Contractors: Italy that offers money, jobs and ... information!

(To Giusy Federici)

“The characteristics of the type of activity that the contractors do must be interpreted and contextualized according to the nation being discussed. For example, during Enduring Freedom, what remains the absolute most extreme mission to date as regards the type of mandate and the personnel employed, there were structures that also involved security / military contractors companies, therefore Private military / security companies very, very pushed both in terms of offensive capabilities and the missions that some of their teams carried out. I think it is conceivable that such personnel did things that could not be done directly by men in uniform and operated in very flexible teams. But, it will be good to remember, those are more unique than rare episodes in the history of this profession.
Much more frequently, we have gone through a mere economic-financial calculation in which we reasoned that: to use the soldiers diverting them from other activities from the operations has a cost X, so why, in terms of operational advantages and savings on costs, do not use private but military realities have the preparation and know the activities to be carried out and the rules on the ground for purposes and functions not directly combat? ".

Carlo Biffani, is today one of the leading experts in counter-terrorism and private security. Founder and CEO of Security Consulting Group, knows very well the world of contractors, whose recognition has been struggling for years, because even Italy is equipped with clear legislation and certain rules to include these professionals in the world of work and in our country. Because, contradicting all of ours, Italians must often go to work in foreign security companies, bringing out Homeland professionalism, work and of course the induced millionaire that these companies are able to produce.

We interviewed him to clarify some points on the subject.

Italian public opinion has known the contractors with the second Gulf war, especially the American ones. Instead we pretend that they do not exist ...

The reasoning of the Americans was very simple: when the second Gulf War began, the American Major States and the Departments of State and Defense began to face a very important aspect and they probably said something like: we use the Marines and other operational departments for defending the perimeter of the bases, but why should we engage a third of our combat power to provide guard services and other logistical activities? Because we do not make use of someone who knows the trade, who has made this life but is now considered a private reality, which otherwise will cost less, on whose work we have no direct responsibility so as to ensure that all the operational in uniform they go out to engage in activities of engagement, capture and contrast of the enemy, avoiding to keep operational and trained personnel engaged to raise and lower bars or control who enters and who leaves our bases.

In fact ...

I think it is conceivable that the Americans had already prepared the way for a similar solution by creating the private assets and then contextualizing their insertion. In strategic sectors such as the Defense one, it is in my opinion, unthinkable that the offer was not created in times prior to the request. And this is a possible perspective.

For what concerns the companies of Anglo-Saxon right, absolutely transparent and listed on the stock exchange, well these have existed for decades. Some of these are born at the time of redemptions in South America, Colombia or Venezuela 20 or 30 years ago. The British government sent specially qualified military personnel to negotiate and pay the ransom. At one point a very large insurance company must have sniffed the business because it begins to probe those same environments of Special Forces and Intelligence proposing a reasoning that we could try to summarize as follows: "you do this complex and dangerous job and you are the numbers one, while we could have a lot of interested customers ... and if you left and worked for us and we created together a reality with which to put everything to the system? We could propose the lighting of policies that reduce the cost of insurance if the customers comply with a series of procedures and if they make assessments or are accompanied in their activities by staff of companies that we would create, or even accept to be trained in the matter security through trainig that we could create ad hoc always sold by the same companies ... ". This is how for more than a decade, some British armed forces departments, especially those of the Special Forces and those who worked more closely with the Intelligence, have seen a little depleted their ranks because these people went to work with private companies all over the world. And I repeat: we speak of companies listed on the stock exchange and absolutely transparent, which therefore have nothing to do with the world of mercenaries.

But why are most of these contractors companies in England? Why do they have legislation that allows it?

Because there is a system that works and that is aimed at creating business. In that country they have created the norm, they have created a series of procedures for which the company that goes to work in areas of medium and high conflict, knows that it must respect the law and equip itself with a structure like that. And that if it does not, it runs the risk of paying exorbitant amounts of insurance or even of not being able to go. While, if it goes and does things as required by the law, it can instead make use of a series of discounts and guarantees and advantages from the point of view of the ability and the ability to move in a certain way.

So, they understood that this is a business. We, however, with the politically correct lose a lot of money and send the Italians to work for foreigners who also protect Italian companies… how much is the income we lose as jobs and as money?

I do not know if the fault is to be identified in the "politically correct" approach, but certainly we lose hundreds of millions. But the true paradox is that Italian companies do not deny that there is a demand and that this type of service is needed. But they often outsource it to English third-party companies. The most striking example is that of Eni which would probably immediately start to employ Italian companies, but which can not for problems related to an absence of norm and the lack of interlocutors that can guarantee a standard that requires very demanding initial investments from the point of economic view. Because the type of assets that are required in the tenders for the provision of protection services, are assets that provide for initial disbursements that no one in my industry can face in Italy, being investments for millions of euros.

Can you give me an example?

Let's say that an Italian company X has to go to Iraq to do business with several expats for a prolonged period. It needs six to eight close-range security teams of about 3 / 6 people each, and needs first of all a local law, a h24 control room, properly protected cars, materials, tools for the geolocation, insurance and a rather complex set of assets as well as personnel in possession of international certifications. The investment required to start this business as security and protection service providers would be several million. In Italy there are no companies that are able to invest so much to participate in tenders of that type and to comply with such complex and complex requests. So the company X, perhaps in spite of himself, must necessarily turn to the others who are already on the market and are always the same.

I give another example: Aegis was the company that won the contract with Eni and also with our international cooperation. They won this race and I, when I went to the Defense Committee in the Senate, now 8 years ago, to talk about maritime piracy, I explained to them that the paradoxical thing was that our diplomatic staff and Cooperation or who was working at the Italian Diplomacy, was put on the machines of that company with English crews who listened, every day, to the phone calls that these people made, who knew what dates they went to and knew who they met. Now, we are certainly talking about people, of very serious and loyal professionals, but the question I asked them is: but you see them in the English to entrust the diplomatic staff and the Cooperation to a protection device that is not English? Their response was that, first of all, the Senate Defense Committee did not know, I told them and the late General Ramponi looked at me as if to say, "but really"? It is all recorded and on record and I am not telling anything that cannot be verified. And the absurd thing is that it is considered normal that there is, from this point of view, not securing the information that circulates. Because, I repeat, no matter how much we can trust an ally like England, it is evident that information concerning the national interest has circulated within that dynamic. And it makes no sense that they are entrusted to the protection of third nations. In my opinion it is an inconceivable contradiction.

But this in Italy because it is not implemented? Is it a question of too politicized mentality, that which assimilates an armed man, divided or not, to one to be restricted regardless?

I do not know how to respond but what I know is that in some respects we are one hundred years behind. Just think of the battle we fought on the creation of the law that would allow Italian flag ships to defend themselves from maritime piracy, whose genesis, as far as I could, contributed. However, it is clear that private security in Italy is linked to the concept of the supervisory institutions, which have their usefulness but are something completely divorced from the international scenario for skills and total inexperience.

In Italy there is still the idea that contractors are "mercenaries". In reality we are talking about prepared people who follow rules.

In your opinion, does it make sense to talk about mercenaries referring to listed companies that must abide by ethical codes and conduct regulated by international conventions? So… unquestionably terrible things happened in Iraq during the 2004-2007 period. The much acclaimed American company Blackwaters, which unfortunately rose to the headlines all over the world as it worked directly for the Department of Defense and dealt with diplomatic protection even escorting the American appointee Paul Brenner, private individuals who protected an entity state, in some cases did unspeakable things and some of its operators were accused of murder and it is true, in fact very bad things happened. Therefore, that kind of attitude contributed to the creation of a "negative mythology" regarding the figure of the security contractor. However, from then on, things changed radically. Today it is not even possible to walk around with tattoos in evidence, and companies want operators in buttoned shirts with long sleeves, weapons cannot be revealed, it takes all kinds of controls on training, protocols, procedures and rules of conduct. It is really something very well regulated, for the protection of anyone and therefore also of the civilian population, which lives in the midst of that context and in which it already has its beautiful problems.

What are we missing?

What is missing here is, on the one hand, the political sensitivity to understand the importance of the business and on the other a clear rule that induces companies to necessarily equip themselves with this structure. A sentence is about to come out of the Bonatti company when it happened in Libya (In July 2015 the technicians Fausto Piano, Salvatore Failla, Filippo Calcagno and Gino Pollicardo were kidnapped in Sabrata by militants of the Daesh, Piano and Failla died the 3 March of 2016, in a fire conflict during a transfer Calcagno and Pollicardo returned free the next day, ed) because it had disregarded a series of provisions on how to secure personnel traveling in certain areas of the world and travel security aspects are fundamental, we work hard on it. And the fact that these rules would have been disregarded created a vulnerability and direct responsibility for the top management of that company who risk a serious criminal sentence. So, something is also changing due to dramatic situations like the one just described, but we are very slow compared to the laws of the market. It is a question of mentality and investment. We are used to the "security entrusted" to the state apparatus and whatever happens we must think about the state reality, the policeman, the carabiniere and the financial police or Armed Force in the most extreme cases. But today the world works in another way ...

Have there been incidents in which our governments have operated contractors in place of the military?

Recently I do not know, but I know something similar has happened in the past. I know that Dr. Barbara Contini, for example, whom I know, was protected by English personnel when she was in Iraq, even if she was part of an Anglo-American international "royal" mission. And she, I'm almost sure, would have preferred Italian rather than English.

And the Italian government? Not received?

There are very prudent attitudes linked, also to the fear that situations such as the dramatic one, referring to the tragedy of poor Fabrizio Quattrocchi, are created, a story that in addition to its evident tragic aspects, has perhaps also branded us, for a certain period, and unjustly to my opinion, as unreliable. There, a very complex situation was created from which we slowly emerged thanks to the professionalism of the operators and professionals who, despite unfavorable general conditions and context, managed to find employment in international security projects and asserted themselves. with work on the ground, day after day, for years.

This happened abroad?

Yes. And I think it is possible to imagine that there was a firm political and diplomatic will aimed at discouraging the use of Italian resources in this specific professional sector. However, the other thing, which I think is very important and that I tried to explain in the Defense Committee, was that the English, who are anything but naive, in my opinion have opened so convinced, concrete and important to the companies that they occupy security outside the national borders for another reason, for a reason that I fully agree, that is, for the enormous intelligence-related industries that they knew they could achieve by doing so. The availability of qualified operators that almost always come from the military structure and that are then used in civil areas in the most remote areas of the world determines a huge advantage in the ability to gather information.

Let me explain: if I had been a non-commissioned officer or an officer of any English regiment and were working for one of the great Anglo-Saxon security firms in a place like Nigeria, and there was a problem around the area of ​​my competence concerning the interests of my country, do not you think that I would feel fully involved and that I would do what I can to help the interests of my flag? The fact that my nation knows that I can count on myself as regards the possible need to gather information, means not only having dislocated in the area and being able to count on a certain number of operatives belonging to the governmental intelligence apparatus, but having many, many more that in various ways can contribute to the achievement of the result by expanding its capacity to multiply the antennas on the ground. The return in terms of the product of Intelligence on which they can count states and governments that have hundreds of former soldiers operating in areas of medium and high conflict is enormous, and this stuff priceless.

But are we understanding this?

We not only do not facilitate the creation of structures such as those we are talking about, but then we are not even able to increase where necessary and possible the collection of information as they manage to make some States simply because they have a total of official resources located , to which we must add former Armed Forces who are there to work in the civil sphere.

What I know for sure is that there has always been a certain interest on the part of the governmental apparatuses for our sector, proof of this is the fact that when Senator Francesco Rutelli was president of Copasir, I was asked to make an evaluation on reducing the risk of kidnapping for aid workers and tourists and I wrote that a series of things could be done, but that the fundamental aspect was and is to create rules, norms and procedures so that no one can think of going around freely as it has been done up to now. Because there are governments that not only create difficulties for you if you decide to go to dangerous places, but that if you then "stumble" and have to come out of the hindrance, they send you the bill to pay. For example, the Japanese if you go to climb a peak considered dangerous, therefore not recommended and they have to come and pick you up with specialized mountain assets, they come without problems, but then they send you the bill of expenses incurred. This is to try to explain that in terms of actions and situations in which it would be possible to reduce risks and make our citizens more secure, there is really a lot to do with regard to the synergy between public and private.

As for the Cooperators that you have to escort even to bring powdered milk in dangerous areas, but there is also the case of contractors who have had to go to rescue NGOs kidnapped, beaten and prisoners in some brothel somewhere remote planet…

The reasoning, I repeat, is basically very simple: you could do much more, you could create an important induced, you could employ a lot of guys who are without employment, but who come from military experiences of a certain value and who have desire to do this work, you could create certification paths of a certain type as they exist in England, where companies must turn to titrated suppliers, the titled suppliers must be able to employ staff who have certifications that put him in a position to operate with expertise and professionalism around the world. There would be a lot more money for the Treasury, a lot less people walking around and, above all, a fundamental ability to prevent accidents. Because if the accident happens, there is a huge impact from the point of view of the image, of the risk, of the impact it has on the activities that the company is carrying out as well as on the state and its equipment. So, why did the British decide to do it? Because they understood that in terms of cost / benefit, it was convenient. They are no longer ahead of us for technical skills, they are ahead of us in terms of their ability to really look at solutions. And the solution is not to rely on the societies of states that already do this. The solution would, in my opinion and I say it for at least fifteen years, create the conditions for a clear rule to be born and why people are put in a position not to choose whether or not to do something, but to be obliged. Create a virtuous path that allows them to have access to companies that do things according to law, to staff who can do what he has to do and a system that generates paychecks, VAT, INPS, payments, in essence good welfare as well as safety. Everything would be in the light of the sun. And there would be no more room for initiatives that when it goes well can be risky because hurt.

The bulk of these companies is in London?

Not only. There are companies in Eastern Europe, there are in France, in Germany. And there are many companies in London, some extraordinarily important. For example, Aegis was sold a few years ago to Gardaworld, the number one in value transportation and airport security in North America. This company did not do this business, sniffed the deal and went to buy Aegis in England, acquiring the contracts and creating a branch that deals with close protection.

Are there any realities of this kind that are being born in Italy?

I, one of the things I've done so far, has been to look for entrepreneurs who have this foresight, that is the ability to understand that if one creates a certain type of assets, then the work arrives. In Italy, however, realities that have economic and financial capabilities (attention, not operational because we certainly do not lack those !!!) such as those of the companies we are discussing do not exist. For example, with my company, we see ourselves as a sort of small tailor's shop, an atelier. We think of us as a shop that makes, for example, excellent tailor-made clothes, in small quantities, with good craftsmanship, excellent fabrics, a good result, at medium-high-end prices but we know what the quality is we can produce. But if, for example, one of the large national industrial groups came tomorrow morning and told me that we have to leave and that the business necessarily wants to do it with us, in place X, we would not have millions to put on the table to buy the materials that they are needed to set up the necessary structures and to design according to the requests of a customer such as those we are discussing. We do not have such important economic and financial resources even if we aspire to become players of this level and we know that with adequate investors we could certainly play it on a par with the great English firms. We have done and do activities for large industrial groups, but these are different projects and in any case developed through the synergy with local companies. It is quite another thing to be companies of the size and volume of Control risk group or to be Aegis / Gardaworld. These companies have behind them not only massive government lobbying activities, but above all certain rules. Thus the flywheel is created, which is difficult to start without these prerequisites.

Is the question of the caliber true, that one of the problems for Italy is not being able to carry heavy weapons?

No. This is an issue that has largely been resolved with the contract on maritime piracy. It is evident that at the discussion tables, at the beginning, it was thought to equip the personnel who went on the ships with the same type of equipment that those who are in front of a bank have. I took the liberty of pointing out that if you are shot with a gun that has a range of 400 meters, you have a hard time answering and having your say with a gun. It was quite complicated to make these things understand to people who did not understand them not because they were stupid, but simply because they had never had to deal with this type of situation. There was Confitarma and also a lawyer that they had involved in these issues and I, in my small way, tried to provide the technical contribution that I was able to give: the fact is that they understood that it could not be done in any other way. So the speech and the vulnus is not about weapons or caliber because we often act with local law companies on foreign land, so the comparison with the law on maritime piracy is not even so good. And allow me to make a small confession: 90% of the activities we carry out are unarmed. In certain countries and for certain positions you must be able to operate with tools that allow you to be a real deterrent. But in addition to weapons, for example, we also go to levels of armor that here would be seen as madness and that instead there are minimum requirements. That is, with what is an armored car with a B4 coefficient and which is fine, here, for example for the entrepreneur of a certain type or for the politician who is also at medium risk, there you don't even leave the garage. Because there, if they shoot you, they use a weapon of war. I speak of Iraq, I speak of Afghanistan, I speak of Libya, I speak of some countries of North Africa, of some countries in Eastern Europe or of South America. There, if they arrive, they do so with war weapons and ammunition and therefore it makes no sense to go out with armored cars with less than a B6 coefficient.

Are those armor that also use our Special Forces or the Nocs of the State Police?

Exact. So: it's a question of experience, perspective, knowledge and awareness of what you are going to do. That then, in essence, a large part of these services, beyond the imagination and what is believed, are something that closely resembles those of the companies of security guards who escort values, only much more risky complexes and high profile. The staff employed is trained to use different types of technology, and is used to working with satellites and geolocation systems, to using complex communication systems and is used to different and complex procedures, as well as to work in teams in a different way than not. happen in the services that are carried out in our country. But, in the end, we still talk about private security. These are all things that already exist. When I spoke about it in the Senate Defense Commission on the issue of maritime piracy, I said that there was nothing to invent, and that it was enough to look at the regulatory and implementation models already in place by other states. So, I suggested, let's look at what exists, let's try to see what has been done in terms of law and jurisprudence, for example in England, at the level of interaction between industrial companies, companies and suppliers, or as regards the paths of certification of those who must carry out this type of activity, and again in terms of insurance. We copy and improve those virtuous models if possible.

I am convinced that we will be able, from a technical and operational point of view, to do better, because we are certainly not as good as they are, we demonstrate it every day around the world in the work we do. We are confronted every day with countries and operators that are considered among the best in the world as the British, the Germans, the Americans and in a type of activity that is very complex and often as operational as intellectual, because it is about the procedures, the aspects that concern the approach, the assesment, the intelligence or the travel-security that is often played the most important game. And we work alongside them without ever disfiguring, often with operational and organizational responsibilities at the top compared to the projects we follow. In these 25 years we have always, constantly, brought results, knowledge, modesty, humility but also awareness. The beauty of the Anglo-Saxon system, the thing I like best, is that you measure yourself and appreciate it based on what you really do, on meritocracy. Nobody has prejudices and if you can do your job you're one of them. A defeat that comes from the way we operate, I, in 25 years since I do this job, I've never lived it and I've been everywhere, including Somalia. In Mogadishu we were the only civilians to sleep in the city, in the 2014 with a group of Italian entrepreneurs.

So the weapon is relative?

The man with the gun is the last link in a chain that includes a whole series of other needs and resources. We, as I said earlier, eight to nine times out of ten, do unarmed services. Now we are going to do an activity in North Africa, on behalf of a large consortium that has to build an important infrastructure in a country that faces the Mediterranean. The armed services will provide them with a local militia. But all the rest, that is intelligence, procedures, risk assessment, training of people who will work in the theater, drivers and all those who will have to deal with the project, identification of local partners, travel security, all this mountain of things you do it without weapons and it is, I assure you, very complicated. And without this stuff so complex, you're not going anywhere.

You need to know who to talk to and who not to, what to do and what not to, who you refer to according to the type of problem that will arise, how you should call, when and how often, what you should do when you are moving, what you should look at , what you must ask your driver and what you must not make him do. There are mountains of information. Then, I repeat, the man with the Ak47, trained, connected via radio with the operations center, is one of the aspects but he is not the first or the only one. Otherwise it would all be very simple. But if we work, it is evidently because there is something else that needs to be sold that interests companies and that it is not so easy to systematize. When we happen to miss the piece about armed protection we are often forced to buy it from local companies. Why, it must also be said that one thing is that I go to Libya (I quote a country at random and just to give an example) three times a year and this would not justify the fact that I have to open a subsidiary there. It would be another thing if I had to go there for prolonged periods and only at that point would I try to understand how it works and how complex it would be to open a company on site entitled to perform a certain type of service. But if I have clients who go three times a year for 15 days, it is better for me to build and rely on a local network and therefore in the face of the need, I ask local actors to help me prepare a competitive and performing project.

At the base, the question is: why should only foreigners have to earn?

In my opinion, there is no justification for the fact that the market is a prerogative in the vast majority of cases of foreign realities. Also because we know how to do things. With us (the Biffani group, ed) work operators who are former raiders, people who are still young, who has sent himself to 50 years and who has experience and ability. I speak of people who were at the Elite Departments like Tuscania, for example. Also come people who do not have this kind of experience but who have done a civil journey, from private, which sees them engaged in operational activities and training for more than 20 years. And all right, also because we do not act as soldiers, we are sent around the world and we are just spent alone or in pairs and if there is a problem you have to solve it alone. So, it is better to have a person who is a real problem solver, then he has become the raider, because he was at San Marco, or Legion or because he has done a course of study and private business, for me it changes little. The important thing is that it works.

After all, better than the military are not sent to interface with individuals because, in the case of problems, what happened in India with our Marò happens ...

On that story I also wrote a book on maritime piracy with Guido Olimpio and Massimo Alberizzi, when no one spoke about this. It was a scandalous affair.

If there were American soldiers instead of Italian soldiers?

It could not have happened but this is now a thing of the past. We look to the future, which in my opinion is determined by the need to equip ourselves with a clear standard and by creating the conditions for there to be a work force for an excellence that already exists: there are people who retire at 55/60 years , is still young and has a huge amount of experience. When I first went to Baghdad in 2004, there was a flourishing of opportunities for those with a certain type of experience, which was incredible. My colleagues from other companies were US, New Zealand, Australian, German, French, English military officers. Officers of rank. Who had taken their leave and went to work in private, even if that was a unique situation in many respects and unrepeatable. In Libya, today, there would be a lot to do for Italian companies. But the Libyans are particular and have issued regulations, from the point of view of these companies, very restrictive. It is impossible to replicate the Iraqi model and there are only a couple of companies that have ownership over the armed services. Libyan teams, militias or personnel linked to an armed force do everything. They are particular countries, with particular approaches and sensitivities where if you are not more than prepared it is easy to do something stupid. Even the Algerians, for example, whom I know quite well, are extraordinary, because they have created a system that works and thanks to which they have brought fundamentalism to its knees and of which they are, rightly, proud.

To conclude, the mentality is also changing in Italy?

I believe that in a period between five and ten years, something will happen. It would be enough to go and see what has been done in those countries where these situations work and make clear agreements between Government, Confindustria, suppliers and insurances, so everyone should have a certain structure. Now, even in Italy, I think that there is very little to acknowledge the importance and value of the topics discussed in this interview. But it takes a breath of time of at least four or five years to understand which model to look and inspire, to change some things that may be good in Austria or Switzerland but not in Italy and make a mediation, a summary, and then process on a model that is right for our approach and our needs. But it can be done. It is a question, predominantly, of will.

(photo: web / author)