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Publications: Sandia Report Draws Lessons Learned From 23 ‘Perfect Heists’

Deception, patience are common ingredients
While methods and implementation of the heists varied greatly, there were common factors. At least one form of deception was used in 21 of the heists, ranging from impersonating law enforcement to use of decoy vehicles to concealing surveillance equipment. Insiders — willing, unwitting and coerced — played a role in the majority of cases. The Antwerp Diamond Center’s building manager even provided blueprints to the heist mastermind, thinking he was just another tenant.
“I learned from this study that these thieves have a lot of patience. Most spent months and even years planning. They were very deliberate in how they defeated security measures and those methods were often very low-tech, like using hair spray to disable infrared sensors,” said Lafleur. “In most of these heists, multiple security measures were defeated.”
Another finding is that weapons aren’t needed to steal a lot of money. Four of the top five heists, in terms of value, were weaponless.

For obvious reasons, this report will have immense value for those out there that are in the business of countering this kind of crime. There is such a thing as the perfect heist, and this is an excellent study of those types of heists.  I was particularly interested in the lessons learned aspect of the report.

In it, they listed 44 items of interest for security professionals. They also described the average successful criminal. Here is a snippet.

Several key lessons are identified in each focus area, and an overview of the commonalities and bounds of criminal team characteristics and capabilities is provided. In brief, the typical criminal is a 30-39 year old man and experienced career criminal who is native to the country whose valuables he is targeting. The typical on-scene criminal team consists of 2-8 accomplices, typically perpetrating the robbery as a single team, although breaking into multiple sub-teams is not uncommon. Use of weapons is typical but in many cases not required for success. Thieves are willing to devote substantial resources to planning, spending in some cases more than two years, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and procuring transportation for thousands of pounds of loot. Thieves are frequently thorough and innovative in their planning, developing security defeat methods that are physically simple but highly targeted toward vulnerabilities the thieves have identified in advance of the heist. In the identification and exploitation of these vulnerabilities, deceptions and insiders almost always play a role. Multiple insiders, unwillingly or willingly colluding, are not uncommon; and while insiders span a variety of origins and roles, by far the most common type is the coerced insider who unwillingly assists in the crime, often upon threat of losing his own life or the lives of his family members.

That is some serious patience and ‘know your enemy, know yourself’ stuff there. The use of insiders, willing or not, is also very interesting.

Now what this report did not include was the vast group of criminals that absolutely need to be studied in Russia, South Asia, East Asia and Australia. It would also be helpful for them to go older than the 1970’s, but at least they have a good smattering of successful modern day heists. Here is a quote.

This expansion might continue to track down details of thefts that commonly make published lists of top heists, or it might take the direction of purposefully widening the scope geographically (e.g., to include heists in Russia, South Asia, East Asia, and Australia) and temporally (e.g., to include heists prior to the 1970s, perhaps as far back as the early 1900s, or farther back to the 1800s or even 1700s) to ensure the representation of a greater diversity of criminal methods and techniques in the data.

Check it out and this thing is filled with the good stuff. -Matt

Read the report here.

 

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Sandia report draws lessons learned from ‘perfect heists’ for national security
August 19, 2014
In 2003, the unthinkable happened at Belgium’s Antwerp Diamond Center. Thieves broke into its reputedly impenetrable vault and made off with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds, gold, cash and other valuables.
Through years of meticulous planning, they got past police officers less than 200 feet away, access controls into the building, a combination-and-key-lock vault door, a magnetic seal on the vault door and motion, infrared, light and seismic detectors within the vault.
The Antwerp Diamond Center theft and other sophisticated, high-value heists show that motivated criminals can find ways to overcome every obstacle between them and their targets. Can the Energy and Defense departments, responsible for analyzing, designing and implementing complex systems to protect vital national security assets, learn from security failures in the banking, art and jewelry worlds?
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Publications: Private Military Contractor International

This is a digital publication, and I was not able to get an embed code for it so you can read it here. If you want to read it, just click on the links below and then expand the magazine so you can read it online.

What is cool about this mag is that it is going over some old school stories that happened back in the early days of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, I totally forgot the story about Wolf Weiss. Anyway,  check it out and I have no idea if they will continue to publish this digital magazine or if they are planning to make hard copies and sell on the news stands. -Matt

Edit: Also, it looks like PMCI is looking for writers. h/t Soldier Systems.

 

Private Military Contractor International-April 2014
Published on 9 March 2014
Issue description:
Private Military Contractor International is a digital magazine specifically for PMC Operatives and companies involved in the Private Military and Security sectors. Written by individuals with many years of experience in their particular field, each issue will contain a mix of product reviews, news and general interest features, as well as social and lifestyle articles. The Pre-Launch sample is a small representative example which provides a small snapshot of what future editions will contain.
Magazine description:
Private Military Contractor International is a digital magazine specifically for PMC Operatives and companies involved in the Private Military and Security sectors. Written by individuals with many years of experience in their particular field, each issue will contain a mix of product reviews, news and general interest features, as well as social and lifestyle articles.

Find publication on Joomag here.

Find on itunes here.

PDF of publication here.

Facebook for PMCI here.

 

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Publications: Freedonia Report On Global Demand For Security Services

This publication is very expensive, but you can buy bits and pieces of it at your own choosing. I am not getting any kickbacks or anything from this group, and I am only putting this out there as information for the readership to check out.

To go along with my post on crowdfunding, the global demand for security is increasing, and the factors driving the demand are evident in this report.

Factors such as rapid gains in economic activity, rising personal incomes, foreign investment activity, and concern that public safety forces are overburdened, corrupt, or unable to provide sufficient protection will boost gains. Furthermore, increasing regulation and a trend toward greater professionalism in many of these local security service markets will improve public trust in security service businesses, thereby driving gains.

I have seen these trends and talked about them here on the blog. China is blowing up when it comes to security services. Africa will definitely need services, and thanks to the cartels in Mexico, security will continue to be in high demand.  The US continues to be the largest consumer of security services in the world, which is interesting. Also, the progression towards ISO certification for maritime PMSC’s–which will probably carry over to land based PMSC’s in the future, is a sign of this ‘professionalizing’ of the industry. Check it out. -Matt

 

Global demand for security services is driven by rising urbanization, the real and perceived risks of crime and terrorism, and a belief that public safety measures are insufficient.
World demand to 7.4% annually through 2016
Global demand for private contract security services will increase 7.4 percent annually to $244 billion in 2016. In general, demand for security services is driven by rising urbanization, the real and perceived risks of crime and terrorism, belief that public safety measures are insufficient, and growth of a middle class with assets to protect and the means to pay for supplementary security measures. The security service market will also be supported by an improved economic environment and building construction activity.
Developing areas to see strongest gains in demand

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Publications: RAND–Out Of The Shadows, A Survey On Contractor Health

Awhile back I was contacted by RAND to help promote this survey. I agreed because there was not enough information out there on the subject of contractor physical and mental health in these wars. So it is cool to see a final product and available for folks to check out.

The information provided is pretty revealing and I highly suggest reviewing the document if you are interested in either getting into this industry, or just learning about the actual health of this industry.

Now for some of the interesting tidbits that I found in the survey.

Only 16 percent of contractors sampled had ever made a DBA claim. Among those whose most recent contract had been funded by the U.S. government, 22 percent reported that they had made a DBA claim. The DBA mandates that all civilian employees working outside the United States on U.S. military bases or under a contract with the U.S. government for public works or national defense have access to workers’ compensation for injuries or deaths sustained as a result of such employment. We found that, among respondents who applied for benefits, 57 percent of claims were approved and 37 percent were either denied or still being processed at the time of the survey. (Six percent of respondents reported that they did not know the outcome of their DBA claim.) Contractors from the United States were more likely to file DBA claims than those from other countries. -page 20

Only 57 percent approved?  This is a horrible statistic, but not new. The survey mentioned the findings of T. Christian Miller’s report as well, which I posted several years back.

In a series of articles for ProPublica, T. Christian Miller reported on the types of physical and mental health problems affecting contractors, including loss of limbs,burns, loss of hearing or eyesight, various wounds (such as from shrapnel, gunshots, mortar attacks, or IEDs), PTSD, TBI, depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide. Despite the reported frequency and severity of these problems, Miller (2009a) found that between 2002 and 2007, “insurers had denied 44 percent of all serious injury claims” under the DBA and that they “also turned down 60 percent of contractors who claimed to suffer psychological damage, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.” He highlights systemic flaws in the DBA—along with a lack of regulation and enforcement by the U.S. Department of Labor and the monopoly of insurance company AIG—as contributors to the high rate of DBA claim denial.

 It just blows me away that ’60 percent of contractors’ with PTSD or some mental health issue, were turned down! And according to this recent survey, only 57 of these folks surveyed had that had DBA claims, had them approved. That has to change and contractors have sacrificed in this war. They deserve better than that, and it is shameful contractors are treated like this.

They also mentioned a company that specializes in providing mental health services. Back in 2008, I wrote a brief deal about Mission Critical Psychological Services and it is good to see they are still doing their thing.

Individual private companies have also developed programs to address the psychological challenges facing contractors, though there is limited publicly available information on how these programs are structured or the types of support they offer. For example, Mission Critical Psychological Services is a U.S.-based firm that provides psychological support services to firms in the contracting industry. Asked to estimate the number of contractors suffering from mental health issues, its CEO stated, “I think the numbers are in the thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Many are going undiagnosed. These guys are fighting demons, and they don’t know how to cope” (Risen, 2007). -page 45

I hope to see more companies pop up to meet the demand of contractor mental health, and especially after reports like this bringing attention to the matter. Or maybe, PMSC’s will be more focused on paying attention to this. Especially when they get their various certifications that show how compliant they are or when they are signatories to things like the ICoC. Check this quote out.

The extent to which the diverse array of contracting companies rely on private providers of psychological services tailored to the industry is unclear. However, recent U.S. and international codes and standards aimed at regulating the private security industry, in particular, clearly mandate that these firms establish policies that promote a safe and healthy working environment, including policies that address the psychological health of employees. One such requirement is embedded in the American National Standards Institute/ASIS International document Management System for Quality of Private Security Company Operations (known as the PSC.1 standard), which states, “The organization shall establish, implement, and maintain procedures to promote a safe and healthy working environment including reasonable precautions to protect people working on its behalf in high-risk or life threatening operations consistent with legal, regulatory, and contractual obligations.” One of the procedures specified is “medical and psychological health awareness training, care, and support” (American National Standards Institute and ASIS International, 2012,p. 24). The inclusion of such a requirement in the PSC.1 standard is significant, because compliance with the standard is now mandated in all DoD- and UK government-funded contracts. Moreover, the International Code of Conduct, a multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at industry self-regulation to which more than 600 private security companies are now signatories, includes a similar provision requiring that signatory companies adopt policies that support a safe and healthy working environment. This requirement specifically mentions a requirement for policies that address psychological health (“International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers,” 2010,section 64d, p. 14). -page 45

Why is this important? Well for one, if you look at past incidents of contractors ‘snapping’ like with the Fitzsimmons case in Iraq, you can see why it is so important for companies to care about this stuff. Unfortunately, they do not care.

It is my experience as a contractor that none of the companies I have worked for, presented any kind of program that focused on the mental health of it’s contractors. I was never informed of any services and was just expected to deal with issues on my own.

Nor have I have ever worked with anyone in the past that has filed a DBA as a contractor for mental health issues–even though I know there are guys who should. Hell, this year alone, I am aware of two contractors that I worked with in the past that committed suicide recently–one of which was a friend. So I know there are mental issues out there, and yet the companies are not really getting involved with this stuff.

The report also mentioned the fact that many contractors are prior veterans and may have gotten their PTSD from service in the military, which I concur. So with that said, the VA should be highly responsive to the needs of these veterans. Should, is the key word, because you get an earful from guys on contract on how crappy the VA is when dealing with this stuff.  Several issues I have seen with contractors whom are veterans, are sleeping issues and TBI or traumatic brain injury. Or the use of pain killers to deal with past injuries. As for mental stuff, it is there, but guys usually don’t like going there.

On the positive side, contracts are a great way for veterans to come together again and share experiences. This is called armed group therapy. lol. Many contractors are attracted to this type of work, because it gets them back in the game of war, and gets them amongst a group that understands war. It is hard for guys to relate to others whom have not experienced that stuff, so that is what makes contracting a plus for veterans.

It is also interesting to note that if you watch AFN (Armed Forces Network) commercials overseas on TV, you are constantly bombarded by deals about suicide in the military or PTSD in the military. The services are constantly trying to reach out to Joes, and work the problem of suicide and PTSD. There are no commercials reaching out to contractors with similar health issues–even though there are more contractors in the war zones than there are military folks. There are no commercials at all geared towards contractors, which is interesting. With such health issues identified by RAND and others, some kind of effort to reach out to contractors could save lives.

Some other factoids that were of interest to me were the combat experiences and living conditions of contractors overseas. The one group of contractors that saw the most combat in this survey were the transportation security contractors or PSD/Convoy guys. The folks that go outside the wire and are exposed to the same dangers as the military, who all have to travel the same roads.

Training and advising contractors were the second most dangerous, which makes sense with all of the green on blue incidents involving contractors happening in places like Afghanistan. Also, by nationality in this survey, the US contractors saw more combat than any other nationality surveyed. Although I doubt this would be the case if Afghan or Iraqi contractors were more involved in this survey. lol

The living conditions of contractors were interesting as well. The worst living conditions experienced were the transportation guys. Living in transient tents all the time or sleeping in your truck can get old. You also work really long hours and the whole 12 hour shift concept seems to be used more and more by companies. Which really sucks, because this hinders sleep, thus making it difficult to keep sharp on the job. More companies neglect giving time off out in the field as well, and there is not enough emphasis on giving folks a break out there so they can recharge. Getting good sleep and not being overworked is crucial to security operations, and this is neglected all the time by the companies.

The best living conditions were experienced by the maritime security folks and logistics/maintenance folks.

Interesting report and check it out for yourself. Companies should take the time to read this and get a better feel for what is going on out there with their people, or try to work harder to meet the needs of their people. Thanks to RAND and authors, and to all of the contractors that participated in this survey. Hopefully this will get the conversation going on the true health of this industry, and how to meet the needs of contractors. -Matt

 

 

Read the report here.

Read the summary here.

This is a quick report done on AIG and the way they have treated DBA claims of contractors. Horrible treatment is all I have to say, and the statistics support that.

 

Contractors Who Worked in Conflict Zones Suffer High Rates of PTSD, Depression and Get Little Help
December 10, 2013
Private contractors who worked in Iraq, Afghanistan or other conflict environments over the past two years report suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression more often than military personnel who served in recent conflicts, according to a new RAND Corporation study.
Researchers found that among the contractors studied, 25 percent met criteria for PTSD, 18 percent screened positive for depression and half reported alcohol misuse. Despite their troubles, relatively few get help either before or after deployment.
“Given the extensive use of contractors in conflict areas in recent years, these findings highlight a significant but often overlooked group of people struggling with the after-effects of working in a war zone,” said Molly Dunigan, co-author of the study and a political scientist with RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
The results are from an anonymous online survey of 660 people who had deployed on contract to a theater of conflict at least once between early 2011 and early 2013. The study attracted participants through several methods, including contacting individual companies and trade associations and posting links to the survey on websites and blogs. It is the first survey to examine a broad range of deployed contractors, not just those who provide security services.

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Publications: SIGAR Report–Concerns Remain About APPF’s Capabilities And Costs

Thus, the APPF acts as a monopoly service provider. Although contracted security costs for the majority of projects decreased, the average rate for armed local guard services increased as much as 47 percent for projects under the APPF. These costs could increase even more over time and implementing partners—left with no other options for local armed guard services—would have no choice but to pay the higher prices.

Pretty damning. Basically clients are using RMC’s as standard security providers, all because the APPF is so ineffective. That, and this ineffective force will have a monopoly soon, and will be able to charge whatever they want.

But here is the really bad part of this story. The loss of life because of this poor security force. Check out this quote:

Traders have informed the Wolesi Jirga about the onslaughts on the Kabul-Kandahar highway that have resulted in the death of 6 drivers and burning of 250 trucks with commercial goods over the past 6 months.
According to the Pajhwok Afghan News PAN), businessman Abdul Wali Wardak said their problems had increased after the responsibility of providing security for logistics vehicles was transferred to the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF).
Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries Chief Mohammad Qurban Haqjo confirmed the losses and said the APPF has failed to provide the needed security for logistics vehicles and prevent the attacks caused by the insurgents.

Pathetic…. Read the report below if you want to check out SIGAR’s recommendations. -Matt

 

WHAT SIGAR FOUND
The effect of the transition to the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) has been minimal on projects in SIGAR’s sample, but only because implementing partners hired risk management companies (RMCs) to fill APPF capacity gaps and perform critical functions. Without RMCs, the APPF would be unable to provide the full range of security services needed by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implementing partners. Contracts with implementing partners require the APPF to provide an appropriate number of capable and trained guards, as determined by the APPF in conjunction with the implementing partner, and a sufficient number of properly trained officers and non-commissioned officers to oversee the guards. However, for five projects that use APPF services, RMCs perform critical functions and fill gaps in APPF capabilities in recruiting, training, and supervision. Further, implementing partners reported that APPF officers and non-commissioned officers provided little benefit and were unable to perform required duties.

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Publications: Contractor Support Of USCENTCOM AOR, 3rd Quarter FY 2013

This is the latest DASD program support report. Here are the highlights from the report.

Afghanistan
In 3rd quarter FY13 there were approximately 101.8K DoD contractors in Afghanistan. The overall contractor footprint in Afghanistan decreased by 5.5% from 2nd quarter FY13.
The contractor to military ratio in Afghanistan is 1.43 to 1 (based on 71.5K military as of June 7, 2013).
There will be substantial contractor reductions over this fiscal year, as a result of base closures, the return to expeditionary standards, and transition of security to the APPF.
Local Nationals (LN) currently make up 36.7% of the DoD contracted workforce in Afghanistan. The use of LNs remains important to COIN strategy.

The big one in Afghanistan is that there are more contractors than military folks there. It’s a contractor’s war now and local nationals make up a huge portion of that work force.

Iraq
In 3rd quarter FY13, the total number of contractors supporting the U.S. Government in Iraq (DoD + DOS) was approximately 10.3K. There will be substantial contractor reductions in 2013 reflecting consolidation of sites, completion of ongoing activity, and increased utilization of host country service and labor.
The DoS and DoD continue to refine the requirements for contract support. Some contractor personnel employed under DoD contracts are supporting State Department and other civilian activities under the Chief of Mission, Iraq. These DoD contractors are provided on a reimbursable basis.

In Iraq, the name of the game is DoD and DoS working with one another and using each other’s resources in order to accomplish the mission. Which makes sense because the former military resource everyone depended upon is gone, so now it’s all about supporting one another with the limited resources that are there.

The other thing to factor into the contractor equation is all the turmoil going on throughout these regions. For Iraq, Syria is being closely watched and monitored. The current presence in Iraq is vital for that mission and contractors will be very much in need to secure that effort and supply the beans/bullets/bandages.

Not to mention that as Al Qaeda gets stronger in Syria, they will be taking that capability back into Iraq to clean house. The raids they are doing in Syria and becoming more complex and bold and they are using that knowledge and applying it in Iraq. As a result, Iraq is definitely seeing a pick up in violence and complex attacks. A great example is the recent prison assault at Abu Ghraib in which 500 Al Qaeda prisoners escaped as a result. But check out how they did it.

Monday’s attacks came exactly a year after the leader of al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, launched a “Breaking the Walls” campaign that made freeing its imprisoned members a top priority, the group said in a statement.Sunni Islamist militants have in recent months been regaining momentum in their insurgency against Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government, which came to power after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.The group said it had deployed suicide attackers, rockets, and 12 car bombs, killing 120 Iraqi guards and SWAT forces in the attacks in Taji, north of Baghdad, and Abu Ghraib, the prison made notorious a decade ago by photographs showing abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers.Interior ministry and medical sources said 29 police and soldiers were killed, and 36 wounded.

 12 car bombs? That is quite the assault! (the Taliban were able to release 400 prisoners in the Sarposa prison escape.)DoS is concerned about the surge in violence as well. Here is a quote.

The attacks on the prisons at Abu Ghraib and Taji were carefully synchronized operations in which members of the Qaeda affiliate used mortars to pin down Iraqi forces, employed suicide bombers to punch holes in their defenses and then sent an assault force to free the inmates, Western experts said.

We are concerned about the increased tempo and sophistication of Al Qaeda operations in Iraq,” said a senior State Department official, who requested anonymity because he did not want to be seen as commenting on Iraq’s internal affairs.

The use of mortars is interesting and we saw this weapon used in the Benghazi attack. An effective mortar team can do a lot of damage very quickly if they are able to get in close and have the targeting data.

I wanted to bring these examples up in this post because it is relevant to contractor usage. With increased danger comes more dependence on solid security and defenses. If we want a presence in Iraq to monitor Syria or Iran or the internal developments in Iraq, then security contractors and support will be needed to continue that mission. Or we could pull out altogether….or send troops back in, and I don’t think neither of these options are of national interest.

For Afghanistan, the Taliban will continue to apply the pressure as more troops pull out. They will also do all they can to test the government and show how ineffective they are by making things more chaotic and dangerous. Much like what is going on in Iraq now. Contractors will be there to fill the vacuum left by these departing troops and they will have to deal with this increased danger. (contractor deaths are up to 3357 as of June)

Contractors will continue to train, continue to finish building projects, and continue as normal. We are essential to the massive logistics game of leaving Afghanistan as well. From breaking down camps or equipment deemed too costly to ship, or supporting those who are left, contractors will keep the machine running. -Matt

 

Contractor Support Of USCENTCOM AOR, 3rd Quarter FY 2013

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