Industry Talk: ACADEMI And Triple Canopy Merge Under Constellis Holdings!

After being away for awhile, and coming back into the blogging and social media scene, I had to choose what story I wanted to talk about that is the most interesting to the community. There is so much going on out there that it is kind of overwhelming to find an entry point back into the mix. With that said, this site is dedicated to PMSC news and I believe this merger story is pretty damn interesting. Enter ‘Triple Academi’… lol

This is big news. A merger between Triple Canopy and ACADEMI, along with other companies that were part of the Constellis Group package, are now all gathered under the Constellis Holdings, Inc. umbrella. The list of companies in the form of a graphic is posted below, complements of Danger Zone Jobs.

So the first thing to go over, seeing how I am coming in late on this story, is to see what has been said. Over at Soldier Systems, they posted the news and the comments are telling. Some fear that pay will drop now that the companies are consolidating. Especially when TC and ACADEMI are running contracts that mirror each other in Afghanistan, like the Leatherneck and Dwyer gigs, and yet both companies have different pay schemes. I suspect that the current contracts signed by independent contractors will remain in place. But for future contracts signed by IC’s, will the pay be the same now that both companies are under the same ownership? Who knows?…

The other fear is that one company’s culture might clash with the other company’s culture and the way they do business. There is always the perception with competing companies, that the other guy doesn’t know what they are doing or are poor service providers or have a terrible culture/system in place. My guess is that the companies will still do their own thing and any changes will be minor. But you never know, and there might be plans to ‘change’ things around.

The changes that were announced were the consolidation of training at ACADEMI’s training facility, which will be a huge savings. Triple Canopy has a portion of the WPS contract as well, and to be able to tap into a world class training facility at Moyoc, will absolutely lead to savings. Hopefully those savings will help all companies involved realize that salaries should not be messed with, especially since IC’s and employees will know of these savings.

To get a feel for what the WPS guys and other contractors are saying about this merger’s impact on the WPS program, go over to SOCNET and follow their thread. The pay is the big issue.

Another change that was announced in the press release was to have all companies answer to one CEO, and that would be Craig Nixon of ACADEMI. The quote below says it all.

The combined ownership group will employ more than 6,000 of the industry’s most experienced and best-trained employees and will be led by CEO Craig Nixon.

That is like being in command of a brigade, and seeing how Mr. Nixon was actually a Brigadier General in the US Army, he should be somewhat familiar with the size and scope of leading such a large group. Although running a private company versus a military unit has it’s own set of unique challenges and he also has a board of directors to answer too. He can also tap into an excellent sounding board for ideas over at the McChrystal Group. Perhaps even fire up a management school at ACADEMI and implement some CrossLead or something like that for it’s leaders? Or better yet, contract the services of Adaptive Leader LLC… Just saying.
The other big news with this is that by proxy, Blackwater or ACADEMI, is now back in Iraq! lol With the merger of TC, which has WPS contracts in Iraq, by proxy, ACADEMI now has some ‘family’ in Iraq. It is ironic as well, that TC was the company that took over the WPS contracts from BW back in the day after the whole Nisour Square fallout.
Triple Canopy is also holding the line at the US Embassy in Baghdad, along with the Marines and Army that have been sent to protect. TC also has WPS contracts in the south of Iraq. To get a feel for what they are doing there, here is an OIG report from March of 2013 that details that stuff. (the numbers of security contractors have probably changed since the report, but they referenced the company’s muster list as 1200 contractors dedicated to the Embassy and the INL-Iraq program)

As to how this merger impacts TC’s ESOP program, I have no clue. Will this mega merger form an ESOP that everyone can participate in, who knows?

One suggestion to the companies is to communicate clearly with everyone in your chain, exactly what changes will happen. I imagine they are already doing this, but I can’t stress enough how important this is for the sake of those guys working out in the field and making things happen for these companies. Keep your people informed and a part of the process!
My final point, is for contract bids in the future. The companies within this merger have strength in numbers. They can bid lower, now that they have resources within the group of companies. Especially with training or personnel management. So Constellis Holdings will be a big player when it comes to bidding on contracts and they will leverage their advantage big time.
Well, this is all the commentary I have on the subject right now. I will make edits as information comes in and I invite the companies to make any announcements through this site if they wish. Mergers and Acquisitions in this industry are not new and I have written about it in the past and how this was predicted as the wars wind down. So the question is, who will merge next? -Matt

 

The current list of companies within the Constellis Holdings Inc merger. Photo by Danger Zones Jobs.

Constellis Holdings, Inc. Acquires Constellis Group, Inc.
June 06, 2014
Constellis Holdings, Inc. has agreed to acquire Constellis Group, Inc., a leading provider of security, support and advisory services to government, multinational corporations and international organizations operating in challenging environments around the world. Constellis Holdings was formed by the founders of Triple Canopy and the private equity investors who formed ACADEMI.
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Industry Talk: Afghanistan To Disband The APPF!

U.S. Army Col. Jane Crichton, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-led coalition, said there had been no immediate impact on security.
“We are not aware of any decisions or significant changes to support that affect the coalition in the near-term,” she said. “We are evaluating possible courses of action, including providing our own security or using contract security, among others. At present, the APPF is still providing convoy security escorts with no plan to cease.”

This is big, and good riddance. The APPF was a joke from the get go, and more than likely the money earned by this venture was squandered away by a corrupt government–hence why they are disbanding it. Also, I had been getting reports over the last couple weeks from contractors saying that APPF guards were not getting paid and that there was rumor that this was going to happen.

Now the question is, how will this security vacuum be filled? Well, that quote up top says it all. Either these clients will just pack up and go home, or if they decide to stay, they will be requiring contract security. Which I am sure there will be plenty of companies willing to step in and do this.

Although there is one caveat with that statement. The Afghan government has been seizing weapons and communications gear like crazy for the last several years, and it could be very difficult for companies to get that stuff back to do the job. So going back to the corrupt government theme, I could see lease or rental type agreements for weapons or some kind license scheme that will cost oodles of money for companies to get set up.  Who knows, but at least the APPF is going away.

If anyone has other elements to report about this development, let me know in the comments. Especially if security becomes an issue because of the way this has worked out. There is still a war going on and I imagine if APPF guys are just walking off post because they are not getting paid or are fed up with the whole thing, then that will not be cool. What a mess….

It also reminds me of the mess with the TWISS contracts in Iraq. When the Ugandans would not get paid or whatever forces being used were not getting paid, they often had walks offs and labor strikes.  Meaning guards not showing up to posts. Several times, contingencies in Iraq required military folks to step in to do these jobs as labor issues were being handled out in the field. So as this APPF thing develops, I imagine we will see similar acts if they are not getting paid and there is confusion as to who will pay them or whom they work for.

Another point is perhaps they will not like being rolled into the MOI or being made into a military unit or police unit. Perhaps the ANA or ANP will not like having to dip into their budgets to pay for these APPF salaries. Who knows…. -Matt

 

 

Afghanistan to Disband Crucial Guard Force
March 4, 2014
By Nathan Hodge
The Afghan government is moving to dissolve a crucial guard force that protects military supply convoys, international aid programs and foreign installations, creating new uncertainty over security as the U.S. and its allies withdraw.
The Afghan Ministry of Interior said in a statement Monday that Kabul would disband the Afghan Public Protection Force.
While APPF is a government agency, its services are paid for commercially by the clients, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development. It replaced a host of private security contractors.
Top Afghan officials recently issued a directive that would disband the force and fold it into the Ministry of Interior. But U.S. and coalition officials say it is unclear how, exactly, the Afghan government plans to implement this new order—and who will take over the job of protecting internationally funded reconstruction projects.

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Funny Stuff: The Pentagon Wars

A big hat tip to David over on Feral Jundi’s Facebook page for reminding me of this movie. This is an all time classic and a reminder as to how the Pentagon procurement process can go horribly wrong. It also helps to explain how idiotic weapons like the F-35 get made (read David Axe’s post on the subject for an excellent primer), and how highly effective weapons like the A-10 get mothballed.

By the way, this is a clip from the movie that showed how the Bradley Fighting Vehicle came about. Pretty hilarious. You can watch the whole thing on youtube if you want to watch it sometime later. -Matt

 

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Aviation: Save The A-10 Warthog And Trash The F-35 Flying Turkey!

Pierre Sprey is the man! He was also a member of Col John Boyd’s fighter mafia and Pierre was instrumental in designing the A-10 aircraft. So it is really cool to hear the thought process that went into the design of the A-10 Warthog.  Here is a snippet from Wikipedia that discusses that history.

Criticism that the U.S. Air Force did not take close air support (CAS) seriously prompted a few service members to seek a specialized attack aircraft. In the Vietnam War, large numbers of ground-attack aircraft were shot down by small arms, surface-to-air missiles, and low-level anti-aircraft gunfire, prompting the development of an aircraft better able to survive such weapons. In addition, the UH-1 Iroquois and AH-1 Cobra helicopters of the day, which USAF commanders had said should handle close air support, were ill-suited for use against armor, carrying only anti-personnel machine guns and unguided rockets meant for soft targets. Fast jets such as the F-100 Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom II proved for the most part to be ineffective for close air support because their high speed did not allow pilots enough time to get an accurate fix on ground targets and they lacked sufficient loiter time. The effective, but aging, Korean War era, A-1 Skyraider was the USAF’s primary close air support aircraft.
A-X program

In 1966, the USAF formed the Attack Experimental (A-X) program office. On 6 March 1967, the Air Force released a request for information to 21 defense contractors for the A-X. The objective was to create a design study for a low-cost attack aircraft. In 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force asked Pierre Sprey to write the detailed specifications for the proposed A-X project. However, his initial involvement was kept secret because of Sprey’s earlier controversial involvement in the F-X project. Sprey’s discussions with A-1 Skyraider pilots operating in Vietnam and analysis of aircraft currently used in the role indicated the ideal aircraft should have long loiter time, low-speed maneuverability, massive cannon firepower, and extreme survivability; an aircraft that had the best elements of the Ilyushin Il-2, Henschel Hs 129, and Skyraider. The specifications also demanded that each aircraft cost less than $3 million. Sprey required that the biography of World War II attack pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel be read by people on the A-X program.

The reason why I am posting this is that the A-10 is on the chopping block according to the latest budget proposal, and supposedly the F-35 is going to be replacing it. I think this is ridiculous because the F-35 is nowhere close to being able to replace or even compete with the A-10 for the mission of CAS.

The thought process for the F-35 is that it can do ‘everything’ on the battlefield, to include CAS. In reality, the way it is configured would mean that it would be doing a very poor job of CAS. When you try to make an aircraft that does everything, then it doesn’t do all those things very well. Compromises are made in order for it do everything, and this is it’s weakness. David Axe of the blog War is Boring produced an excellent article on why the F-35 is such a poor aircraft. In summary, thanks to the Marine’s insistence that the aircraft should be VSTOL, so as to replace the AV-8B Harrier, there had to be compromises with this aircraft. Here is a quote:

Engineering compromises forced on the F-35 by this unprecedented need for versatility have taken their toll on the new jet’s performance. Largely because of the wide vertical-takeoff fan the Marines demanded, the JSF is wide, heavy and has high drag, and is neither as quick as an F-16 nor as toughly constructed as an A-10. The jack-of-all-trades JSF has become the master of none.

Instead, we need aircraft that are designed for specific missions. So for the CAS or Close Air Support mission, the A-10 is the best purpose built aircraft for that job. Until an aircraft is designed to do a better job of the CAS mission than the A-10, I see no reason to mothball such a thing. The troops love it, our enemies fear it, and our pilots appreciate it’s lethality and survivability.

Unfortunately what is going on here is the Pentagon, Lockheed Martin and politicians are all in the game of supporting the F-35 and similar flying turkeys that are super expensive. This game provides lots of money and influence to those that support it. Instead of looking at the data of past Close Air Support missions in our prior wars and these current wars, or other people’s wars, and realizing that what Pierre and others have created was built upon that data, they instead take a path more geared towards lining pockets and keeping factories employed so politicians can please their constituents.

With that said, I have provided several videos below where Pierre Sprey makes an excellent argument against the F-35 and explains why the A-10 is the better aircraft. What is really sad is that even in air to air combat, Pierre mentioned that the older F-16 that he helped to design as well, could defeat the F-35. It is sickening to think, and I believe this aircraft will cost lives and especially if troops are to depend upon it for CAS. It is a flying turkey that tax payers will be paying a lot of money for, and troops will pay for in blood.

Now I am all about modernizing stuff. But that modernization actually has to produce an aircraft better than the one it is replacing. It has to please guys like Pierre Sprey, who know a thing or two about aircraft design used for warfare. And considering CAS has been a very important aspect of wars that we have fought in the modern era, I do not see that trend going away any time soon.

Perhaps if the Pentagon really goes through with this idiotic move, a private company could step up and make a deal with the US government to purchase all of these aircraft? Or maybe the 160th SOAR could grab them all and make good use of them. (hint, hint) Because I think future wars will once again require such an aircraft, and the company or unit that has them ready to go, will have an aircraft in high demand. -Matt

PS- Be sure to follow the Straus Military Reform Project for more information and updates about this situation. You will find many of the fighter mafia there.

 

 

This is the most current video that Pierre made, in regards to the background of A-10 development.

 

 

This is Pierre describing how poor of an aircraft the F-35 is. He tears it apart.

 

 

In this tribute video, the troops refer to this aircraft as the ‘hand of god’ because of the sound it makes when it fires it’s 30mm guns and the damage it does to the enemy. I agree with this, and having heard this aircraft in combat and in training environments, it is absolutely ominous and life saving.

 

Capt. Kim Campbell, an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot deployed with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, surveys the battle damage to her airplane. Her A-10 was hit over Baghdad during a close air support mission April 7. The A-10 can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. Manual systems back up their redundant hydraulic flight-control systems. This permits pilots, like Captain Campbell, to fly and land when hydraulic power is lost. (quote)

 

And here is a link to the background of this photo. A true testament to the survivability of this aircraft.

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Industry Talk: The UN Talks Shop About Their Use Of PMSC’s

Last year in July, I wrote about this debate that the UN was having about it’s use of PMSC’s, now and into the future. This is the final review panel about this debate, and it was interesting to hear the current view point of the UN.

One of the things that came up that I thought was interesting, is that the UN still does not know how many contractors it uses, either for guard work or for logistics. So I think they should at least dedicate some time and effort towards getting a firm grasp on this. Perhaps an online database that gives a transparent view of everyone they are using, both past and present. They could also add to that database if that company was fired or not, or what they thought of their performance? Anything to add to the history of the use of contractors.

They also talked in great length about codes of conduct and other initiatives to get companies to self-regulate. My thoughts are that if the UN actually published violations of these codes as a record for the public, kind of like what POGO does with companies in the US, then that would keep the world and the UN better informed as to the true track records of companies. That kind of history and track record is essential information if you want to truly find the best value company for the money. Companies would also fight to not be on that list, and especially if it impacted bidding.

The other surprising thing is that they couldn’t list how much money was spent on contractors, past or present. So a database should absolutely list those costs so that member donors to the UN can see exactly how their money is being spent. Also, other companies can see how much a service costs, and find out if they can provide that service cheaper or at least get a feel for what it would take to spin up a contract. So a UN contractor database would be an excellent investment, if the UN is interested in transparency and effectively using this industry.

I was also taken aback when the panel was asked around the 28:30 point of this video, what they thought about the lack of accountability for member nation troops that continue to violate human rights during peace keeping operations. No one wanted to take that question and it was left ‘wide’ open. I thought the silence said everything…

There was also numerous questions about the definition of mercenary and how that applied to PMSC’s. Or how their group was called the UN Working Group On The Use of Mercenaries, and yet they were tasked with evaluating PMSC’s that were not mercenaries by definition. I think the choice of group title is somewhat counterproductive for such a panel, if they wanted to be perceived as objective in their research of this industry. With that said, the group at least tried to differentiate between mercenaries and PMSC’s.

If the video below does not show up, here is a link to the video. It is about 50 minutes long and worth your time. The panel’s final report should be coming out sometime this year, and I will post it when it surfaces. -Matt

 

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War Art: One The Hard Way, By Dan Zoernig

This is cool. This is some artwork depicting combat that actually happened between a Flying Tiger and a Japanese Zero. For those that do not know who the Flying Tigers or AVG are, they were an American private air force that flew combat missions for the Chinese, against the Japanese, with US blessing, all before and a little bit during the beginning stages of WW2. They were the only game in town for attacking the Japanese after the Pearl Harbor attack happened, and it is some very unique American war history. America also cheered this company on as they did their thing in China, all because this country wanted some payback. A movie was also made about this company, staring John Wayne.

I should note that the Flying Tigers had a bounty program as well… Maybe that is why this pilot was willing to rip apart another aircraft with his own? lol As to the back story, Parker Dupouy was awarded the Chinese Sixth Cloud Banner medal for his heroic actions that day. I would say this maneuver was pretty damned aggressive and ballsy. -Matt

Buy a print of it here.

 

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