Posts Tagged private military

Strategy: The Future Of War, By Sean McFate

I really liked this presentation because it brings in all of the elements that I have been talking about on this blog, into a nice format that Dr. Sean McFate has put together. It is definitely worth your time to watch and absorb.

The thing that stood out to me was the discussion of the strategic uses of private forces or PMSC’s. He presents the case that A. the industry is not going away B. we are reverting back to a pre-westphalian era, and C. that the west might not want to use PMSC’s for waging war, but other countries like China or Russia have no issue with them.

It is that dynamic that is interesting to me. That countries are slowly going towards the use of PMSC’s to wage war, and they are doing it as a part of their national interest. Russia for example used their little green men hybrid warfare strategy in the Ukraine. Iran uses mercenaries in Syria. And then there is China and their use of maritime militias. Even with the west, contractors have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan as a way to supplement manpower shortages in this wars. The common theme here is that private forces are used as a part of a larger ‘strategy’, and this presentation challenges those who are closed minded or unaware of those uses. It forces the viewer to think about how PMSC’s are used, or could be used, strategically.

In the past, I have discussed all sorts of interesting ways that private forces have been used for the sake of national interest. The very first overseas land operation of the US was the Battle of Derna (Shores of Tripoli from the Marine Hymn) in Libya, where a small contingent of Marines/Army commanded several hundred Christian and Islamic mercenaries to fight in the First Barbary War. The early privateers that the US used in the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 were another example of the use of PMSC’s as a part of a larger strategy to support national interest. The Flying Tigers was another example of modern aviation PMSC’s, or Britain’s Watchguard International Lmtd. in Yemen, or even recently with STTEP in Nigeria. Private forces can be used to great effect, and there are historical cases that make this point.

Sean covers a broad scope of ideas, and they are provocative to the say the least. What I wanted to post was the ten ideas of this future war he describes. Bear in mind, he is mostly referencing what is going on right now, and trying to envision where this goes with each point.

1. There will never be ‘symmetry’.

2. Technology won’t save us.

3. States matter less.

4. Warriors are masked and may not fight for states.

5. Laws of war and international law don’t apply.

6. There will be a market for force with mercenaries.

7. Others will wage war and new kinds of superpowers will emerge.

8. Plausible deniability is power.

9. Hearts and minds matter very little.

10. There will be more war.

I won’t ruin the whole thing for the reader, but I did want to comment on one deal he brought up that is not discussed a lot out there. He mentioned ‘hack back‘ companies, or basically cyber companies contracted to attack hackers or countries that used hackers to attack those companies. To me, this is pure cyber privateering, and we are getting close to the concept of state sanctioned hacking as this becomes more of a problem. I am reminded of the attack on Sony, and how brutal that was. Or worse, hacks on nuclear facilities…. In the past I have talked about how the Letter of Marque could be used for this as a means of keeping it in check. As more companies or countries get attacked by hackers who are sponsored by states, the idea of attacking back becomes more and more a thing to consider. For a further exploration of cyber privateering, I suggest the Morgan Doctrine blog. Interesting stuff and check it out below. If you are interested in further exploring this topic, I highly recommend Sean’s book called The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order. –Matt


The future of war points.

A screen shot of the future of war points.



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Games: Call Of Duty Advanced Warfare

This game is of interest to our community because it involves a future where PMSC’s are the dominate players. It is a game that asks ‘what if?’.

This franchise has made a ton of money off of the Call of Duty games, and this latest game is the next evolution of that franchise. When they hired a heavy duty actor like Kevin Spacey to play the CEO of the fictional PMSC in this game called Atlas Corporation, then you know these guys are not fooling around. These games are essentially interactive movies, complete with premieres and premier parties and awards for best games. It really is amazing how far these things have come along.

It is also telling that video games would invest so much into PMSC related stories. Mercenary type games must really do well for them to put so much money and resource into the concept. I should also mention that I have a ton of traffic coming from places like Los Angeles and other areas of the country where games or other bits of PMSC related entertainment are made. I am sure on Facebook, the same kind of thing is happening. An industry that makes their money on good story and great action in a game, will find inspiration wherever it can–to include this blog. Which is great and I hope they take the ideas and run with them. Just know that I can’t control what the gamers or other contractors feel about the game, so if it sucks, it is on you guys. lol

So we will see how the game does? For the record, I had no involvement with the development of this game. Check out the other behind the scenes videos that talk about the weapons and ideas of the game. Lots of technology and future warfare type stuff going on. –Matt

Pre-order game here.



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History: The Battle For Najaf, By Travis Haley

This is an excellent story on this famous battle, fought by the contractors and military assigned to protect the CPA in Najaf, Iraq back in 2004. By now, most folks familiar with the battle have seen this video of the battle circulating around the net, and it gives a snapshot of what these guys were up against. Travis has added more detail to the big picture of what was happening at the time, to include lessons learned.

You can also read more about Travis and his history and contribution to the training industry over at his website. –Matt


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Publications: GPF Report On Private Military And Security Companies And The UN

This one is a hard read, just because it is filled with bias against this industry. lol But if you can look beyond that junk and check out some of the details in the back of paper, they list some interesting stuff. Especially what companies the UN has used and currently uses, and how much money all of the UN programs have been spending on private security. Each year, it has been going up.

Now I agree with the authors that the UN should do everything in it’s power to hire quality companies that are vetted, and that these companies have appropriate rules and regulations guiding their use of force and whatnot. All of that is very important.

But I disagree with the authors view that companies are questionable in their ability to ‘help the U.N. promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights’. Especially when some of the military units that the UN has used has only hurt their image and their ability to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights. It is disgraceful how poorly some of the military units that the UN has used in the past have acted–or not acted.

Either way, I believe private industry can and will do a far more superior job for the UN, and the UN will continue to contract the services of these companies. The amount of money they have spent on security has only increased from year to year, and the world is not getting any more safer. The UN does have a duty to responsibly contract these services–and god forbid, learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others. lol It is all about actually caring about getting a good value for the money given to them by donor nations, and exercising their right as the client to actually fire bad companies. Pure principal-agent problem stuff here.

Also, I think as ISO standards come onto the scene, this will only help the UN in determining qualified vendors. We have had 10 plus years of war time contracting, and these companies are pretty experienced in providing a service in poor and unstable environments throughout the world. These companies are willing and able to enter into these risky jobs and that says a lot as well. I think the UN would be dumb to not tap into this resource, and especially as money becomes tighter and the world continues to have conflict. –Matt


Dangerous Partnership – Private Military and Security Companies and the UN
( GPF Policy Papers, Articles and Statements )
GPF’s report on the use of Private Military and Security Companies by the United Nations is out! This investigative report reveals that the UN has dramatically increased its use of these companies in recent years, hiring them for a wide array of “security services” and giving them considerable influence over its security policies. It also reveals that the UN has no process to vet these companies and that UN leadership has been closing its eyes to company misconduct for more than twenty years. GPF calls on the UN to reform this out-of-control system and to critically examine whether these companies really make the UN safer, or whether they might achieve the opposite effect. You can read the executive summary and the full report.


UN criticized for using private security companies
July 11, 2012
A non-profit organization that monitors the United Nations published a report Tuesday criticizing the U.N.’s growing use of private military and security companies.
The Global Policy Forum said the U.N.’s increasing use of these companies is “dangerous,” may increase rather than reduce threats and attacks on U.N. buildings and personnel, and suggests a system that is “unaccountable and out of control.”

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Cool Stuff: The Men That Ended The Draft, And What That Means For Today’s Wars And Contractors

In his recent coauthored book, Two Lucky People, Mr. Friedman writes that 5 of the 15 commissioners — including himself, Mr. Greenspan, and Mr. Wallis — were against the draft to begin with. Five members were undecided, and 5 were prodraft. Yet when the commission’s report came out less than a year later and became a paperback book, all 15 members favored ending the draft. What happened in between? That’s where Bill Meckling comes in.

This is cool because thanks to the work and ideas of these men, they were able to radically change the way the US was doing business. They ended the idea of a ‘slave army’ or compulsory draft.

Of course there were a lot of things in alignment in order to make that happen back then, namely the Vietnam war, but as you can see with the interview and the story below, it still took some convincing to get folks to change their mind.

I also think it is interesting that the generals of the day, tried to use the ‘mercenary’ concept in the derogatory.  That General Westmoreland did not want to command an ‘army of mercenaries’. lol Wow, he went there.

But what is equally interesting is how Milton Friedman shut down and tore apart the General’s argument in a rather Boydian kind of way.  (it would have been cool to see Boyd and Friedman debate?)

In his testimony before the commission, Mr. Westmoreland said he did not want to command an army of mercenaries. Mr. Friedman interrupted, “General, would you rather command an army of slaves?” Mr. Westmoreland replied, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic draftees referred to as slaves.” Mr. Friedman then retorted, “I don’t like to hear our patriotic volunteers referred to as mercenaries. If they are mercenaries, then I, sir, am a mercenary professor, and you, sir, are a mercenary general; we are served by mercenary physicians, we use a mercenary lawyer, and we get our meat from a mercenary butcher.

The other reason why I bring this up, is because I believe this is a crucial part of US warfighting history as to why this industry is so strong and relevant in today’s wars. The ending of the draft, along with a society demanding a peace dividend at the end of wars, are two factors which really drive the necessity of contingency contracting. Meaning, a society that does not have the draft, must have a means of raising an army quickly by other means in order to meet the demands of a war or wars.

At the end of the Cold War and the First Gulf War, we saw large cut backs in the US military. This was the peace dividend that society demanded, and politicians gave them. But what happens when that peace is shattered and a reduced military must be activated?  Well everyone knows the story of 9/11 and the last ten years of war that has been fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and around the world. The requirement for manpower, and the ability to sustain sufficient levels of manpower under an All Volunteer Military regime has been tested. And in my view, the AVM was a success, but with a caveat.

The AVM did have problems raising sufficient manpower during the tough periods of this war. The peek of the Iraq war comes to mind. I mean the military was using stop loss and recalling soldiers in order to get enough bodies out in the field. The news and political debates really showed the violence of that war, and it was a hard sell to a young person to want to be a part of that. In that kind of environment, along with having a ‘military we went to war with, and not the one we wished we had’, we had problems. So how did we make up the difference for manpower? Enter contractors….

You see, contractors are a necessary industry to have, if a Democracy like ours wants to wage war using the AVM concept. And the numbers speak for themselves (please see all of the prior publications on the blog that listed those numbers). What is more important is that private industry did answer the call, and did it ‘willingly’. Contingency contractors did everything from cooking to cleaning, to building and fixing, to training and mentoring, to PSD/Convoy/Static security.  And this industry that answered the call, had ‘legions’ of willing participants from all over the world lining up to join the effort. Especially during the peek of the Iraq war.  They did it for pay, much like a soldier in the All Volunteer Military gets paid, and they did it for patriotic or idealistic reasons, much like a soldier in an AVM.

I only see this industry becoming more relevant and legitimate as time goes by. I think Milton Friedman would be pretty impressed by how private industry reacted to this need for contingency contracting/manpower in today’s wars. Private industry also reacted in the same way to the equipping and arming of war machines of wars past. What private industry did during WW 2 was beyond belief, and all of those companies that re-tooled and focused for that effort helped the allies win. Private industry is quite the thing when it has direction and incentive.

I also think that the concept called the All Volunteer Military is a misnomer. There is nothing volunteer about it. lol I mean when I hear the term volunteer, I think of it’s definition–‘a person who performs a service willingly and without pay’. Today’s military service requires a contract, and the soldier get’s paid and they receive benefits. So I just have a problem when people say that the military is a ‘volunteer’ force. It may not be a ‘slave army’, but it certainly is not an army of volunteers.

I guess under that logic, I am a volunteer as well? Matter of fact, contractors should be tied in directly within the concept of an All Volunteer Military. It’s just we volunteer for a privately run service, and not a publicly run service. But both groups of force, do so out of free will and because of the pay and benefits. So what differentiates both of us?

Well, one way to look at this is to apply my Offense and Defense Industry models to what is going on right now. The military has the monopoly on all Offense Industry.  Meaning they are the ones that profit from killing or capturing the enemy. By profit, meaning if they are successful in winning wars and destroying the enemy, then congress blesses the military with more funding. They also get the glory and praise for victory. Those leaders responsible for doing well, also profit by getting promotions and taking those successes with them further on in their careers or life. Winning wars, certainly ups the value of the victors responsible for that.

For Defense Industry, the military does not hold a monopoly. And that is significant. It is private industry that competes with the military when it comes to the defense, in war zones. Everything from cyber security, to standing posts, to training, to PSD, to static security, to convoy operations. Private industry is certainly competing with the military, and they have market share. And like I mentioned up top, the numbers speak for themselves. This blog also lists numerous examples of how private industry operates and flourishes in today’s Defense Industry realm.

I also think the example of Fedex/UPS versus the Postal Service, is a good one to look at when looking at today’s Defense Industry. Both the public and private organizations share the same space, much like how military and contingency contractors share the same space called Defense Industry. But it is in that space, where folks on both sides will fight it out as to how much market share they will get.

It is also funny that there are literally no ‘contractor think tanks’ to promote private industry in war. Nothing. There are blogs like mine, and a few trade associations that promote private industry, but that is it. Not to mention lobbyists, but that goes without saying. Now compare that to what the military has in order to promote what they do? From think tanks to academies to war colleges to numerous military leaders working side by side with politicians–the military is in a far better position to exert influence. Hell, congress gives them money to promote what they do. lol

And yet, with all of that in place….contractors still exist on the battlefield after ten plus years of war. I mean when was the last time you saw a Dyncorp recruitment commercial during the Super Bowl? How about a college or university paid for by private military companies, all with the idea of producing tommorrow’s private military leaders? How about a Letter of Marque Institute, purely dedicated to the promotion of that legal instrument of war?

Yet our industry flourishes, self organizes, learns, continuously improves and competes with others to make a better product or service. It’s either that, or we fail and get left in the dust by our competitors. I am also thankful that this country does not have the draft, and that only in extreme situations would they ever fire up the selective service or draft–to probably save the country. But for today’s wars, an All Volunteer Military (and Contractor Force) works for me. –Matt



Thank You, William H. Meckling
We owe a debt of gratitude to the man who killed the draft.
January 1999
By David Henderson
If you are an American male under age 44, take a moment of silence to thank William H. Meckling, who died last year at age 76. Even though you probably haven’t heard of him, he has had a profound effect on your life. What he did was help to end military conscription in the United States.
Between 1948 and 1973, here’s what you knew if you were a healthy male born in the U.S.A.: the government could pluck you out of almost any activity you were pursuing, cut your hair, and send you anywhere in the world. If the United States was at war, you might have to kill people, and you might return home in a body bag.


Bill Meckling didn’t think that was right, and not just because the Vietnam War was so reckless. He had been drafted into the army in World War II and witnessed the government’s incredibly wasteful use of manpower when it could pay below-market wages. He tucked that lesson away and would use it 25 years later. ?Meckling went on to become an economist. In 1962 he was named the first dean of the University of Rochester’s new business school, where he continued until 1983. ?Meanwhile, a 31-year-old economist named Martin Anderson joined Richard Nixon’s campaign for president in 1967. One of Mr. Anderson’s main goals was to persuade Nixon to end the draft, and he wrote the antidraft campaign speech that Nixon gave in 1968. Mr. Anderson then worked, as one of the new president’s advisers, to end the draft.

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Industry Talk: The UAE Contracts With Erik Prince To Raise An Army–To Deal With Iran!

So this is what Mr. Prince was up to in the UAE?….and what a project! Lookout French Foreign Legion, here comes the UAE’s first Foreign Legion/PMC hybrid built by Erik Prince. (Vinnell Arabia eat your heart out. lol) There are many things here to talk about, so let’s get started with some of the stuff that jumped out at me.

First, the creation of this force was so that it can be used to deal with Iran, or whatever national interests of the UAE. The Iran angle is smart, because that makes a lot of folks in the west happy. (which could explain why there isn’t much ado from the US about this) It sounds like a blended work force of foreign forces (Americans, South Africans, Colombians, etc.) and Emirates troops, all answering to the laws of the UAE and to the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Part PMC  and part Foreign Legion. But legally, here is a snippet from the contract:

Article 17
Compliance with the Laws, Regulations and Bylaws
The Second Party undertakes to comply with all the laws, regulations and bylaws in force in the State, and all provisions of the Decision of the Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces referred to hereinabove shall apply to this Contract, provided that the general legal principles in force in the State concerning contracts and contracting methods of the administration shall apply to any matter regarding which there is no specific provision in the said Decision or in this Contract.

The article below also had a quote from international trade lawyer Susan Kovarovics. I would certainly hope that if this Foreign Legion hybrid is within the best interest of the US, that they would have provided ITARs or similar blessings to Prince or any of the American trainers participating in this.  I kind of look at it like the Vinnell Arabia contract that has been going on for years in Saudi Arabia training the SANG.  But Susan is the expert here:

Susan Kovarovics, an international trade lawyer who advises companies about export controls, said that because Reflex Responses was an Emirati company it might not need State Department authorization for its activities.
But she said that any Americans working on the project might run legal risks if they did not get government approval to participate in training the foreign troops.

The contract is also very interesting in that it has a ‘Performance Bond’, which is a great thing to have in a contract. I have been pushing for similar performance bonds for US contracts, much like our early privateers were bonded before they were given a license. R2 had to put up ‘ten percent of the contract value’ as a bond. My fuzzy math says that is close to 53 million dollars! Quite the incentive to do well, and just imagine a modern military operating with a similar contract mechanism? lol

The amount of money this contract is worth and time period of it is also listed in the contract and stated in the article below. Here it is for anyone that is curious:

Contract Period June 2010 – May 2015
Total Cost $529,166,754.13

If Reflex Responses Management Consultancy LLC or R2 can deliver on this first test battalion, it sounds like the UAE is prepared to expand on the thing. The contract goes up to May of 2015, so a lot can happen between now and then.

Now as far as what they will be used for, who knows?  The article below says that this legion could be used to take a few islands off the coast and keep them out of Iranian hands? That this force could also be a deterrent to deal with Iran, which I think that is the real reason why the US would be ok with such a set up. Here is a quote on some of the possible tasks of this force:

Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”
One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”
The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

Here is the part of the article that talks specifically about Iran. Pretty wild, and this kind of operation is certainly offensive in nature if they do it:

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

Finally there is the future of this project, and more importantly, what Prince envisions. This is where the Foreign Legion turns into a hybrid type force.  It would be like Secopex training and providing logistics for the FFL, and offering the training facility to other private or government forces. Here is the quote:

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.
Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C.

So will R2 be opening it’s doors for training to the world, much like how BW operated in the US?   If true, I could see something like this becoming a multi-billion dollar project for Prince and company. Just because it would be located in the middle east and cater to all the OPEC nations.  That is a pretty wealthy neighborhood to cater too, and this will be one to watch in the coming years. Also, if anyone at R2 or Thor Global Enterprises would like to add anything to the discussion, please feel free to do so in the comments or contact me directly. When these two companies actually set up an online website, I will make the edits. At this time, I have not been able to find anything other than a listing at IDEX 2011. (hint–if you guys are having a hard time recruiting enough folks for the project, then at the least you should have a website and recruitment page) –Matt

Edit: I would also like to mention that Eeben Barlow has reacted severely to this article because of the reporter’s false and libellous statements about Executive Outcomes. EO did not ‘stage coups attempts’, and the New York Times should do the right thing and make an edit or publish a separate correction to the article. Hell, if the reporters below would have actually took the time to contact Eeben on his blog or read some of his posts, he has actually stopped coups in the past and has been vehemently opposed to them.

Edit: 05/20/2011 Finally the NYT’s makes a correction. Hopefully an apology is sent as well. Here it is:

NYT Corrections
Published: May 18, 2011
An article on Sunday about the creation of a mercenary battalion in the United Arab Emirates misstated the past work of Executive Outcomes, a former South African mercenary firm whose veterans have been recruited for the new battalion. Executive Outcomes was hired by several African governments during the 1990s to put down rebellions and protect oil and diamond reserves; it did not stage coup attempts. (Some former Executive Outcomes employees participated in a 2004 coup attempt against the government of Equatorial Guinea, several years after the company itself shut down.)

Edit: 5/29/2011- Eeben has posted a reaction to the correction, and you can find that here.

Edit: 6/7/2011- Here is another correction that the NYT’s has had to make. Very interesting.

New York Times
June 7, 2011
An article on May 15 about efforts to build a battalion of foreign mercenary troops in the
United Arab Emirates referred imprecisely to the role played by Erik Prince, the founder
of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide. He worked to oversee the effort and recruit
troops. But Mr. Prince does not run or own the company Reflex Responses, which has a
contract with the government of the U.A.E. to train and deliver the troops, according to
the company president, Michael Roumi. An article on May 16 repeated the error.

A satellite image of the camp in the United Arab Emirates built to train an 800-member military unit.


R2 Logo

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder
May 14, 2011
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.
The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

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