Archive for category PMC 2.0

Libya: Rebels Hijack Gadhafi’s Phone Network, With The Protection Of Private Security

By March 21, most of the main pieces of equipment had arrived in the U.A.E. and Mr. Abushagur was ready to ship them to Benghazi with three Libyan telecom engineers, four Western engineers and a team of bodyguards.

So if these Arab countries that funded this ‘hijacking’ or ‘telecom coup’ of Ghadhafi’s phone network bought the equipment, it would be reasonable to assume that they also purchased the services of some competent PSC to protect this operation?  I mean the return on investment for an operation like this would be immense.
It is also important to note that the Wall Street Journal really didn’t focus on the security side of this operation. On Facebook I have been asking around as to what PSC or group of contractors that participated in this telecom coup? So if any of the readership has anything, let me know in the comments are contact me through emails and I will make the edits.
This also introduces a new chapter in the world of contracting.  Make no bones about it, what these guys did was very dangerous and it was private forces that accomplished this task.  They were also able to capitalize on the chaos of the opening days of this conflict, and they were also able to capitalize on a poorly protected network.
This is also a hijacking or telecom coup that required security and tactical prowess, as well as the services of hackers. I envision this as a ‘Geek Squad’ with guns, and certainly will be studied by cyber warfare specialists. It was also the effort of private forces, with government backing.
Very interesting and I wonder how much money the investors of this operation will make, once Libya settles down and Free Libiyana turns into a full blown telecom?  Because these types of ventures are extremely profitable. Not to mention the brand loyalty that folks will have from here on out.
As to the communications advantage, that is a no brainer. Of course the rebels can organize better for warfare.  They can also issue orders via text message, and give updates to their troops and the world audience with tools like Text to Tweet. Lots of ways to get networked, once you have the architecture to support that network. Definitely a game changer, but time will tell. It still takes really good leaders as well as organization, discipline, etc.  People win wars, not gadgets. –Matt
A Group of Expatriate Executives and Engineers Furtively Restore Telecommunications for the Libyan Opposition
APRIL 13, 2011
By MARGARET COKER and CHARLES LEVINSON
WSJ’s Margaret Coker reports on efforts by telecommunications executives to restore cell phone service to rebels in eastern Libya, allowing them to communicate without interference from government personnel loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
A team led by a Libyan-American telecom executive has helped rebels hijack Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s cellphone network and re-establish their own communications.
The new network, first plotted on an airplane napkin and assembled with the help of oil-rich Arab nations, is giving more than two million Libyans their first connections to each other and the outside world after Col. Gadhafi cut off their telephone and Internet service about a month ago. Read the rest of this entry »

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PMC 2.0: The Army Wants To Give It’s Soldiers Free Smart Phones

    You know what would really be cool is if companies handed out free smart phones when you signed a contract? I would classify it as a piece of kit as important as a rifle or radio that would be issued.  Because as you read through all the reasons why the Army wants to give their soldiers smart phones, then you can see why something like this would be important for companies to think about doing. Especially if they want to share the battle space with the military.

    Also, contractors already deploy with smart phones.  I take an iPhone 3GS with me when I go on contract, and it is indispensable.  Most contractors you work with now a days have these phones as well and take them out on gigs. This is nothing new and I have talked about this in the past.  It’s just now you see the military recognizing the smart phone’s utility and potential, and they are the ones leading the charge of incorporating them into their operations. Good on them.

    Another idea for companies is to develop applications that contractors can download for a contract. For example, DynCorp could have a DynCorp application that could serve as a portal for employees to access their intranet, all from a mobile phone.  DynCorp could send out alerts to their employees and contractors through this application, and people could call or write back to the company with these devices.  For travel arrangements or time sheets, this could also be done on the mobile phone through a really easy to use and understand company application.  For secure communications, they could integrate Hushmail or something similar on their company application and the possibilities are endless.

    The military could benefit from the companies having contractors armed with smart phones as well.  An application could be set up for a specific Area of Operation in a war, and all companies would require that their contractors download that app on their phone.  It could be set up as a secure means for the military and contractors to communicate with each other, and establish unity of effort through the real time exchange of information.  Smart phones could be that thing that could connect private industry with the military in a war zone.

     Apps like this could lead to more enemy killed, less fratricide incidents, and real time information exchanges that could assist in local COIN efforts. Contractors are a HUMINT resource that could really be exploited via smart phones and their applications.

     A contractor AO specific app could also have the rules for the use of force (RUF) that could be constantly updated by the military in that AO, or that RUF could be sent to them by the company via a company app. Unity of effort all the way and as long as the military has a network established out there, companies could be brought into that as well.

    The other thing that would be interesting with a company app or a company issued smart phone, is security.  If you want your employees/contractors using these devices, they have to be secure.  By channeling everyone through an app, a protected remote browser or company issued phone, a company information technology security team or contracted security team could stand a better chance of protecting the system.  Because once you have have established a connection between the contractor and company, there will always be some group or person out there that will want to sabotage it or try to hack into it.

     That last part is very important to remember, and there are numerous folks out there that are making it very easy for anyone to be a hacker.  Easy to use programs like Firesheep, that allow folks to break into other people’s computers or phones via wifi are just one example of what I am talking about. (thanks to DVM for that story)  As the military or companies delve further into integrating smart phones into their organizations, their phone and computer security personnel will be vital to the safeguarding of their operations. But the benefits still outweigh the negatives with this technology, and this is where the military (and private industry) is going. –Matt

Army sees smart phones playing important role

The service also views smart phone as a ‘force multiplier’ — and it wants to give you a free one

By Joe Gould and Michael Hoffman

Sunday Dec 12, 2010

The Army wants to issue every soldier an iPhone or Android cell phone — it could be a soldier’s choice.

And to top it off, the Army wants to pay your monthly phone bill.

To most soldiers, it sounds almost too good to be true, but it’s real, said Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center. He said the Army would issue these smart phones just like any other piece of equipment a soldier receives.

“One of the options potentially is to make it a piece of equipment in a soldier’s clothing bag,” Vane said.

With the backing of officials such as Vane, efforts are underway around the Army to harness smart phones to revolutionize the way the service trains and fights.

Army-issued smart phones are already in the schoolhouse and garrison, in the hands of some students at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.; Fort Lee, Va.; and at Fort Sill, Okla., under an Army program called Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications. CSDA’s next step, already underway at Fort Bliss, Texas, is testing for the war zone.

In February, the Army plans to begin fielding phones, network equipment and applications to the first Army brigade to be modernized under the brigade combat team modernization program. That test will not be limited to smart phones but will include any electronic devices that may be useful to troops.

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Publications: Innovation In War–COIN Operations In Anbar And Ninewa Provinces, Iraq, 2005-2007

 The standing operating procedure (SOP) for the unit typically focused on: (1) Planning and establishing the COP; (2) Ensuring route security so each outpost could be kept resupplied; (3) Clearing operations after the COP had been stood up to clear IEDs and find weapons caches; and (4) Census patrols to follow after the clearing operations to consolidate the position and gradually work its way into the human terrain of the area – the real target of MacFarland’s campaign. 

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     This is an excellent paper that discusses some of the key innovations of the war.  The main theme that I am getting from all of this, is intelligence, intelligence, and intelligence.(jundism hint)

     If you notice in the publication, there are some themes that keep getting repeated.  The importance of networks or fusion is one of them.  To bring together different groups of experts, and have them contribute to actionable intelligence. And feeding these fusion groups requires interaction with the terrain, population and the enemy.

    Hence why COPS or combat outposts are so important.  It allows a unit to insert itself into the heart of a population/insurgency center and get as much information as they can via census patrols, sensors, raids, attacks against and by the enemy, etc. All of this is fed into a searchable database that can be cross referenced and searched by other units and organizations, and future deploying units and organizations. In other words, all actions and collected information is fed into the machine.

    I also liked the reference to ‘continuous improvement’. Too bad the author didn’t use the term Kaizen in the paper though. I also saw hints of ‘learning organization’, which is also an incredibly important concept for developing winning TTPs and strategies. Because once you have all of this great information and experience, you have to build a snowmobile out of it so you can win the fight. A rigid organization that doesn’t seek feedback internally and externally, work together and with others, or doesn’t innovate, will not succeed.

    Now here are my ideas to further the concepts into our industry.  Right now we are witnessing the African Union stumbling along in Somalia and trying to gain a foothold.  My thoughts on the whole thing is that you could take a PMC that was composed of former military leaders familiar with these concepts, and help the AU to organize accordingly. Or AFRICOM could send a leadership team in there to help organize the effort.  Either way, I see no reason why the AU forces could not replicate this strategy in Mogadishu right now.

    I also think that PMC’s could learn a lot from these types of strategies. PMC’s have had to set up remote sites that are very similar to ‘COPS in a box’. The CMC projects are a prime example. But what was missing with those operations was deliberate census patrols or the other means of intelligence collection that the Marines and Army could use.

    The way human intelligence was collected for these projects was often through the process of hiring and working around locals for guard positions and general labor projects. You learn all sorts of things about the locals when you work around them all day, day in and day out.

    Imagine though that if PMC’s actually did census patrols as part of the contract? Or planted sensors in abandoned buildings in their area? That data could not only be useful to that PMC, or future replacement PMC’s, but could also be added to a much larger database that the military could use? A PMC remote site and the routes they travel daily could be an excellent source of intelligence for the military units of that area, but unless that PMC is brought into that fusion process, it will simply be another lost chance at crucial data collection.

     It would also be nice if PMC’s could take advantage of that fusion process as well, and access the COPLINK or whatever database that is established locally. It could save lives and win wars, but it also requires both the military and civilian equivalents to talk and work with each other. Stuff to think about as we continue the fight and learn new ways of doing our thing in this war. –Matt

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Innovation in War: Counterinsurgency Operations in Anbar and Ninewa Provinces, Iraq, 2005-2007

James A. Russella

August 2010

To cite this Article: Russell, James A. ‘Innovation in War: Counterinsurgency Operations in Anbar and Ninewa Provinces, Iraq, 2005–2007’, Journal of Strategic Studies, 33:4, 595 – 624

Abstract

This article analyzes operations by three battalions conducting counterinsurgency, or COIN, operations in Iraq over the period from July 2005 through March 2007: the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment (1-7) along the Iraq-Syrian border in the first half of 2006; the 1st Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment (1-37) battalion operating in south-central Ramadi in the fall of 2006; and the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, or 2-1, operating in eastern Mosul in 2005-06. The empirical evidence presented in these cases suggest that, contrary to popular perceptions, the units successfully innovated in war – a process largely executed organically within the units themselves. Innovation is defined here as the development of new organizational capacities not initially present when the units deployed into the theater. The evidence presented in these cases suggests that the innovation process enabled these units to successfully transition from organizations structured and trained for conventional military operations to organizations that developed an array of new organizational capacities for full-spectrum combat operations. The units in this study developed these new capacitites largely on their own initiative.

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PMC 2.0: Innovation Prizes For Private Military Companies

“I’m worth a million in prizes..” Iggy Pop

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     Wow, I really liked this article at the Economist and I wanted to share.  It kind of shows how desperate private industry and governments are for really good ideas.  And as everyone here knows, I am all about new ideas or ‘building snowmobiles’ and I try to promote that process as much as I can.

    But imagine adding incentive to the ‘building snowmobiles’ theme?  That is what makes innovation prizes such an interesting and potentially lethal concept for our industry and the war effort. Perhaps I should consider raising prize money for the best construction of a Letter of Marque concept for modern warfare use?  How about an innovation prize for low cost, high return warfare ideas?  Really open it up to the public, or just offer the contests within the boundaries of an organization. How about an innovation prize for new types of war or business strategies? Or how about for a company logo? To really put it out there, how about using mobile cash as a means to reward locals as a means of gaining ideas for COIN and reconstruction in Afghanistan?

    Companies could also offer innovation prizes to those who can come up with the best cost saving ideas, or to new directions in business?  There are many complex problems a company could try to solve by putting it out there for their employees to solve through a prize system.  It is just one more way to create that unique situation that would allow for your employees to create something important to the company or ‘people will support what they help to create’.

    Now the one thing that is most valuable and truly the prize, is business success or victory in war. A company would be smart to not only offer prizes for innovations, but to reward their company as a whole by increasing salaries because they are more profitable. Or offer the benefit in one way or another, which would reward your employees for participating in this innovation prize concept in the first place.

    The articles below indicate that this is a major theme throughout the world, and it sounds like most of the experts agree that it works.  For companies reading this, InnoCentive is the company that the Economist identified as a platform for innovation prizes.  Or you could just start your our prize initiatives. If the US government is jumping all over this stuff with their Challenge.gov site, then our industry could probably stand to benefit from it as well. I would even post it here on the blog if it was open to the industry and public?

    As for the problem solvers out there, there are plenty of prizes to go after if you have some big ideas.  Thousands of dollars are available and it sounds like these prizes are only increasing in size and number.  Just check out the chart below. –Matt

And the winner is…

Challenge.gov looking for great ideas

For Corporations (from InnoCentive website)

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And the winner is…

Offering a cash prize to encourage innovation is all the rage. Sometimes it works rather well

Aug 5th 2010

A CURIOUS cabal gathered recently in a converted warehouse in San Francisco for a private conference. Among them were some of the world’s leading experts in fields ranging from astrophysics and nanotechnology to health and energy. Also attending were entrepreneurs and captains of industry, including Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, and Ratan Tata, the head of India’s Tata Group. They were brought together to dream up more challenges for the X Prize Foundation, a charitable group which rewards innovation with cash. On July 29th a new challenge was announced: a $1.4m prize for anyone who can come up with a faster way to clean oil spills from the ocean.

The foundation began with the Ansari X Prize: $10m to the first private-sector group able to fly a reusable spacecraft 100km (62 miles) into space twice within two weeks. It was won in 2004 by a team led by Burt Rutan, a pioneering aerospace engineer, and Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft. Other prizes have followed, including the $10m Progressive Automotive X Prize, for green cars that are capable of achieving at least 100mpg, or its equivalent. Peter Diamandis, the entrepreneur who runs the foundation, says he has become convinced that “focused and talented teams in pursuit of a prize and acclaim can change the world.”

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PMC 2.0: Paying Your Local Guard Force With ‘Mobile Cash’

     This is an excellent article that discusses a very unique solution to a problem that we are dealing with in the war zones and other places throughout the world.  When companies subcontract with local guard companies for security, you often hear about how the managers screw over their guard force by skimming off the top of their pay.  They do all sorts crappy things to their people, and it can do a lot of damage to the morale of the guard force.

     The idea of mobile cash is about how the customer that pays for this guard service, can ensure that their contracted guard force is getting paid on time and in full via cell phone/text messaging.(read the article below for details) This is especially pertinent in war zones where telecom might be up and running, but not much else. Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq all have thriving telecom markets, and everyone has cell phones, and this is one more way to tap into this technology for the good of the company and mission.

     In order to maintain the edge in this market of force, and not lose folks to the enemy or a competitor, you need to make sure every last penny you are spending on these guard contracts is accounted for.  It also makes it very hard for your subcontracted field managers to take from the guards, which will also help in your market of force optimization. Anything you can do to minimize the potential for corruptive activities is a good thing.

     Now on to some ideas with this ‘mobile cash’ concept that the authors could have expanded on.  I have talked before about COIN and SMS, and this kind of cell phone payment system will make it easier to crowd source and spread messages. Some of the ideas I was thinking of is to offer bounties through the same system for any individuals that can locate wanted enemies or provide information. You could also provide bonuses to guards that participate in surveys.  How about an english learning program, which would make it a game for guards to learn english?  There are a ton of things you could ask the guards to do in order to get ‘feedback gold’ before they could collect their paycheck. I guess the point is, is just offering payment through this convenient service will be reward enough for anything you need them to do.

     The other thing that you could do with this concept for government related services, is to constantly ask police, military, and government folks to identify issues that need to be addressed within their organizations–before they collect their paycheck via phone. You don’t want to piss them off by making them go through too many hoops, but you could definitely tap into all of these ‘human sensors’ throughout the organizations, and get a feel for what is going on and collect data.

     I really like the commerce angle on this.  If this mobile cash concept makes transactions more transparent with better record keeping, then that will make banks more accountable. Especially when you have dorks like Karzai’s family in charge of the Kabul Bank, and because they keep playing games and writing checks to all their friends, that now you have a bank in trouble. (and I will pull my hair out if the US bails out this bank…pfffft) Hell, if there was a way to bypass corrupt local banks and maybe use international banks or even try a telecom bank type system?  Who knows, but either way the cell phone transaction will only add more record keeping to the whole thing.

     Now for the future.  I believe in several years, the smart phone market will catch up in these war zones.  People might joke, but locals in the cities will purchase these things because they are status symbols. The car, motorcycle, satellite dish, cellphone, and the soon to become a hit ‘smart phone’ are all status symbols that locals in these countries want to have. These devices will also be within their reach just because there will be such a large supply of them throughout the world.  The telecom industries in these countries will also do their best to keep up with this latest trend.  That is just my thoughts on the future of this stuff.

     Now imagine a local Afghan businessman with basically a computer in his pocket?  The apps, the online payment systems of international banks, the social networking, all of it, will be available to these folks in developing countries. It will be wise for us to take advantage of this new reality, and develop strategic communications plan that utilizes these devices as a means to reach out. Good article and a big hat tip to the guys at Small Wars Journal for putting it out there. –Matt

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One Cell Phone at a Time: Countering Corruption in Afghanistan

by Dan Rice and Guy Filippelli

September 2, 2010

Download the full article: One Cell Phone at a Time

American commanders are preparing for a major offensive in Afghanistan to attack one of the most formidable enemies we face in country: corruption. Despite sincere efforts to promote governance and accountability initiatives, Afghanistan has slipped from 112th to158th place on Transparency International’s global corruption index. One reason the international community has been unable to effectively tackle corruption in Afghanistan is that our own reconstruction efforts perpetuate the problem. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently acknowledged, “Corruption, frankly… is not all an Afghan problem.” Money appropriated to secure and stabilize the country is too easily siphoned and redirected as it changes hands, inevitably making its way to local powerbrokers, insurgent networks, and offshore bank accounts, rather than the individuals who need it most. One solution to this problem lies in the palm of our hands: the mighty cell phone.

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PMC 2.0: The Middle East Declares War Against BlackBerry Smart Phones

     The  author of “City of Gold” a history of Dubai, Jim Krane said, “The U.A.E. has never been a place that offered much in the way of electronic privacy. “The government makes no secret that it monitors electronic communication, including text messages, phone calls and e-mail. The revelation that secure BlackBerry data is frustratingly out of the government’s reach only confirms this.” 

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     This is definitely some PMC 2.0 news, just because many contractors carry BlackBerry smart phones, and many companies have management teams that depend upon this phone.  So imagine all these guys having to give up those phones just to do business in the middle east?

     One interesting tidbit with all of this is that these countries really don’t have a problem with iPhones, just because they can easily monitor the traffic on those devices. That is good and bad for contractors that have iPhones.  It kind of confirms what the best phone is for privacy–the BlackBerry.  Although there are still ways to make iPhones secure, it’s just with this crackdown on ‘CrackBerry’s’, it seems that the BlackBerry is the winner.

      Below, I posted three articles.  The last one is from 2005, but still a good one on how PIN messaging works for BlackBerry phones. The other articles detail what fears the various middle eastern countries have in regards to the BlackBerry. Interesting stuff. –Matt

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UAE crackdown on BlackBerry services to extend to foreign visitors

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — The United Arab Emirates’ crackdown on BlackBerry services will extend to foreign visitors, putting the government’s concerns over the smartphones in direct conflict with the country’s ambitions to be a business and tourism haven.

The UAE’s telecommunications regulator said Monday that travelers to the city-state of Dubai and the important oil industry center of Abu Dhabi will — like 500,000 local subscribers — have to do without BlackBerry e-mail, messaging and Web services starting Oct. 11, even when they carry phones issued in other countries. The handsets themselves will still be allowed for phone calls.

UAE authorities say the move is based on security concerns because BlackBerry transmissions are automatically routed to company computers abroad, where it is difficult for local authorities to monitor for illegal activity or abuse.

Critics of the crackdown say it is also a way for the country’s conservative government to further control content it deems politically or morally objectionable.

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