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Say Hello to The Combat Operator

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At Defense Tech, we're always trying to bring to our readers news and information that directly impacts your daily lives. Whether it's the geopolitics of Russian relations with India, the budgetary hurdles of yet another troubled Pentagon program or a new pouch or holster, we want to make sure you have the information you need to help make informed decisions in your professional endeavours.

That's not to say we want to shy away from healthy debate. In fact, DT is the place for raucous conversations about today's pressing national security issues. And we want to do more of that too.

In that vein, I want to introduce a new contributor to the blog who's an expert in an area that has exploded in recent years and caused quite a bit of controvery of its own.

Jake Allen is a security contractor and consultant, a former Marine infantry officer and a veteran of several years of work in Iraq as a civilian PSD operator. He's got more stories he can't tell stored in the tip of his pinky finger than we might acquire in a lifetime.

Late last year he introduced a new e-newsletter called "The Combat Operator" that chronicles the weekly news and developments of the private military company world. It's a great resource on its own, but Jake also hosts a kick ass podcast (Combat Operator Radio) that he hosts on his Web site but is also available on iTunes.

We're going to post some of Jake's content, get some exclusives from him and keep in touch with him via blogcast and podcast from here on out to keep tabs on what's happening in the PMC world.

So without further ado, here's some of Jake's thoughts on Blackwater losing its State Dept. contract:

Blackwater will not have their license renewed by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. And to kick them while they are down the moral cowards at the U.S. State Department (DoS) are now indicating that they will not renew Blackwater's task order for the global WPPS (Worldwide Personal Protective Services) contract which ends in May of this year. So instead of losing simply one AO, albeit the largest, Blackwater are now faced with loosing their most lucrative client altogether. Blackwater's reaction to these foregone conclusions was predictable. Did they get out in front of this story by offering even a shadow of contrition and evidence of the lessons they had learned. Did they shuffle their management or illustrate any improvements to their operational leadership, governance or oversight? No. In fact, have they ever fessed-up to even the possibly, possibility mind you, that their unprecedented and explosive growth in mission-scope and thus manpower might have, just might have, been the source of some problems? Uhh...No. Have they ever acknowledged that some, just some, no matter how small a percentage of their work force, might have committed mistakes? Note: I did not say crimes I said mistakes. The answer is: No, no and double-no. As far as anyone at Blackwater is concerned the entire organization from Erik Prince down to the lowest FNG are completely and utterly devoid of any wrongdoing. It's all a witch-hunt fuelled by the left wing media with their liberal pacifist agenda. If that seems a little hard to believe that's because it is. Instead of owning up to and dealing with an 'acceptable' level of corporate mistakes and then offering to be part of the solution Blackwater decided a long time ago to be unapologetic, obstinate, opaque, obstructive and arrogant. True to form, and like a spoiled child, last week they offered to leave Iraq on 72-hours notice. It was not an offer as much as it is a thinly veiled threat designed to punish the DoS and in the process hold hostage the U.S.'s foreign policy capabilities in the region. The DoS deserves to be held hostage since it was they who allowed one PSC to have a disproportionate amount of the WPPS contract. Had they more equitably divided the work among 4 to 5 companies the loss of one would not be as catastrophic.

Honestly, the level of hubris on display here by Prince is on par with Jeffrey Skilling of Enron infamy who, down to the last minute, insisted Enron made no mistakes and the whole scandal was simply the media out to get them because they were so smart, innovative and successful. OK. Before I go any further on this little diatribe I feel obligated to make a few declarations. I am a passionate proponent for not only a strong private security sector I am one of only a handful of people who openly advocate for private militaries and their use on the offensive to resolve conflicts in places which are witnessing widespread human suffering due to insecurity. I am no left-wing pacifist.I am not against Blackwater as a company, an institution or as a concept. In fact I ardently support exactly what they should be standing for and doing. I just don't support what they actually are doing or how they have done it.

I am deeply disappointed by what Blackwater has done to our industry at large and for the repercussions all operators will have to deal with as a result of their performance. You can bet the first poor expat operator who faces an Iraqi court will have to bear the brunt of an entire countries hatred for contractors. Not to mention the increase in stringent regulations which are surely around the corner. More badges, more personal disclosure of information to the Iraqi authorities, more forfeiture of rights, the list goes on.

I am simply pointing out that all organizations, in every instance, ultimately take on the beliefs and the image of their leaders. If you don't believe me pick a history book and read about the likes of Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Julies Caesar, Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, Ken Lay, etc, etc, etc...whether good or bad it starts and ends at the top.

I always approach issues like this from the instruction I received as young officer in the Marine Corps. USMC doctrine teaches that "A leader is responsible for everything his troops do or fail to do." Full stop. No excuses. It won't be the enemy's fault, the media's fault, a private's fault or a senior NCO's fault. If it goes bad, as the leader and the officer you own it. Either you were not smart enough or present enough as a leader to see the problem developing or you were too weak as a leader to fix when it did develop. If disaster struck it was because you either failed to provide the foresight or the oversight. Don't look left and don't look right. Look strait into the mirror. I apply that unapologetically high standard to myself and I apply it to Blackwater's leadership at all levels from the President of the company down to the Team Leaders and the Vehicle Commanders have failed.This is probably a good time to make it clear that Blackwater's ranks are filled, filled I tell you, with hundreds of good, honest, solid, hard working operators who are also technically and tactically at the top of their game. And when many of these operators turn up over at outfits like Triple Canopy or Dyncorp those organizations will benefit from their contribution. However, there is a certain minority of Blackwater staff and contractors who should be screened for poor personal and professional judgement and decision-making. Those should not be offered the chance to cross-deck to another firm.

Read the rest of Jake's post on Blackwater's trip to purgatory over at The Combat Operator...

-- Christian

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