Posts Tagged business

Afghanistan: China’s Afghan Game Plan, By Shlomo Ben-Ami

Once China’s enormous economic and security interests in Afghanistan are left without America’s military shield, the Chinese are bound to play an even larger role there, one that Afghans hope will reach “strategic levels.” China would prefer to accomplish this the Chinese way – that is, essentially through a display of soft power – or, as the Chinese government put it on the occasion of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s official visit to Beijing in early June, through “non-traditional security areas.”
Judging by China’s behavior in other parts of the world, any military cooperation is likely to be extremely modest and cautious. China has already made it clear it will not contribute to the $4.1 billion multilateral fund to sustain Afghan national security forces.

A big hat tip to Brandon over at SOFREP for finding this article. In the past I have talked about China’s involvement in Africa and the strategic game they are playing, as well as their willingness to set up shop in war zones like Iraq or Afghanistan. They are purely focused on business, and really could care less about the people or the politics or who is in charge. All they care about is who do they have to do business with and pay in order to accomplish their goals for obtaining resources.

So why does this matter?  Because I personally would like to see the west do more to get a return on their investment after ten years of war.  The blood and treasure expended should earn western businesses a place at the front of the line when it comes to making entries into Afghanistan.

China also could care less who they do business with. Notice in the quote up top that China did not care to contribute to Afghanistan’s security forces? I wouldn’t doubt it if the Taliban and China are already making deals for a post war reality in Afghanistan.  I mean look at how China still supports the Assad government in Syria, even though they are murdering their own people.

On the other hand, the realist in me says that China is just playing a better strategic game than the west when it comes to these places. Or their game is just different, hence the ‘chess versus weiqi’ example mentioned in the beginning of the article below.   We may not like it, but I don’t see anyone making a move to counter their game?  Is our goal to get China sucked into the graveyard of empires as well? Who knows? lol

At the end of the day, China will still have to answer for their actions there. Whomever they do business with, they will be scrutinized and remembered by the people for said actions.  China will also have to have deep pocketbooks in order to keep paying off tribes/Taliban in a back and forth game of ‘pay me more or I will shut down your operations’. China will also have to deal with outside sources of shock to their schemes there–meaning they will have to be working hard to keep multiple countries in the region happy, or pay the consequence.  Interesting stuff. –Matt

 

 

China’s Afghan Game Plan
By Shlomo Ben-Ami
04 July 2012
In his latest book, On China, Henry Kissinger uses the traditional intellectual games favored by China and the West – weiqi and chess – as a way to reveal their differing attitudes toward international power politics. Chess is about total victory, a Clausewitzian battle for the “center of gravity” and the eventual elimination of the enemy, whereas weiqi is a quest for relative advantage through a strategy of encirclement that avoids direct conflict.
This cultural contrast is a useful guide to the way that China manages its current competition with the West. China’s Afghan policy is a case in point, but it also is a formidable challenge to the weiqi way. As the United States prepares to withdraw its troops from the country, China must deal with an uncertain post-war scenario.
Afghanistan is of vital strategic interest to China, yet it never crossed its leaders’ minds to defend those interests through war. A vital security zone to China’s west, Afghanistan is also an important corridor through which it can secure its interests in Pakistan (a traditional ally in China’s competition with India), and ensure its access to vital natural resources in the region. Moreover, China’s already restless Muslim-majority province of Xinjiang, which borders on Afghanistan, might be dangerously affected by a Taliban takeover there, or by the country’s dismemberment.

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Industry Talk: Pentagon Business Goes To The Small Fry

Nice little article about the defense industry and where it is at today. It asks a really compelling question–will the larger defense firms eventually try to compete in the services industry as the big program defense contracts decrease? Could we see a Boeing or Lockheed Martin participating in TWISS or some other security contractor related ‘services’ contract? lol You never know?….

The other thing I wanted to mention is that this is a prime example of small companies or small forces attacking the weakness of a large company or force. What works for guerrilla warfare, can have similar application to the business world. These smaller services companies are geared towards their niches, they are able to flex and roll with the contracting tempo, and they know what the client wants. Not only that, but because this is their primary focus, they can provide a better service than the big guys.  The larger defense companies are more concerned with and tooled for the big contracts, just because they have such a massive organization to support.  Smaller companies can certainly be more nimble in these smaller defense markets.

That’s not to say that a Lockheed Martin couldn’t enter the services market and rock and roll. It’s just they would have to compete with these well established niche companies. It will be interesting to see how this goes, and I am sure all defense companies are retooling and looking to the future as to what’s next.  Because on the one hand, you have congress getting pressure to reduce costs and balance the budge, but on the other hand we have all this chaos and war going on around the world. So this is a very difficult market to plan for, and I do not envy these companies in this endeavor. –Matt

 

Pentagon Business Goes to the Small Fry
Foreign wars create opportunities for small and nimble contractors
By Nick Taborek
September 01, 2011
Real-life army grunts have more important things to do on the modern battlefield, goes the thinking at the Pentagon these days. The scut work—and a good deal more—is outsourced to companies that can swoop in with people, basic resources, and technical know-how.
CACI International (CACI) and ManTech International (MANT) have become two of the most successful providers of technical services to the U.S. armed forces as spending on contractors soared because of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together they raked in $3.9 billion last year from the military for providing everything from security services to radar data analysis. “When DOD outsources work, it can surge and purge,” says Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. “It can tell a contractor, ‘I want you to bring on hundreds or thousands of people quickly,’ and they’ll do it.” And when the job is done, “they’re gone,” he adds.

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Building Snowmobiles: Man Vs. Machine–Steam Engine, Deep Blue, Ziggy, Watson…..Boyd?

     In The Art of War, Sun Tzu advised that one of the most important rules of warfare is to “know thine enemy.” At the chess table, the more you know about your opponent — how he has played in the past, his favorite moves, his strengths and weaknesses — the more likely you are to defeat him. Knowing these things requires sorting through a wealth of information — and that’s where computers come in…. 

     Kris says today’s chess players have absolutely benefited from the technology: “They are better players because of it, and they’re achieving more at a younger age. Bobby Fischer was considered an anomaly when he earned the grandmaster title at 15. Today, if you aren’t a GM by the age of 14 or 15, you probably won’t go far in chess. Talent will always matter, but technology is helping talented players learn faster and better.”

     What would a war game look like between a Boyd Machine(or just Boyd) and General Petraeus?  Or better yet, a general or political strategist with a Boyd Machine assisting in strategy and planning? These are some interesting concepts to ponder as militaries, companies, and politicians continue to seek that edge that will help them to defeat their opponents.

    If you look at the progression of machine development for Chess playing, Deep Blue was the end result of continuous improvements (kaizen) to the software.  Deep Blue ended up beating the human race’s top chess player and that is significant. It is a key point to remember when conceptualizing the Boyd Machine.

    Furthermore, I believe that Watson will at one point dominate Jeopardy.  It is doing very well now, and the four years of work on the machine is telling. Even if it doesn’t do it now, it will certainly do it in the near future because of Kaizen and because of Moore’s Law.

    So with these two examples of a machine evolution, is it a stretch to envision a computer defeating a top general or a team of generals in a war game? After all, war is the ultimate game of chess.

     I will take this a step further.  If not man versus machine in the endeavor of war, how about cyborg versus cyborg?  The way the human race is interfacing with machines in the present could easily classify us as ‘cyborgs’.  We carry around smart phones or cellphones, we check our computers daily and highly depend on both of these devices. Most humans have a hard time being away from their computer or phone, because they are so important to their lives.  This is reality.

    So with that said, imagine a general with a Boyd machine, versus another general with his machine?  Or a CEO hybrid versus a CEO hybrid.  You get the idea, and this is exactly the point of the various articles below.

     In the world of Chess, this reality has already presented itself. Will we see a similar future where strategists in political campaigns or military campaigns will be assisted by a machine for planning? I think so, because that is the natural progression, and the computing power is there thanks to Moore’s Law and Kaizen.

     Remember the rule of mimicry strategy?  Folks will copy the most successful strategies for winning, and add one little thing to it to give them the edge.  If everyone knows all the strategies and thought processes of all of mankind’s strategists and their opponent’s history, then what would give an edge to one side over the other?  Could a Boyd machine be that edge? Something that can analyze and synthesize faster than an opponent. Or help it’s human counterpart’s decision making cycle and come up with the winning strategies necessary to win that war, campaign, or competition in a market place? Interesting stuff.

    It would also be cool to see how such a Boyd machine would be constructed.  Take all of his theories and papers, as well as all of the material ever created in regards to strategy, and construct a machine that would think like Boyd?  There are plenty of individuals out there that could contribute as advisors to such a project. Best of all, it would be really cool to build a Sun Tzu machine or a Clausewitz  machine, and have cyborg teams war game against one another.  Al Qaeda or Taliban machines could be constructed as well, and I think war gaming in the future will greatly benefit from such efforts.  –Matt

Edit: 02/17/2011- Watson wins in Jeopardy, which to me is incredible because this was it’s first attempt! Watson won $77,147 to Mr. Jennings’s $24,000 and Mr. Rutter’s $21,600. Good job to the crew at IBM for building such an amazing machine.

Watson, the ‘Jeopardy!’ computer, has grander plans

IBM’s Watson Just Latest Edition of Man Vs. Machine Battle

The role of computers in planning chess strategy

The website for IBM’s Watson here.

TED: We Are All Cyborgs Now, Amber Case 

Watson, the ‘Jeopardy!’ computer, has grander plans

02/16/2011

By Hayley Tsukayama

Watson, the computer that’s winning hearts and cash on “Jeopardy!” this week, is more than just a pretty interface.

David F. McQueeney, vice president of IBM Research said that Watson’s real applications are far more practical. The computer is actually intended to help users get a handle on unstructured data such as text, e-mails and in-company mail messages.

“We’ve been working for a long time about helping humans navigate a large amount of data, ” McQueeney told Post Tech in an interview. “There’s all kinds of incredibly valuable information about the way an agency runs in unstructured data, and we’ve been working for decades on extracting meaning and structure from it.”

What McQueeney hopes IBM can do by showing Watson off on television is let people know machines have evolved to the point where they can help humans struggle with problems without having to modify all the data for a computer.

“I’m so pleased that the ‘Jeopardy!’ producers agreed to work with us,” he said, “and I’m as pleased as they are that the result was good science and good entertainment.”

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Guatemala: Private Security Is Good Business In Guatemala

     “The guards and the guns they wield — pump action shotguns and old revolvers — mark the front doors of businesses and the guard gates of wealthy neighborhoods. They have become accepted members of a culture numb to crime,” Fieser writes. Professor Ungar says: “Can you imagine walking into a Guatemala City shopping mall and not seeing a guard? People wouldn’t know what to do…. Guards have become a social phenomenon. They are part of the fabric of urban life.”

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     Wow, sometimes you stumble upon some really cool statistics that just give you a pause.  This article is filled with those kinds of statistics, and this thing delves into South African and Brazilian statistics on security guards as well.

     My take away on all of this, is that the main theme I see repeated over and over again throughout the world when it comes to guards or security contractors is that if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Also, without standards and some kind of a regulatory body with teeth, you will have problems. And what do you know, our industry is coming up against these same issues, and I just don’t get why these lessons are not learned and applied? Well, I do know why–because security is a luxury in most folks minds, until someone gets hurt or killed, and regulating an industry takes effort and leadership. Most folks in charge in these countries are poor leaders and lazy or the government organizations tasked with monitoring and regulating, have no money or resources to do that job. (or they just don’t think it is a worthy expense)

   Well, on the plus side, at least all of these security industries throughout the world have access to the internet.  They can actually research what works and what doesn’t work, and the information is there for anyone interested in applying Kaizen to their industry. There are folks in these countries who care, and who are trying to do what is right, and bravo to them for keeping up the fight. Maybe the folks in Guatemala will be reading Feral Jundi and get a feel for the best industry practices?  Who knows, but I have to think that everyone’s learning organizations will only be enhanced by what is currently out there.  All they have to do is grab that information and ‘build a snowmobile’ out of it. –Matt

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Private security is good business in Guatemala

22 March 2010

In the United States there are 1.09 million private guards — that is, one guard for every 280 people; in Guatemala, a country of 13 million people, there are between 100,000 to 150,000 guards (the exact number is not known since many of these companies do not bother to register with the authorities); this is one guard for every 85 to 130 residents; the combined number of state and federal police in the United States is 883,600; Guatemala has roughly 22,000 active police officers

When it comes to crime and lawlessness, few countries could match South Africa. Just one example: The United States has a population of 307,000,000. South Africa’s population is 49,000,000. The number of murders committed in the United States between April 2008 and March 2009: 16,204. The comparable number in South Africa during the same period: 18,148. The murder rate in South Africa is 38.6 murders per 100,000 citizens. The world’s average for murder is 5 per 100 000.

The prevalence of crime, especially violent crime, is one manifestation of lawlessness. Another manifestation is the health of the private security industry. The business of private security thrives in countries on which the government does not offer sufficient protection to the people at the same time that it does not do enough to fight crime.

Two countries in which the private security sector thrives are South Africa and Brazil. There are other countries, too, in which offering private security services is a lucrative business.

Ezra Fieser writes in GlobalPost that Guatemala is one of these countries. Security guards employed by private companies in Guatemala outnumber police seven-to-one. Throughout Latin America private security guard forces dwarf police rolls (note that even the United States has more guards than police — 1.09 million to 883,600, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fieser notes that this is about one guard for every 280 people).

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Company Spotlight: India’s Topsgrup

     -In May 2008 Topsgrup acquired a 51 percent controlling interest in UK-based Shield Guarding, a $121 million security services provider. The company is now raising money to buy out the remaining 49 percent in Shield Guarding and possibly acquire newer companies. “We have signed a memorandum of understanding with a $300 million US security company for acquiring them. After that we want to get into the Middle East, Africa and some parts of Asia as well,” says Nanda.

     -Neems to agree, relating a recent incident when the CEO of the American company he planned to acquire told him, “Rahul if the deal happens, please don’t say an Indian company has acquired us.”

“I understood where he came from,” he adds. “Eighty-five percent of Americans don’t have passports and think America is the world. For them India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan are all in the same breath.”

     –Holding on to local brands is something even the big players have often done, like G4S with Wackenhut and Securitas with Pinkerton’s in the US. But being a hands-off investor might be a risky strategy, all the more so because the companies Topsgrup acquires outside India might in many cases be significantly bigger than itself. 

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   What I have done up top, is to cut out the key portions of this article that really stood out for me.  I haven’t a clue who Topsgrup plans on buying out, but whomever it is, stand by and I wish you well. I have worked for companies that were bought out while I was employed there, and it is always a little unnerving.  Topsgrup is at least trying to maintain some stability with it’s purchases by keeping the key figure heads in place.

   Like I mentioned before with Terraforce, I am kind of out of the loop with the Indian security market, and I really don’t know much about them.  But management and leadership issues are a universal theme, and I could care less what country you are from, you are either universally accepted as a performer or you are not.

   If Topsgrup is a student of the industry, they will learn from the Kabul Fiasco and know that they must care about what is going on with the contracts of their newly acquired companies.  Get some shared reality, and make sure your ‘new’ employees and contractors are actually getting taken care of.  Or that your leaders are only doing good things for the company, and not destroying a company with the poor management of people and contracts.

    Basic stuff really, but given what had happened with AGNA and their relationship (or lack there of) with Wackenhut, I am pretty skeptical of any company that calls itself organized or compassionate about employees/contractors.  Actions speak louder than words Jack.

     If any readers have some inside scoop, please feel free to speak up.  I would be very curious to know who this US company is? Or if you are with Shield, let us know how that is going.  The other angle on this, is it could all be hot air.  Please note that Topsgrup was talking about purchasing this ‘mystery US company’ May of last year.  What gives? –Matt

Topsgrup Website here.

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Topsgrup

Elvis Has Left Town

Diwan Rahul Nanda has spent the last 15 years building Topsgrup into India’s second largest private security provider. Now he is staking it all to become a global player

by Rohin Dharmakumar | Oct 27, 2009

The Man: Diwan Rahul Nanda, 37, Chairman

The Company: Topsgrup. With close to 85,000 employees and Rs. 867 crore in revenue, it is the second largest security services provider in India.

His Goal: Create a multinational security behemoth from India by acquiring other security companies around the globe.

The Risks: Acceptance of an Indian company in Western markets will be a challenge, especially as private security companies there run jails, man borders and guard cities. Nanda will have to battle perceptions about Indian companies being synonymous with cost cutting and lowered standards for training.

Around 1.15 p.m. on October 7, an auto-rickshaw pulls up outside Gate 2 of Hewlett-Packard’s campus in Bangalore’s Electronic City suburb. The lone passenger in the auto-rickshaw, a young man of average build, pays off the driver and hurriedly walks through the campus gates along with a group of other employees. He is carrying a shoulder bag.

Diwan Rahul Nanda, Chairman, Topsgroup

When one of the security guards asks him for his identity card, he tells him that it is inside his pocket. He is lying, for HP had sacked him over three years ago. Since then he had found it impossible to find another stable job in India’s IT capital. Worse, his wife had left him a year back, taking their daughter with her.

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Publications: Destruction and Creation, by John R. Boyd

    This paper rocks, and as you can see, is the basis for a lot of the ideas I talk about here on FJ.  From my social networking ideas, to shared reality, to leadership, to being a better contractor and person, to current military and business strategy.  It is pure Jundism and I highly recommend reading through it several times to grasp the concepts. If you want a foundation for the concept of OODA, then reading this is a must. Check out the influence of these ideas on warfare here, and I recommend expanding out to other sites that discuss these ideas for further learning and research. –Matt 

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From Wikipedia

Boyd never wrote a book on military strategy. The central works encompassing his theories on warfare consist of a several hundred slide presentation entitled Discourse on Winning & Losing and a short essay entitled Destruction & Creation (1976).

In Destruction & Creation, Boyd attempts to provide a philosophical foundation for his theories on warfare. In it he integrates Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics to provide a context and rationale for the development of the OODA Loop.

Boyd inferred the following from each of these theories:

    * Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem: any logical model of reality is incomplete (and possibly inconsistent) and must be continuously refined/adapted in the face of new observations.

    * Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: there is a limit on our ability to observe reality with accuracy.

    * Second Law of Thermodynamics: The entropy of any closed system always tends to increase, and thus the nature of any given system is continuously changing even as efforts are directed toward maintaining it in its original form.

From this set of considerations, Boyd concluded that to maintain an accurate or effective grasp of reality one must undergo a continuous cycle of interaction with the environment geared to assessing its constant changes. Boyd, though he was hardly the first to do so, then expanded Darwin’s theory of evolution, suggesting that natural selection applies not only in biological but also in social contexts (such as the survival of nations during war or businesses in free market competition). Integrating these two concepts, he stated that the decision cycle was the central mechanism of adaptation (in a social context) and that increasing one’s own rate and accuracy of assessment vis-a-vis one’s counterpart’s rate and accuracy of assessment provides a substantial advantage in war or other forms of competition.

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DESTRUCTION AND CREATION

By John R. Boyd

September 3, 1976

To comprehend and cope with our environment we develop mental patterns or concepts of meaning. The purpose of this paper is to sketch out how we destroy and create these patterns to permit us to both shape and be shaped by a changing environment. In this sense, the discussion also literally shows why we cannot avoid this kind of activity if we intend to survive on our own terms. The activity is dialectic in nature generating both disorder and order that emerges as a changing and expanding universe of mental concepts matched to a changing and expanding universe of observed reality.

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