Stealth Ships

The deployment of stealth technology on the sea, while still far from mature, is the next logical step in the evolution of warfare. Anti-terrorist and anti-criminal law enforcement and littoral combat operations against new and varied enemies are bringing new demands on ship technology.

The Swedes, conscious of their reliance on naval operations, are developing the Visby. Besides its own sensor avoiding abilities, it is designed to utilize unmanned vehicles for remote sensing.

Energy Efficient Warriors

The debate is increasing over fuel demands on today’s high tech and gas hungry mobile military. The blurring of forward and rear areas has meant supply convoys hauling ammunition, spare parts, food, fuel, and other things are being hit hard. The largest component of these convoys is fuel. Fuel to power generators, trucks, tanks, and aircraft. Stepping around the question of increasing fuel efficiency of vehicles (<1mpg for M1A2 tanks?), what if soldiers had their own energy supplies? Hummers were hybrid?

Continue reading “Energy Efficient Warriors”

Alternative Taxonomy for PMCs?

R. Stanton Scott revisits Thomas Adams article in Parameters (Summer 1999) with his categorization of PMCs, but there is more to the taxonomy than services offered. In his foundational article, Adams describes three types of mercenaries.

Heavily weighted, the term of "mercenary" has come to be associated with Executive Outcomes and Sandline. Mercenaries are typically cast as individualistic, Rambo soldiers of fortune. With large corporations such as NorthrupGrumman (Vinnell) and CSC (DynCorp) behind some of the more prolific private military companies, another, more fluid taxonomy was required than Adams’ three baskets.

P.W. Singer, in Corporate Warriors, uses a spear analogy to describe how far or near the firms are from "implementation" in combat. Singer maintains the three general types of Adams with his own terms: Military Provider Firms, Military Consultant Firms, and Military Support Firms. His "tip of the spear" typology allows for granular shifting along an axis towards or away service offerings.

The singular x-axis plotting is inadequate, however. It ignore a substantial descriptor of the firms that I believe is crucial when understanding their participation in the state vs non-state structure: location of headquarters.

The institutionalized system of state and non-state relationships is interconnected with limitations on the civilian leadership of the private military company. The location of the HQ grants or prohibits legal action by legalist states, thereby promoting various actions by the principals of the PMC.

For example, an operation such as Tim Spicer’s Sandline (now defunct), based off-shore from the United Kingdom, provided relief from potential legal actions. When investigating Sandline in the Sri Leone affair, found that even if they could take action against his corporation, they were limited because of its location. (See Private Military Companies: Options for Regulations). This holds true when attempting to put pressure on the HQ host government (see Annex B of previous).

On the y-axis would be three marks, just like the x-axis. These three would indicate the nature of the state and indicate the personality of the firm. The first mark would be a Western industrialized state such as the United States, Britain, Germany, etc. These states have deeply ingrained civil-military relationships (or civil-society-military, but that’s a different discussion) and institutionalized legal and financial systems (sticks and carrots).

The second bucket would be weak states without the distinct civil-military relations and more permiable institutions. These would include Belarus, Israel, or others. Israel is an interesting inclusion mostly because of its military with too much control of the political process and willingness to provide services to those who will pay (also known as the "biting the hand that feds syndrome").

The last mark would be HQ’s in the outlaw states such as Afghanistan or North Korea. This is not to say NK has a PMC, but such a "corporate" entity would be by definition not independent and would be the tool of the state. These would either be better classified as pirates or state

This two dimensional plotting lends itself to the accountability question, to be discussed soon.

PMC publicity getting more negative

The friction between soldiers of the state and contract soldiers issimilar to that of information technology departments over
a decade ago. The difference between stuff of Dilbert cartoons and Marines vs Zapata Engineering is neither Dogbert nor Ratbert carry an M4.

Just as the airline industry was poaching US Air Force pilots in the seventies and eighties, the private military companies have been not so quietly doing the same today. From a USA Today article (courtesy

military explosives specialists can earn $250,000 a year or more
working for the private companies. In the military, an enlisted man
with 10 years’ experience can make more than $46,000.

The article goes further to mention the heat between contractors and soldiers working together. This problem is going to get worse before it gets better.

Rove leak is just part of larger scandal

From: Rove leak is just part of larger scandal from

Let me remind you that the underlying issue in the Karl Rove controversy is not a leak, but a war and how America was misled into that war.

We Americans so quickly lose perspective and history of even a recent and ongoing debate. Bush and his closest advisors should receive the Reagan Teflon Award for their ability to avoid realities and resist hooks and ropes that would bring down others.

Humvee Alternatives

A NYTimes report, republished on CorpWatch, reports how the Marine Corps loves the Cougar,a vehicle designed to take the impact of a mine with inexpensive damage
and no casualties. "Drop your purse, it’s not a Hummer" is the manufacturer’s statement for those wanting to compare the Humvee with  this beast. Should we get these vehicle into the field, and if so, how quickly can we? Should Force Protection’s other vehicle, the Buffalo, also be considered and acquired for a battlefield without forward or rear areas?

Continue reading “Humvee Alternatives”

Strategic Scapegoating?

William Lind’s website is anextraordinary source of knowledge and analysis I strongly recommend be a part
of any reading list focusing on the future of conflict. William S. Lind writes
a column on this site which is valuable in its content and as a topic for
conversation considering the wide audience it reaches.

21 June 2005 column I found
his closing statement troubling…

failure is strategic, not tactical, and it can only be remedied by a change in
strategic objective. Instead of trying to remake Afghanistan, we need to
redefine our strategic objective to accept that country as it is, always has
been and always will be: a poor, primitive and faction-ridden place, dependent
on poppy cultivation and proud of its strict Islamic traditions.

other words, we have to accept that the Afghanistan we have is as good as it is
going to get. Once we do that, we open the door to a steady reduction in our presence
there and the reduction of Afghan affairs to matters of local importance only.
That, and only that, is a realistic strategic objective in Afghanistan.

The statement that Afghanistan “always has been and always
will be…poor, primitive, [etc]” is a failure to appreciate its history and the
failure of the “strategic objective” itself. It is a hard argument to make that
Iraq did not distract from the American and international communities
commitment to rebuild Afghanistan.

While the UN and NATO did move in to augment and replace
American troops, the political will and economic engines to drive development
and provide viable and realistic alternatives to poppy farming failed to
materialize. Strategic economic solutions are being built, but as in Iraq, fundamental
security has failed to materialize. This is not because of an overwhelming
insurgency against the liberators but because of disillusionment and
intimidation of the liberated.

It seems Mr. Lind appreciates Thomas P. M. Barnett’s Pentagon’s
New Map. While Mr. Barnett provides a convenient explanation for the current
world situation, complex historical and local causes are misrepresented, not
given their true value, or are simply ignored. Mr. Lind falls into the same
trap by failing to connect the past to the present.

The strategic objective should have been to create a
successful federal state out of Afghanistan. The objective should have included
security and market reforms to raise the stakes of individuals, and not of
warlords, to achieve a successful transition. This includes micro-credits,
appropriately modernized agricultural practices, an effective transportation
system (only parts of which are barely coming online now), and restoration of
the education system.

If a towel is going to be thrown in, let’s make sure we know
the real reason why and not create scapegoats. Blaming the failure of strategic objectives is avoiding responsibility for either an errorneous objective or erroneous implementation. I firmly believe it was the failure of appropriate follow through that has led to the present loss of objectives. While not fatal, significant setbacks need to be corrected before moving on to where we could have been if the eye was not taken off the ball.

Peacekeeping Accountability and Private Military Companies

Conventional wisdom has been going away from general war for a while now. Low-intensity warfare impacting all four networks of power (economic, political, religious / ideology, and military / violence) will be the dominant form of conflict. In this age of instant communication, increasing diasporas, and short travel times, conflict even in remote regions have some trickle-down effect on the US. Kofi Annan, writing in Foreign Affairs, in discussing his proposed changes to the UN Security Council acknowledges the clear and present dangers of ignoring challenges in the periphery. Thomas P. M. Barnett is apparently making a living, at least in part, on the actual and perceived division between the ‘core’, ‘periphery’, and ‘non-integrating’ gap in his new map.

Continue reading “Peacekeeping Accountability and Private Military Companies”


What happens when you put two military forces within close proximity with each other, do not integrate C2, or otherwise share IFF resources? Is it called friendly fire when a US military force fires upon a US corporate force?

The Marine Corps Times,, and NPR have raised the profile of an incident last month where US Marines halted a private military force comprised of US and Iraqi citizens…

Marines with Regimental Combat Team 8 detained 19 civilian contract
workers in Fallujah, Iraq, in late May after the contractors were seen
firing from their vehicles on Marine positions and Iraqi vehicles,
according to a Corps press release.

The Marine Corps times is the only news outlet I reviewd that included
the reference the governing rule of law for private security forces, Memorandum 17 issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority in its last days (also stored here since the CPA website may be offline after 30 June 2005).

Private security companies in Iraq are regulated under Memorandum 17, a rule enacted
under the Coalition Provisional Authority that requires them to
register with the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Trade and
be free of a criminal record or terrorist ties. The memorandum also
spells out a “code of conduct” that stipulates that when contractors
use their weapons, they must “fire only aimed shots, fire with due
regard to innocent bystanders [and] immediately report [the] incident
and request assistance.”

The company involved, Zapata Engineering, put out a statement on 9 June 2005 disagreeing with the Marine’s account of being fired upon or witnessing Zapata’s men firing from their vehicles.

On Saturday, May 28, 2005, Zapata Engeineering employees were engaged in a routine convoy in Northern Iraq. Marine Corps personnel in a nearby outpost intercepted the convoy team. Citing
security concerns, the Marines escorted the convoy without incident to
Camp Fallujah for questioning. Convoy personnel cooperated fully with
the Marines’ requests. Prior to this date, we had safely completed
hundreds of similar convoy missions in Iraq.

The fact Zapata Engineering was engaged on a US Army Corps of Engineers contract is important in how this could play out. Memo 17 requires registration and provides certain limitations ("primary role of PMC is deterrence") and constraints ("liable under applicable criminal and civil codes") but enforcement requires the backing of the US government.

The UK House of Commons issued a report in 2002 identifying the US as having the most
extensive regulatory regime, partially as a result of attempts to control weapons
technology and partially as a result of the American legalist tradition. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) of 1986 has a significantly high threshold and limited functional oversight. A functioning bilateral Status of Forces agreement (CPA’s Order 91, also available here, is a related problem here)  would be indicative of a functioning government capable of upholding its contractual obligations.

The US Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) of 2000, along with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), apply to persons who are employed by or accompanying the armed forces outside the
United States or who are members of the armed forces and subject to UCMJ and
who are not a national or resident of the nation in which the crime occurred.
The punishment for committing the new crime is that which would have been
imposed under federal law had the crime been committed in the United States. However, Zapata’s forces were not accompanying US armed forces and MEJA has no teeth and has never been used.

There is always the humanitarian law bucket. The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) of 1789 and the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 1991 rely heavily on expensive prosecutions within the US. Zapata, if they were to press charges, would likely not have the financial resources or the strong case.

The most likely resolution of this situation is the US government threatening (with the potential to follow through) to terminate the contract with Zapata.

This incident is clearly a harbinger of things to come. What happens when things go more wrong? See a detailed timeline of the Belarus mercenaries conducting (possibly) extracurricular services for the Ivory Coast / Cote d’Ivorie November 2004. The retaliation by the French was severe and then promptly silenced by the same. This was likely due to their desire to limit foreign interest in their (re)colonial intervention.