!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The passage is on pages 370-371 of Fiasco.

I have to pass on an anecdote about Fiasco though. On pp. 323-324 Ricks wrote, "'Rotating nearly the entire force at once degraded capability, [and that] may have contributed to loss of control over several cities in the Sunni Triangle,' wrote the Iraq Stabilization Study Team, a group at the [Army War] college's Strategic Studies Institute that has produced some of the military establishment's most insightful work on the Iraq war."

Let me tell you who was on said "team": me. We did a two part study in 2003. The main part dealt with the conventional ops. When the professor who prepared it briefed our Commandant, he was berated for putting the names of the analytical team on the first slide. He was told that you don't put individual names on tasked studies. Lesson learned. I ran up to the office and took my name off of the first slide of my briefing (which dealt with the "postconflict" period). I had to put something there, so I made up the name "Iraq Stabilization Study Team."

Actually, my briefing was never official released, so someone leaked it to Tom. But I need to fill him in on this next time I see him.
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Old 10-18-2007   #26
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Actually, my briefing was never official released, so someone leaked it to Tom. But I need to fill him in on this next time I see him.
Be sure and get the team's approval before you do....
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Old 10-19-2007   #27
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Default Throwing Rocks At Cats

This whole business is about like throwing rocks at cats - you scare 'em a bit and in a flash they are in the weeds laying low or they are sprinting off out of range. Public perception is about like the thrown rock, it seldom does any damage and the thrown rock is what the cat responds to - it doesn't need to make the connection between thrower and rock. State projects its own image of being distinct and separate from the military by not being surrounded with uniforms. The Public hears of these murdering mercenaries then sees them surrounding Condi and others, protecting them from murdering jihadis. They hear Generals and other wagging heads tell them that there should have been more troops in Iraq to begin with, they hear constantly that the Military's mission is not succeeding, that all is chaos doom and gloom but the military can rein in the mercenaries and everything is going to be fine once this happens. The Public should be told too how many more billion it is going to cost to manage mercenaries, since the latter can get mini-Ops up and running with but a few words or some texting or one call or one email. What's the cost comparative/efficiency ratio here anyway? 50-1? That may be conservative. It reminds me of the hearing some Congressman had when Halliburton was gouging plywood prices during the Kosovo dust-up. Halliburton Reps entered the meeting, sat down and told them if they didn't like the prices being charged, they were free to hire someone else then walked out. The cost of any reconstruction projects would horrifically increase if a military security bill were attached to the total overhead. Throw another rock at that cat, he is only 35 meters away in heavy cover, he should be easy to kill.
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Old 10-19-2007   #28
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This whole business is about like throwing rocks at cats - you scare 'em a bit and in a flash they are in the weeds laying low or they are sprinting off out of range. Public perception is about like the thrown rock, it seldom does any damage and the thrown rock is what the cat responds to - it doesn't need to make the connection between thrower and rock. State projects its own image of being distinct and separate from the military by not being surrounded with uniforms. The Public hears of these murdering mercenaries then sees them surrounding Condi and others, protecting them from murdering jihadis. They hear Generals and other wagging heads tell them that there should have been more troops in Iraq to begin with, they hear constantly that the Military's mission is not succeeding, that all is chaos doom and gloom but the military can rein in the mercenaries and everything is going to be fine once this happens. The Public should be told too how many more billion it is going to cost to manage mercenaries, since the latter can get mini-Ops up and running with but a few words or some texting or one call or one email. What's the cost comparative/efficiency ratio here anyway? 50-1? That may be conservative. It reminds me of the hearing some Congressman had when Halliburton was gouging plywood prices during the Kosovo dust-up. Halliburton Reps entered the meeting, sat down and told them if they didn't like the prices being charged, they were free to hire someone else then walked out. The cost of any reconstruction projects would horrifically increase if a military security bill were attached to the total overhead. Throw another rock at that cat, he is only 35 meters away in heavy cover, he should be easy to kill.

True perhaps, but that does not make it right or desirable.
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Old 10-19-2007   #29
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Default They were our thugs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
I almost find it amusing in that I worked the same issue in Goma in 94 with Stan and we were trying to improve security in the camps for international organizations and NGO workers, The solution was to get a Zairian-Israeli security firm to take on the job and that happened over time and some metamorphisis.

State was against given anyone the authority to shoot as needed because they were not in the camps. My DCM declared the folks I was recruiting to be "thugs."

Now it seems it is shoot anyone who even seems a threat to an FSO.

Tom
Hey Tom,
Indeed, they were our thugs and considering the local situation, mst likely the best to handle said.

Distasteful I recall from the embassy right about the point John JA JA directed us into a war zone with an Izuzu Trooper, so he and his better half (the blonde bomb shell from K-town) could report first hand...the war was over What a Delta Hotel he was.

I'd bet your retirement (no, not mine just yet), that John would fully employ BW or even our Israeli/Civil Guard if we had to do it all over again.

They had already paid a family off with $20K to preclude embarrassment when a drunk officer ran a push cart flat. There are no limits
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Old 10-19-2007   #30
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They had already paid a family off with $20K to preclude embarrassment when a drunk officer ran a push cart flat. There are no limits
That must have been before I arrived. Certainly sounds correct though...

Quote:
Indeed, they were our thugs and considering the local situation, mst likely the best to handle said.
That was what Gerald said, "Tom, they are thugs,' in that fake Brit accent of disdain. To which I replied, "Of course they are and that is why I want to hire them."

But always remember, John and his mate wanted us -- you and me --as their escorts when they braved crossing the border into Rwanda for 300 yards...

That must mean they thought of us --you and me --as thugs...

So true

Best

Tom

Last edited by Tom Odom; 10-20-2007 at 12:02 AM.
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Old 10-19-2007   #31
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Default I Never Called You That in Public

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That must have been before I arrived. Certainly sounds correct though...

That was what Gerald said, "Tom, they are thugs,' in that fake Brit accent of disdain. To which I replied, "Of course they are and that is why I want to hire them."

But always remember, John and his mate wanted us -- you and me --as their escorts when they braved crossing the border into Rwanda for 300 yards...

That must mean they thought of us --you and me --as thugs...

So true

Best

Tom
From by-God oʊkləˈhoʊmə together with his nanny (err wife) from the UK, I could barely take the 15 minute rides in the bubble

Yep, J...JJ approved the 20K and swiftly sent the (ahem) Communications assistant on R&R just 5 weeks prior to your arrival

Last edited by Tom Odom; 10-20-2007 at 12:02 AM.
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Old 10-24-2007   #32
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Default TX Hammes Cite

Hello all,

This is directed primarily at the request for a Hammes citation. (I intended to post this last week, but have been having connectivity issues.)

This has, I think, relevant Hammes thoughts (and it's online, so no need to acquire hard copies or find page numbers):

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontl...ws/hammes.html

I also might look at Deborah Avant, "The Market for Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security,"

http://www.amazon.com/Corporate-Warr...2720986&sr=1-2

or Peter Singer, "Corporate Warriors,"

http://www.amazon.com/Corporate-Warr...2720986&sr=1-2

Regards
Jeff

PS - Tom, I got your book from the library, and for what it's worth, am enjoying it quite a bit.
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Old 12-26-2007   #33
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Default Thoughts on SOC-SMG security firm

Just wanted to see what anyone else thought about SOC-SMG, a company contracted to provide facility security at US posts in Iraq. The security guards are all African, and the actual contractors are American. Just for fun some of us would test their "defense" by using each others ID cards to gain access to facilities (they usually guard the chow hall, MWR, or gym). It worked everytime. Sometimes we would even use the same card for two people at the same time, one guy behind the other. They never caught us.

This may seem childish, but it served a useful purpose for me...what if I really was a individual who meant to do real harm and was able to get in there. These guys don't only guard the chow hall, but also the inner security perimiter of the base.

If the government is going to lay down millions of taxpayer dollars to a company to protect support facilities and free up more troop manpower from guard duty, at least they could use a better quality security company. Better yet, lets not waste anymore unnecessary taxpayer dollars and get rid of the contract.
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Old 12-26-2007   #34
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Welcome to the SWC !
All things said and done, I recall that Namibian company shutting down in October this year. Seems they were just as displeased with their contract as you folks were with their performance.

Having lived and worked many years in Sub-Sahara and concluded countless contracts for the USG, your real gripe is with the USG (more than likely the State department).

Letís face facts, people with a 6th grade education from Texas or Congo still have a sixth grade education and still work for far less than say you or I would be willing.

Contractual obligations however do not take this into account. You as the recipient needs to step up and indicate that services are not up to snuff.

Please take a moment and introduce yourself here.

To You and Yours a Safe and Happy Holiday Season !


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Just wanted to see what anyone else thought about SOC-SMG, a company contracted to provide facility security at US posts in Iraq. The security guards are all African, and the actual contractors are American...
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Old 12-30-2007   #35
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I agree, although one may think SOC-SMG is at fault (and to an extent they are in my opinion), the reality is that the government is ultimately the one responsible for awarding the contract to the comapny.
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Old 01-02-2008   #36
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I disagree...I would not fault SOC-SMG. In essense they are doing the best job they can with the money they are given. They are a private for profit company and as such need to show a profit. However, they are the lowest bidder, and therefore the government gives them the contract. They government cannot afford to pay expats 15,000/month to man internal security, so they have forced companies like SOC-SMG (EODT, Sabre and a couple other companies also do this work on other bases) to find ways of cutting their overhead...paying a TCN 1000/month is a way of doing that.

So the question is...who is at fault...the Private COmpany that was awarded the contract, or the governemnet for chosing the lowest bidder?
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Old 01-02-2008   #37
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Default Sorry CT

Respectfully disagree.

Companies are in business to make a profit. Check
Companies do as much as possible to maximize that profit/pad the pockets of the executives.
Companies do as little as possible at the pointy end in order to accomplish the above.
Companies will perform to the standards which the gov't enforces.

Therefore -- gotta set the bar high and keep them honest. Means reporting discrepancies, etc.
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Old 01-02-2008   #38
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Therefore -- gotta set the bar high and keep them honest. Means reporting discrepancies, etc.
Agree to an extent. However, define what the bar should be?

Not sure there should be a ban on hiring TCNs - but you need to make sure:

A. Training is up to snuff;
B. Proper screening is performed on potential hires;
C. Everybody on the job can speak at least passable English.

They don't need to all be former first world military at all, IMHO - if a bright kid from a goatherding village in Africa can do the job just as well at a lower cost, okay then! Let him!

In any case, it's probably going to be the case in a lot of these companies that the line folks come from wherever and the "officer" types are from the first world - not the best thing in the world, but that's life.

I begin to wonder at some point if there shouldn't just be a sort of "licensing board" for PMCs - to establish basic standards, like bar associations do for lawyers. A mercenaries' guild of sorts.
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Old 01-02-2008   #39
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Agree to an extent. However, define what the bar should be?
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...keep them honest. Means reporting discrepancies, etc.
Penta, Look at it this way for just a second: Piedmont Van Lines (most military remember them) picks up your HHG and delivers same to destination. You take receipt and discover something is now damaged (in transit). So, do you just blow it off, or do you file a claim and bitch like no tomorrow ?

Seems the majority of folks are OK with bitchin, but reporting contractors and Sierra service isn't worth the trouble. Too bad most don't consider that like they would as if it were their (own) stuff.

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Originally Posted by Penta View Post
Not sure there should be a ban on hiring TCNs - but you need to make sure:

A. Training is up to snuff;
B. Proper screening is performed on potential hires;
C. Everybody on the job can speak at least passable English.

They don't need to all be former first world military at all, IMHO - if a bright kid from a goatherding village in Africa can do the job just as well at a lower cost, okay then! Let him!
There are many of us that have been around TCNs for more than a decade. Some fare well, but the majority of 'lowest bidder' contracts often have abysmal standards to keep things cheap. DoD may dictate standards, and the contractor may indicate concurrence, but ultimately you and I have to keep things in balance by reporting shoddy service.
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Old 01-02-2008   #40
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I find this a litle bit shocking. If I read this correct then it is a policy that some military bases are getting there own security done by a private company in a conflictzone.
I'am maybe a traditionel soldier but this is below military disipline, its like letting somebody els clean your boots and gear.
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