I wanted to bring up some recent history about our group. David Isenberg just posted a great story about contractors and disaster relief, with a mention of Feral Jundi, and I figured I would give that audience coming over a little something extra to chew on.
Although I would like to briefly expand on David’s post with some history. Companies have done pro-bono work for disasters, and Blackwater was a prime example of that. They saved 121 people by plucking them off of their roofs with their helicopter during the mad early days of Hurricane Katrina, as well as hauling 11 tons of life saving supplies. That was done out of pocket, and serves as just one example of a company trying to do the right thing and providing ‘pro-bono’ services.
Then there are the hundreds of individual contractors that have medical skills, search and rescue skills or dog handling backgrounds, who are joining teams to go on over to the island in order to help. Or there are the contractors that are going over with church groups or other NGO’s, who are doing what they can to help out and serve. Then there are the contractors who are on contract right now, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, that are sending money online. We have a heart, and we do care, despite what some might say about us. We also have a ton of pertinent skills for these kinds of disasters.
As for the security related responses, that is a little different. During the Katrina disaster, and certainly during this disaster, all the news agencies contract with individuals and small companies for security. That is the hypocrisy of the MSM. They will write scathing articles about the larger contractor companies, and then turn around and contract with smaller companies and individuals for their security when they go galloping around the world. They do the same thing in war zones, and it has always kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Ironically, these same security folks they hire, usually do work in the big companies like Blackwater or Triple Canopy as contractors. Why, because they have to feed their families too, and work is work. Oooooh, the horror……pfffft.
But back to Private Security Contractors and Disaster Relief. The response in Katrina was amazing. Companies responded quickly and they got boots on the ground, armed and ready to go. Some companies went in heavily armed in the beginning, and then graduated to a lesser security posture as the threat level decreased. I remember this shock that people had, that war zone contractors were in New Orleans, and that they are walking around with guns. Those in the media that were contractor haters, really drummed up this image that BW was running around out of control in New Orleans. Of course that was crap, and all they were trying to do was bringing order to chaos.
What happened in New Orleans, was a total break down of law in that town, and a total failure of the local leadership to provide order. (sounds like Haiti? huh) Private security contractors were brought in, along with the military and numerous other law enforcement agencies, to stop the looting and to protect the aid workers and people from any threats. And the security response to that incident was excellent. I am positive that if we did not have that kind of response, there would have been more crime and more lives lost. Aid workers and rescue folks would be more fearful for their lives, as opposed to rescuing people, and that is why security was so vital in places where there has been a complete breakdown in society.
Now with Haiti, that place was a failed state already. Now with the earthquake and all the death and destruction, those people are going to be even more desperate and irrational. Disasters like this, bring out the best and worst in humans, and security professionals are essential to provide order to the chaos.
That is why security is going to be vital in Haiti, and why all types of security are going to be necessary there. Send in the Marines, the Army, the UN, and PSC/PMC’s, all with the idea of keeping the peace and protecting the innocent. As we speak, there are hundreds of security contractors already contracted individually by the media or aid groups, all managing the security of those groups. Hell, there were already contractors there, providing services before this disaster, complete with offices and licenses.
I also want to mention the contractors that will be assisting in the rebuilding effort. The same warzone contractors that build and support there, will no doubt be answering the call for Haiti. PAE has an office in Haiti, and from what I have heard on the forums, they are still accounting for people. There were also the folks supporting the UN effort there, so contractors are already there. My heart goes out to those victims, as well as the UN victims, and all of the Haitian victims of this disaster. Everyone has lost people in this deal.
Hopefully, larger companies will assemble teams to provide security and logistics for larger operations there. The irony with that, is a journalist being protected by some retired SF trooper, will probably write a scathing article about warzone contractors in Haiti, terrorizing the locals and causing all sorts of problems. Bottom line, security contractors are sheepdogs, and they will do what they do best in this disaster. They will find a way to help, to protect, to give and to serve, just like everyone else who cares about helping the Haitians. –Matt
Edit: 01/16/2010 – It sounds like all the PAE folks are accounted for, and everyone is ok. I also heard on the forums that they are looking for folks for long term work in Haiti for the rebuild.
From the Virginian Pilot
September 15, 2005
“Anne Duke, a Blackwater spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the company has about 200 personnel in the hurricane-ravaged area. The vast majority – 164 employees – are working under a contract with the Federal Protective Service, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, to protect government facilities. The 30-day contract can be extended indefinitely, she said.
Under a separate contract, the company supplied an airplane to the Coast Guard, Duke said, and also provided a helicopter at no charge to support Coast Guard rescue missions. As of Monday, Blackwater air crews had moved more than 11 tons of supplies and rescued 121 people, she said.”
Read the rest of story here.
By Griff WitteWashington Post Staff WriterThursday, September 8, 2005
Companies in the Gulf Coast area hit by Hurricane Katrina are turning to an unusual source to protect people and property rendered vulnerable by the storm’s damage — private security contractors that specialize in supporting military operations in war-torn countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The mission is to guard against looters, not fend off coordinated insurgent attacks. But the presence of the highly trained specialists represents an unusual domestic assignment for a set of companies that has chiefly developed in global hot spots where war, not nature, has undermined the rule of law.
North Carolina-based Blackwater USA, for example, has 150 security personnel in the Gulf Coast region. The company, which provided personal security for the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority and continues to have a large presence in Iraq, began by donating the services of a helicopter crew to help the Coast Guard with rescue efforts. But it since has added commercial clients that either have buildings in the region, such as hotels, or are sending employees there to help with the reconstruction.
“The calls came flooding in. It’s not something that we went down and tried to develop,” said Chris Taylor, Blackwater’s vice president for strategic initiatives.
ArmorGroup International, a British company, has about 50 employees in the Gulf Coast. Most of the work came from existing clients that wanted security quickly as looters ran rampant through New Orleans last week, according to George Connell, president of the firm’s McLean-based North American division.
Although it’s not likely to become a major source of business, private-sector firms that specialize in rapid response to dangerous situations probably can have more of a role in a domestic disaster’s wake, said Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, a trade group.
“I think a lot of people are complaining about how long it took the federal government. But certainly these private companies are always ready to go,” he said.
Peter W. Singer, an expert on private military contractors at the Brookings Institution, said he thinks the presence of such firms is “overkill” when firms that perform more conventional security work are available.
“This is not a war zone. The potential threats that might be faced are not insurgents armed with mortars and machine guns attacking convoys,” he said. “This was basically looters and a small number of ne’er-do-wells taking potshots.”
Blackwater’s Taylor said local authorities are notified when company employees move into an area. So far, he said, none of his workers has had to take any action; the idea is that their presence should be enough. “We’re saying to potential looters, ‘This is a place you don’t want to be right now,’ ” he said.
ArmorGroup’s Connell said that so far, the most his employees have had to do is advise a television crew to leave the convention center area after the mood there turned ugly late last week.
Connell said that unlike in Iraq, where armed security is a necessity, private security in the New Orleans area is mostly needed to make people “feel better with a linebacker-sized guy with you.”
He said the employees he has dispatched to the Gulf Coast are typically Americans who have retired from law enforcement jobs. They are armed with pistols and dressed in khaki pants and blue polo shirts. “They’re licensed, mature people,” he said. “On balance, they’re sort of an older crowd than people we have in hotter spots around the world.”
In Iraq, where private security contractors number about 20,000, they’re usually former military personnel, and most are equipped with heavy weaponry.
Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke said he knows of no federal plans to hire private security, though he would not rule it out. “We believe we’ve got the right mix of personnel in law enforcement for the federal government to meet the demands of public safety,” Knocke said.