Saturday, March 31, 2018

PMC’s and the Tech Industry-Less Goofy Dressed Distance Runners, More Bearded Men with AR’s.

Tech is a booming business to be in-visit the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley, and you will see dweeby 25-year old’s driving Tesla’s while simultaneously living in a 800 square foot studio for $2200 a month-utilities not included. The area is smothered by them, and the bubble seems to keep growing with no end in sight. The opportunity to make a lot of money with not a lot of experience is tempting to many-that is why going to Nob Hill in SF you will see young men in Facebook hats, jeans, and white running shoes drinking absurdly priced cocktails and bragging about how their tech start up is revolutionizing this, changing that, and is truly different than the seemingly infinite amount of others.

Now, the comparison between the tech industry and Private Military Contractors may seem odd, but there is more in common than most would think at a passing glance.

PMC’s have continued to be used and grow in popularity across the world. What were called mercenaries in the middle ages are now official and effective companies used by nations for a variety of reasons: Training, advice, support, security, direct military capabilities and providers of force-the list goes on. There are growing concerns (old and new) and tensions between PMC’s, the state, and civilians of the nations they operate in and for, but that has not slowed down their growth. While the ratio was 1:50 of contractor to military personnel in the Gulf War, that gap closed quickly for Afghanistan, featuring a ratio closer to 1:10. Taking a closer look into the startup of a PMC shows the similarities they share with tech startups, and businesses in general:

1)     Conducting research for the country you wish to operate in. Knowing the laws, regulations, and competition is crucial to get the company on strong legs before proceeding to the next steps.
2)     Having the initial founders have the appropriate and relevant experience and certifications. Having a military background not only provides the obviously needed skills to train future employees, but more importantly gives you experience in the way militaries work.
3)     Writing a realistic and well thought out business plan. Since this is a business, profits are important. Having the details knocked out and having strategies in place for likely and unlikely events make certain that there is minimal amount of hiccups.
4)     Registering, applying for licenses. Depending on where the business is located and conducts business, this step may require lawyers and technical experts on the matter.
5)     Setting up, recruiting, and training staff. After the paperwork is filed and locations are chosen, the next step is having the appropriate offices and training areas for work. With this comes recruiting and training staff-this could range from just a small group to huge, depending on the scope and complexities of the jobs the business takes on.
6)     Marketing to potential clients and expansion. Looking for business and companies that need your service and special niche talents and making certain that you can differentiate yourself in such a competitive field is important for recognition and success.

Indeed, the problems facing the start up of a PMC has many similarities with almost any other business. And just like the tech industry, their business is going to continue to thrive for the foreseeable future. Tech continues to expand into almost nearly aspect of government service and is revolutionizing it along the way, and the government is happy to accept the benefits of it. PMC’s have been doing this as well. They are being used in and expanding into many facets of the government rapidly, and the government is more than happy to outsource many of its jobs to businesses it can trust to accomplish them.

With the use of PMC’s for the future on the steady incline, their needs to be even more scrutiny and debate on their use and how far they are utilized. Just with how computer technology changing rapidly and having society adapt to it, the future of warfare requires careful forethought and planning so there are not disastrous consequences past nations have suffered as mercenary and non-state actors were charged with their security.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Jumping Ship: Bureaucracy to Private Sector

A recent survey conducted by the Atlantic showed that of the 250 West Point graduates in question, 93 percent of them believed that at least half, if not more, of the best officers leave the military early. Only 7 percent of them agreed that the Army did a good job retaining the best personnel. The results of this survey convey the concern within the military that they are losing their best officers and personnel to the private sector. It also brings up a number of ethical questions, such as should resigned or retired federal employee be able to move to a job with a private military firm with no restrictions on what they are allowed to communicate if it involves matters what they worked on while serving as a federal employee? If so, how long should those restrictions be in place? For example, there is a restriction that places a one year ban on senior military officers, referred to as a "cooling off" period but it is extremely broad and covers the communication of any official matter, whether it was a matter they were involved with or not. On the opposite side of the coin, would regulations go too far and turn into a way for the military to retain good employees by manipulating the rules?
The current personnel system is confusing and outdated which is becoming a significant concern with the continuous increases of soldier resignation to the private sector. It would be worth the time of the US military to invest more resources into first of all, retaining personnel, and second of all, deciding on concrete guidelines regarding what they can and cannot do when, and if, they leave.

Private "Security" Companies Outnumber Police in Latin America?

Latin America has long been plagued by high rates of crime and violence (not to mention a ridiculous amount of government and police corruption). Yet, a report released this week at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, that not only has it gotten worse but that it may be linked to the booming industry of Private Security Companies (PSC) (aka Private Military Firms).

Many of these groups are unregistered, meaning they avoid official oversight, and its contributing to larger domestic issues. The study shows there has been a simultaneous rise in this industry and overall in violence and crime, though this may also be attributed in part to a systemic problem of corrupt, inefficient, and unaccountable public police. In large part, these services are paid for by the wealthy evading taxes, leading to less funds for public law enforcement and, because the private security industry pays better, there is also a drain of skilled professionals from the public to private. It's a sad cycle happening all over Latin America. In Mexico alone, the PSC industry has grown 120% in the last 6 years.

In many countries, there are more members of PSCs than police officers: Brazil is 4:1, Guatemala 5:1, and Honduras a shocking 7:1. Even in the US, going into law enforcement is a very dangerous and often unpopular career move, so I can't imagine what difficulties they face in these countries. In some cases, they are being hired by local or foreign governments for security or training, but in many cases it's private companies and members might be asked to kill activists opposing the client or those who get in its way.

The study urges countries to adopt the Montreux Document which creates guidelines for operations and criteria for PSCs but so far only four Latin American countries have signed it. This is a very poor omen to daunting cycle of violence and evasion of the law. While this might be initially perceived as a domestic issue, I think there are large implications for them being hired out by foreign companies or by domestic companies abroad. If powerful enough, these forces could challenge the local governments/law enforcement where clients have operations.

The Rise of Private Military Firms

Private Military Firms (PMF) are the corporate amalgamation of mercenaries and modern technology. According to the Brookings Institute, modern PMFs emerged out of the 1990s under the influence of the end of the Cold War, transformations in the nature of warfare that blurred the lines between soldiers and civilians, and a general trend toward privatization and outsourcing of government functions around the world. These new entities formed by retired military personnel provide a multitude of services, ranging from direct combat utilization to providing the background necessities to fulfill their clients' missions. 

Rapidly increasing alongside the number of PMFs is the usage of PMFs by countries. According to the Berkeley Political Review, the United States is the largest customer of PMFs. Compared to World War II, where 10% of America's armed forces were privately contracted, during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proportion grew to 50%. This trend appears to continue, with a yearly increasing amount of contracts awarded to PMFs across the world. In 2015 alone, the Pentagon had spent $274 billion to federal contractors. 

Just like all purchases, the billions of dollars worth of taxpayer money spent on PMFs also comes with its benefits and challenges. By hiring PMFs, governments are able to reduce the number of its official military casualties, expand its area of reach through the aid of PMFs, and tap into a source of highly trained and equipped personnel for military operations without long periods of training. While from a business perspective, PMFs are a genius moneymaking machine - they hire military personnel to work military roles on taxpayer money. However, from the government's perspective, they are losing their trained human capital to PMFs and then made to hire them at a higher rate. Furthermore, PMFs have also been notoriously known for their secrecy and lack of transparency; leading to miscommunications and oversight issues. 

In today's capitalist society, as long as governments fail to address the downsides of PMF-Government relationships, the challenges of hiring PMFs may eventually outweigh the benefits. Governments should be able and ready to address the self-defeating cycle that feeds into more PMFs and hold PMFs accountable by being smarter customers. 

Casendino, A., Casendino, A., Singh, A., Singh, A., Kadie, T., & Kadie, T. et al. (2017). Soldiers of Fortune: the Rise of Private Military Companies and their Consequences on America’s Retrieved 30 March 2018, from

Singer, P. (2018). Outsourcing WarBrookings. Retrieved 30 March 2018, from

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Will Nukes and Automation Keep Military Personnel out of Space?

As automation becomes solidified as the new wave of the future, and human input is being minimized in so many job fields, does this mean that Trump’s “space force” of human soldiers is unlikely to see the light of orbit? Yes! Of course it does! Maybe?

This is all predicated on the idea that non-space based nuclear proliferation doesn’t destroy us all before we get to fighting in the final frontier, which is definitely possible. Let’s not think about that though, and just love the bomb. On the off chance that a certain reality TV show star and a certain “rocket man” don’t start WWIII with their nuclear weapons, it is entirely probable that mankind looks to weaponize the stars. Classic humans.

There are an infinite number of ways that this could flesh out, but as it stands currently, the most likely first step is automation of weaponized machines operating from space. Rods from God is a great example of this, a non-nuclear weapon of mass destruction that doesn’t violate any treaties.

The alternative is much more fun. Mars colonization and Moon colonization require boots on the ground, and although it looks likely that private businesses will reach it first, NASA and CNSA have recently gotten on board and the US and China are in a low key Mars race.

Will automated machines and nukes keep us out of orbit? Or will we stall proliferation long enough to fight wars on Mars?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Future War: Grey Zone and Military Technology

 No longer. Just in this week, John Bolton has been announced to replace H.R McMaster as national security adviser for President Trump. How John Bolton will affect the future world’s security?  Specifically, how this will affect the future relationship between the U.S and China, Russia? In terms of future war, many causes can be considered; two of them will be "Grey Zone" and "Military Technology". 

 Grey Zone:            
China and Russia is touching and involving in a “grey zone” may be considered as one of the reason of future war. As we know, “grey zone” is a place where aggression and coercion work just below the level that would risk military confrontation with the West. Russia has blended force in Ukraine and intervenes in the region regularly. Unlike Russia, China is more seriously with touching the “grey zone”. Islands, reefs and shoals are the “grey zone” which China has been involved in.
            Touching the “grey zone” in some degrees is breaking the international order and rules. This will make the U.S begins to worry about the China and Russia’s foreign policies and also might take some actions to prevent the intervention by making more military agreements with the U.S allies. This will make China and Russia feel uncomfortable, then they will think about more actions to revenge. Therefore, touching the “grey zone” is such a vicious circle, this also become a cause of the future war.

Military Technologies:
Besides the geopolitics, as Singer and Cole also mentioned, technologies will be a huge threat for the future. Even China and Russia’s military technologies could not compared with the U.S, however, they continue spending lots of money and efforts to invent recently. Now both countries have used asymmetric-warfare strategies to create “anti-access/area denial” networks.
            Developing military technologies is necessary for every country, however, if you think about the purpose of China and Russia’s military technologies, it is not hard to find a common answer is that to go against the U.S. The aim of China is push the U.S out of the pacific region, and make sure that the U.S could not involve in the South China Sea issue anymore. Then in terms of Russia’s aim is to show its power from Artic to Black sea.
            According to both countries’ aims, it is impossible for the U.S to give up intervening in the sea issues.  Moreover, the U.S will continue its development in military technologies as well, then make sure that they have enough abilities to maintain its leadership in the world.