Is TopCat really in “mobilization”?

From Kathryn Cramer comes a tasty bit of news that the BBC wasn’t actually wrong when it said Top Cat Marine Security was in a “mobilisation phase”. From Ms Kathryn Cramer:

[a] company that builds boats identical to Top Cat’s seems to have set up shop in Panama

Panama is a nice place to hide. A commentator on Kathryn’s site says Casini, if it is Top Cat, can’t hide in Panama because ITAR can still reach Pete, he being a US citizen and all. I don’t think that is why he’s hiding out. The US State Department’s “cease & desist” is still a fuzzy red herring to me until I actually see something. The more I ponder this, the more it seems USG was involved. As I said in the past, somebody should have been fired for selecting Top Cat Marine security as cover. More to come for sure.

Public Diplomacy brought to you by the Department of Defense, not State

News brief from Yemen:

US Troops help animals in Yemen. More than 780 animals were treated as part of a free veterinary project by American forces last week, the US military news agency reported. Local veterinarians joined with civil affairs team members from the US Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa to treat herds in the villages of Bani Mamoon, Thula and Hababa. Animals were given vitamins and anti-parasitic medication and were checked for any other problems. While the number of animals treated was lower than in past held by the task force, team members said they felt the mission was succesful, according to the American Forces Press Service. "We made a big difference for probably 700-plus families, each with their own work animal," said Army Major Jim Riche, a veterinarian and civic action team leader. "Each animal was extremely valuable to the owner, so we had a larger effect on the human population owning these animals than we originally expected." In addition to helping the villagers, team members shared and learnt techniques with the local vets they worked with. "They were a lot of fun, even if communication was a little difficult at times," said Riche. "There were a lot of tools we use that they weren’t familiar with, and techniques they use we’ve never seen before, so the experience improved the profession on both sides."

Is the US military really the best tool for public diplomacy? Initial PD makes sense, especially in war ravaged or dangerous regions. But there must be follow through folks.

Technorati Tags: Public Diplomacy, 4GW, Yemen, Horn of Africa

Fourth Generation Category description

This is a brief note on what generally will be appearing in this category. There is an ongoing debate right on Fourth Generation Warfare that questions its existence, parameters, and solutions. This is a debate I believe is germain to foreign & security policy (is there really a difference?) and public & cultural diplomacy (again, as substantial a difference as fp and sp). Some have commented on Clausetwitz’s Trinity, including those who claim 4GW’ers misunderstood it, and those that claim that because states do not seem to be central to politics, previous versions of warfare are thus obsolete.

From the planning to the future (hoped for changed) structure of the armed forces (think QDR / Rumsfeld), integration of non-combat resources and military assets as vanguards (Barnett’s SysAdmin), and the role of private military forces in defensive, offensive, and peacekeeping (MOOTW) operations.

Rumsfeld Seeks Cut in Military

News brief: Rumsfeld Seeks Cut in Military.

Hampered by an increasingly combative relationship with Congress, the Pentagon is expected to seek savings from its payroll rather than making deep cuts in major weapons programs in its next long-range plan.

The lead of this story immediately distracts the reader from reality. The combative relationship with Congress is not with the military. The public almost entirely reads "Pentagon" and hears "US Armed Forces". This is an example of the civilian leadership (civilian elites in the executive branch) of the military having a combative relationship with the civilian elites in the legislative branch. There are reasons why the uniformed military has its own lobbyists on Capitol Hill to lobby for restoring budgets the Pentagon civilians (and politicized military… three star and above?) have cut.

Former generals promote anti-torture bill

News brief from UPI that former generals promote anti-torture bill:

About three-dozen retired military officers with combat experience in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq met privately near the Pentagon last week to discuss their support for a new anti-torture law, oppose White House efforts to water it down and press reluctant colleagues to join them publicly.

The seperation between civilian leadership that has not experienced war because of having something "better to do" becomes clearer in the torture discussions. Countries with ticking time bombs walking the streets like Israel finds less need (not no need) for torture and extraordinary rendition than the US. Does their perception have something to do with the civilian leadership understanding the nature of war?

Update: Blackwater Air goes lighter than Air

Artist rendering of the Blackwater BlimpBlackwater USA is a prominent, and possibly cutting edge, private military contractor. The only private firm with air resources (side note, they’ve taken casualties… one was shot down last April with fatalities) will expand into remotely piloted craft:

Blackwater Airship’s initial focus will be the development and deployment of small remotely piloted airship vehicles (RPAVs) that can operate from 5,000 – 15,000 feet, move and hover, and stay aloft for up to four days. The airships will be equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance and detection equipment that can detect, record, and communicate in real time to friendly forces the movement and activities of terrorists.

Gary Jackson, president of Blackwater USA said, "This project is in keeping with Blackwater’s support of peace and security throughout the world."

Follow-on phases of the project will include larger airships that will carry tons of payload in support of remote humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. Blackwater, who is already involved in stability operations throughout the world, continues to innovate in support of peace and security, and freedom and democracy everywhere.

Personnel provider expanding into vehicles, blimps:

The Moyock -based company has established a subsidiary, Blackwater
Airships, to market a blimp that can hover over dangerous areas and detect trouble ahead. Together with an armored vehicle called the “Grizzly,” the company is expanding beyond its usual stock and trade of personnel and tactical gear.

The belief that private enterprise can provide services quicker and at lower cost than public enterprises is rooted in the American corporate experience. In the distant past, private armories and outfitters developed independent armies for hire by the Crown because of insufficient funds to maintain a standing army or navy (most recently in the American experience consider Jefferson gutting the US Navy when he came into office forcing a greater reliance on American privateers during the War of 1812). In the modern economy, it may be that on its face private providers can deliver at lower cost, but this may not be a true net cost savings. when the entire package is factored in.

Consider the value of military procurement when the two options are private firms or public agencies and the private pitch is high efficiency at a lower face value than public agencies. Not included in this first level of analysis is the loyalty and trust of the public agency, for example the US Marine Corps and soldiers on kitchen duty. Additionally, dollar for dollar comparisons oversimplify long-term costs of private markets which fail to be perfectly competitive with hidden and substantial transactional costs. Hidden costs of the private-public partnership include higher finance costs (the government can always can borrow money at lower rates), vendor incentives to skimp on quality or adhere to the letter of the contract not the spirit, future public costs to return outsourced skills in-house, and transactional costs of writing, enforcing, and monitoring contracts. Most important is a lack of committed loyalty to the project or consequences of under-performing. Further, the private business may seek contractually-allowed alternatives when uncertainty is likely in any war situation when other outcomes are desired by the client. This, along with unpredictability of warfare, results in expensive cost-plus contracts.

Ok, regardless of the perceived or real contract costs, there are other non-monetary value to PMCs. With the question of a PMC / PSC providing their own air support, the PSC becomes more capable of operating independently in a greater variety of operational environments with greater capabilities (intel, fire control, etc). Will a PSC acquire and operate their own (not on behalf of the USG) UAVs? UGVs? How do we, if we do, distinguish between Tim Spicer and Gary Jackson run operations? How about the other firms who operately quietly and under the radar? How are moral codes enforced?

Press release available here and WashingtonPost article here.

USNA no longer guarded by Marines

News brief that the US Marines have ended their security detail at the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and at the revered crypt of Captain John Paul Jones. West Point made the transition to private security long ago, a quiet distinction the middies would comment on with the knowledge the Marines were about to go.

A Naval Academy tradition that lasted 155 years has come to an end: The Marine Corps sentries who guarded the gates and the crypt of Revolutionary War Capt. John Paul Jones have been withdrawn and sent to war. The four dozen Marines were released from their security duties in a ceremony on Friday and are being replaced by Navy enlisted personnel. "Pray for them, for many of them are going into harm’s way," a chaplain said in an invocation for the departing members of the Naval Academy Company, Marine Barracks. The Marines have provided security at the gates and for dignitaries’ visits and special events on the academy campus since before the Civil War. They also performed largely ceremonial duties, including standing guard outside the crypt of Jones, one of the founders of the Navy. "They’ve done much more, in their ability to look tough but remain pleasant," said Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt, the academy superintendent. Dozens of military installations across the nation have turned to civilian security officers in recent years, and the Navy is leaving that option open for the academy. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point brought on a private security firm in 2004. The sentries will bolster U.S. forces stretched thin by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Obviously, we can use those Marines in more significant roles," said Gary Solis, a West Point professor and former official historian for the Marine Corps who frequently lectures at the Naval Academy. "But it’s too bad a tradition like that has to end."

It is fascinating and a little scary that we are that stretched that a century and a half tradition at the finest service academy must be sacrificed. Were are the priorities and the sense of tradition in institutions such as the military services?

Technorati Tags: Annapolis, USNA

Update: PSC Snipers in Iraq

If you have not seen this yet, I had posted a link in an earlier post to a video clip of a PSC sniper in Iraq. The video has impact. The video is of private security troops interdicting hostile enemy targets (i.e. insurgents / terrorists) from a rooftop in Iraq may be taken place in April 2004 (Sadr’s Rebellion). The firing position may be CPA headquarters.

Two other stories on snipers in Iraq…

The first one is on a successful SAS operation, Marlborough.

The second is a record sniper shot in Iraq by a US soldier in theatre.

More details are available on both ops, but I have decided not to post them because they do not help validate the value of long range interdiction and simply jeopordize opsec.

Technorati Tags: PMC, PSC, SAS, Iraq, Sniper

Update: Blackwater Lawsuit Details and Other Thoughts

Some quick notes on the lawsuit against Blackwater stemming from the brutal desecration of four contractors in Fallujah back in March 2004. The deaths of Stephen S. Helvenston, Mike R. Teague, Jerko Gerald Zovko, and Wesley J.K. Batalona is winding its way through the courts. Mercury News includes critical issues in an Aug 2005 article:

Blackwater contracted with ESS Support Services Worldwide to guard food shipments to U.S. bases in Iraq. According to the lawsuit, the contract called for security teams to have two armored vehicles and a minimum of six people, as well as a heavy machine gun that could fire up to 850 rounds a minute.

The four men who died were sent out in unarmored vehicles, without the heavy machine gun and without a map and got lost, the lawsuit said. Having lacked time to become familiar with their weapons or routes around Fallujah, they went directly through the violent city.

I had been personally told there was supposed to be a fifth man on the mission watching the rear approach.

Corpwatch has a little detail and analysis.

The lawsuit alleges that one week before the deaths, Blackwater fired a project manager who had insisted that the contractors use armored vehicles. Eliminating the armored vehicles saved Blackwater $1.5 million, the lawsuit says.

Nope, no other comment from me on this at this time besides the obvious framing of the issue. This is about the level of (combat) service provided by a private corporation in a war zone. This is not about accountability (MEJA, UCMJ, ICC, etc) or prisoner status (Geneva Conventions, Mercenary Status… see
PMC Hostages in Colombia

I have mentioned elsewhere that Blackwater requires an oath of allegiance of its employees for United States’ paid missions. While this is a step in fudging the difference between private and public military force, the company (like any other private military / security company… it is not my intention to single out Blackwater) is still for-profit, still outside of military control, a vendor to the civilian leadership (there is at most a dotted line to the military leadership, although they have the power to impact the private forces through a variety of means besides arrest, assistance, etc), and less frequently infused with US Armed Forces trained and indoctrinated professional soldiers. These four contractors killed in allegedly died in part because a fifth man for rear cover to save money did not provide adequate situational intelligence and did not allow the contractors to become familiar with the territory.

The decision of a private military force to withdraw from a combat zone because of rising interest rates, leverage for contract negotiations, or loss of the contract may seriously damage and reduce military capacity with virtual impunity. Outsourcing to private parties shortens the decision making horizon into immediate “commercial concerns and lobbying rather than real gains to the nation and citizens” that encourage the use of companies that “lack verification and mandatory evaluation safeguards to deliver promised results”.

Technorati Tags: PMC, Blackwater, Iraq

PMC “Hostages” in Colombia

Like a VH1 show, we’ve got to ask where are the three PMC hostages, held since Feb 2003, now? These guys — Tom Howes, Marc Gonsalves, and Keith Stansell — have been neglected by the USG under the "theory" they are private citizens. The GWOT in the Colombian sphere falls under the sub-heading "War on Drugs" and is nearly completely outsourced. The financial aid to Colombia to target drug production etc is largely done through private military contracts. Information on these three guys is sparse, to say the least. A Dec 2005 item on CNN disappeared and had to be retrieved via GoogleCache.

The State department has not "forgotten" about these guys. Just recently in Feb 2005 they reiterated a commitment to demanding their release. On 27 June 2005 the State Department spokesman was asked about these three men. Here’s the entirety of the Q&A on it:

QUESTION: On Colombia, please. Colombian FARC Commander Raul Reyes has announced his willingness for peace talks with the U.S. Government, including prisoner exchange. As you maybe know, FARC are holding three U.S. contractors whom they will exchange for — will extradite to U.S. as Sonia and Simon Trinidad.

My question is: Is the U.S. Government going to talk with the FARC?

MR. MCCORMACK: With respect to the three individuals that you mentioned, our view is that we hold the FARC responsible for the welfare and the safety of all the hostages, that they hold the safe recovery of these three men — Keith Stansell, Thomas Howes, Marc Gonsalves — as a top priority of the United States. And I say the names so that it’s important that we not forget. I mean, we are focused on their safe recovery.

And with respect to — with respect to our policy about making concessions to terrorists, that policy remains unchanged. We do not.

Information is hard to find on these poor guys. After being shot down, there was a short flurry of news activity. Then gone. Then every now and again there’s a snippet of news. Their relationship to CIAO (the current PMC they "work"), possibly the first PMC IPO (admitedly, I may try to get in on that action… PMCs are profitable, for now), is largely ignored.

If anybody has more information on their status, please forward. Hell, they could be free by now, but I doubt it. There is a website apparently dedicated to them, but has not been updated in a while.

This case is not about UCMJ or MEJA, it is about not leaving anybody behind. The military service as an occupation may be exemplified by this. Fortunately, the occupation vs institution theory of Professor Moskos has not been played to its extreme. Not yet but this may be an outlying demonstration.

When considering their plight and how they fit into the big scheme of state vs private war, these guys are referred to as "hostages". Is this because of their theatre of operations? Because of their private status? Because of media attention (lack of)?

Oddly enough, while I had looked into the hostages over a year ago for some research then, nothing other than what I wrote above cropped up. However, a movie about them found its way into my email.

Held Hostage in Colombia

From deep within the Colombian jungle, the exclusive story of three American contractors held hostage since February 2003, and the U.S. Government’s refusal to find a diplomatic way to free them….

Technorati Tags: DynCorp, Columbia, War on Drugs

Update: Blackwater, Alexander Group, and Abramoff

Like I mentioned in my Blackwater lawsuit post, I do not mean to single out Blackwater in my discussions of the impact of private military companies. Perhaps they figure more prominetely because they are front-runners in legitimizing themselves and the industry. Through requiring an oath to emulate the “professional soldier class”, creating their own memorial to fallen camrades, and the natural growth into complimentary services, Blackwater is perhaps the poster child of the private security industry. Their activities is becoming more public with the recent (one week old now because I though I published this, didn’t, so now I’m rev’ing and posting) connection of Blackwater to Alexander Strategy Group and Abramoff. Blackwater engaged ASG apparently after the Fallujah incident in March 2004.

Blackwater USA, a private security company contracted by the Coalitional Provisional Authority (CPA) to protect its personnel in Iraq, has tapped the Alexander Strategy Group to help shape the company’s response after four employees were murdered by a mob in Fallujah last month. Blackwater encountered more problems when eight of its contractors, along with U.S. Marines and Salvadoran troops, fought hundreds of Iraqi insurgents in Najaf.

See video of PSC sniper likely in Najaf during this operation against Sadr’s militia

From Bloomberg linking ASG with Group W with Cunningham 9 (a link I feared when the Cunningham story broke… buried in a TopCat Marine Security / Horn of Africa posting last year… you’ll have to scroll down near the end and the suspicion that the TopCat contract may be linked to a payola scheme):

Alexander Strategy’s links to lawmakers are an outgrowth of a decade-long effort by DeLay, 58, to force lobbying firms to hire more Republicans, who can
direct corporate money to the party. The system, known as “DeLay Inc.” or “the K Street Project,” has fueled a surge of money in politics, and critics
say it has also created the potential for greater corruption.

“Alexander Strategy Group is really part of DeLay Inc. and Abramoff Inc.,” said Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who now heads Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an ethics watchdog group. “There have been some aggressive prosecutors trying to unravel those ties. I am sure that Alexander Strategy is going to have more than Tony Rudy as a problem when this is over.”

One of the biggest clients Alexander landed was Group W Advisors, a San Diego-based defense consultant. The company is owned by Brent Wilkes, a businessman who is one of the four un- indicted co-conspirators in a Nov. 28 criminal complaint for allegedly bribing Cunningham, his lawyer, Michael Lipman, told USA Today. Cunningham pleaded guilty and resigned his House seat on Nov. 28.

Alexander took in at least $525,000 in fees from 2002 to 2004 from Group W to lobby on defense appropriations. Those appropriations are among the legislative favors Cunningham gave to receive his gifts, according to the former lawmaker’s plea agreement. It isn’t clear what role, if any, Alexander strategists had. Lipman didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Other background on Blackwater and support for the Bush Administration (besides reading the informative Blackwater Tactical Weekly… which I recommend and hopefully they don’t unsubscribe me from).

Also the WashingtonPost article on ASG looking to expand beyong PMCs and to rep the trade association, International Peace Operations Association.

Technorati Tags: PMC, Blackwater, Alexander Strategy Group, Abramoff, Iraq

Controlling Webcams

A WiredNews article about hackers and spy cams could portend problems with remote warfare against a technologically advanced adversary that might, say, have a government-sponsored Tiger Teams (and here)?

The Wired article focuses on Axis cameras that can remotely controlled and their images edited. Back in Oct 2005, Yorkshire Ranter shed the same light on the issue, along with technical details.

A quick google search turns up an airport cam, a swiss cam, and others. Search for yourself using this Google search (which will only bring up Axis cameras not properly protected on the Net).

I did not find anything interesting but the technology warning is
ever present: be careful with technology because nothing is secure.

L. Paul Bremer joins the band wagon: We needed more troops

The WashingtonPost has a story on L. Paul Bremer’s new book and how his request for more troops was denied (either explicitly or implicitly). According to the article (I have ordered but not read the book yet), "Bremer recounted how Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then the top U.S. commander in Iraq, reinforced this view, telling Bremer that with two more divisions, Baghdad could be controlled."

Continue reading “L. Paul Bremer joins the band wagon: We needed more troops

China’s R&D and Arms Industry

From comes this item on US R&D opening up in China.

Hewlett-Packard Co. opened a research lab, HP Labs China, in November, joining Microsoft Corp. and IBM and other IT companies that have set up research labs in the country to tap the increasing number of technical graduates Chinese universities are turning out.

By itself this may not be too interesting, but Defense Industry Daily reports on a RAND report on the Chinese defense industry increasing its quality and overcoming its weaknesses. Drawing from a posting last year and updated today, the information on both the DID and Winds posts are enlightening. A suggested read.

Now, consider a growing China and consider American corporations so hungry to get into the market they would do nearly anything to do so. Besides opening up R&D facilities right on our competitor’s turf, stress between enterprise and our security may be greater than Boeing’s attempt to sell to China during the Cold War. Microsoft has spent a few years getting in with China because of the size of the market and piracy.

This month, Microsoft censored a blog at the request of Chinese authorities. Is this ethical? What will happen in future conflicts when US corporations have a greater stake to prevent (or worse allow) certain political actions, including war, that is in the best interest of the United States? Is this taking the Liberal Democratic theory to the next step? Democracies / liberal market countries do not fight each other? This would actually turn that theory since China’s openness may still be questionable at the time any conflict occurs. Looming resource conflicts may be altered by US corporate interests less concerned about big industry.

DOD as our public diplomat in Pakistan

The headline Schoomaker champions Pakistan relief mission is just further emphasis of the empty promises of the Karen Hughes public diplomacy and the emphasis by the military on public outreach (see US Military rates PD higher the USG). True, the military is a branch of the USG (US Government), but the paltry sum the USG itself dedicated to cultural diplomacy compared to sustained efforts and funding by the military, instead of USAID or other services / functions / paths, is not to lauded. The fact the military is the outreach is great, but is the military liason w/ the civilian sector going to build the long-term relations we want? Is that the image of America we want the locals to have? Do we really want the children equating America w/ Chinooks? Is that worse or better than McDonald’s?

The Army’s role in providing aid to earthquake survivors in Pakistan “might be the most important bullets that we’re firing in this global war on terror,” said Chief of Staff. Gen. Peter Schoomaker Jan. 12.

The Army’s senior officer visited Pakistan as part of a tour through the Central Command area of responsibility over the holidays, and was struck by the positive impression U.S. soldiers were leaving on the local population.

“The most popular toy in Pakistan today is the little plastic Army Chinook,” he said, referring to the CH-47 lift helicopter that is delivering much of the U.S. aid in the stricken regions.