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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 07-11-2007   #1
leaAPM
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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

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Old 07-11-2007   #2
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Quote:
Quote:
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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Old 07-12-2007   #3
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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 05:55 AM.
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Old 07-12-2007   #4
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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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Old 07-12-2007   #5
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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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Old 07-12-2007   #6
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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.
The most useful scholarly books are Peter Singer's and Deborah Avant's.
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Old 07-14-2007   #7
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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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Old 07-14-2007   #8
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Hi Lea,

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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
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Old 07-14-2007   #9
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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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Old 07-14-2007   #10
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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.
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Old 07-14-2007   #11
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Hi Abu Buckwheat,

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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
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Old 07-14-2007   #12
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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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Old 07-14-2007   #13
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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

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Old 07-15-2007   #14
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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.
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Old 07-15-2007   #15
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Hi Abu Buckwheat,

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Originally Posted by Abu Buckwheat View Post
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.
Just a question - how would you characterize Executive Outcomes?

Marc
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Old 07-15-2007   #16
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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.
Neither do I. Where I have issues with the PMC industry is not the PMC industry but the folks who set the conditions which made them so necessary and the effects that has on the armed services.

Best

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Old 07-15-2007   #17
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Hi Tom,

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Where I have issues with the PMC industry is not the PMC industry but the folks who set the conditions which made them so necessary and the effects that has on the armed services.
I certainly won't disagree with you on this, but I do have to wonder how many of these conditions are "inevitable" as a result of both the social and structural effects of globalization. Let me toss out a case in point.

In 1968, North America began to show a breakdown in the post WW II employment patterns and social expectations called the "post-war compromise". A large part of this breakdown came about as a result of the economic reconstruction of Germany and Japan after the war, while the US and Canada hadn't modernized most of their manufacturing capacity (and also had too much - BTW, this was most apparent in the automotive industry, but also showed up in others as well). Now, the post war compromise was linked to a fairly explicit social contract that can be summed up as "loyalty for security" (basically a form of the Authority Ranking [AR] social relationship; military organization is another form of the same AR relationship; see Alan P. Fiske's work on Human Sociality).

This relationship was pretty much shot by 1975, and was generally recognized at the cultural and social levels by 1982/83, when it was in the process of being replaced with a different form of social relationship - Equality Matching (EM), aka reciprocity and/or networks (BTW, very similar to a form of neo-tribalism). In this setting, loyalty isn't given to organizations, it is given to personal networks. If you are interested, take a look at al of the literature on job search, which is how this little bit of cultural adaptation / engineering happened. As another comment, not that this shift coincides in the US with the abandonment of the draft and the shift to the volunteer Army.

Now one of the characteristics of EM systems is that loyalty tends to be personalized - it is to individuals (including yourself, family, friends, network, etc.) and not to abstract institutions. This type of relationship is dominant in the Gen Y'ers (<30) who form the bulk of current junior service members, amongst whom "consulting" does not mean "unemployed" but, rather, has connotations of "freedom" and a balance between work and life. Most Gen Y'ers are also quite aware that hey need requisite training in order to pursue this type of life, and look towards the education system, loosely construed, to provide it. We can see it in the attitude of students at universities and colleges today and also, I suspect, in the attitudes of many junior officers and enlisted.

In this type of social environment, it is, to my mind, inevitable that we would see a rise in the PMC market, with the emphasis on the "consulting" angle. Anyway, that's my 2 cents .

Marc
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Old 07-15-2007   #18
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Hi Tom,
. . .

Now one of the characteristics of EM systems is that loyalty tends to be personalized - it is to individuals (including yourself, family, friends, network, etc.) and not to abstract institutions. This type of relationship is dominant in the Gen Y'ers (<30) who form the bulk of current junior service members, amongst whom "consulting" does not mean "unemployed" but, rather, has connotations of "freedom" and a balance between work and life. Most Gen Y'ers are also quite aware that hey need requisite training in order to pursue this type of life, and look towards the education system, loosely construed, to provide it. We can see it in the attitude of students at universities and colleges today and also, I suspect, in the attitudes of many junior officers and enlisted.

In this type of social environment, it is, to my mind, inevitable that we would see a rise in the PMC market, with the emphasis on the "consulting" angle. Anyway, that's my 2 cents .

Marc
Good post and I think you're correct. It was a an inevitable move in many respects, not least those you cite and the $$$. We didn't do it well but I think it'll get sorted and fixed.
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Old 07-15-2007   #19
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Hi Ken,

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Good post and I think you're correct. It was a an inevitable move in many respects, not least those you cite and the $$$. We didn't do it well but I think it'll get sorted and fixed.
Thanks . I did my dissertation on this topic but aimed at the creation and spread of the career counselling industry - then I worked in it as a consultant for 3 years (along with teaching and web design) after I got my PhD. . I've been watching the dominoes fall in industry after industry, so seeing it happen in the military isn't a stretch at all. Actually, I first noticed it in the USAF when my brother-in-law was talking about the RIFs going on in the 1990's.

There are some interesting corollaries as tactics and strategy are concerned, and I'm trying to plot them out now for a future paper.

Marc
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Old 07-15-2007   #20
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Default I look forward to the paper, hope you'll share it with

us.

My pet corollary was the one about the Railroads; "They never learned they were in the transportation business, they died thinking they were in the Railroad Business."

Substitute Airline or any number of nouns and verbs, including fighting smart instead of the (insert appropriate armed force) business...
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