Small Wars Journal

Irregular Warfare: Fielding and Phasing in the Venture Capital Green Beret

Thu, 09/06/2012 - 5:30am

In the first two articles of this series, Irregular Warfare; Village Stability Operations and the Venture Capital Green Beret and Irregular Warfare and the Two Minds of the Venture Capital Green Beret, published with Small Wars Journal, I discussed the need for venture capital and entrepreneur training as a part of the Army Special Forces curriculum and body of practice. Though there were questions and pushback in the comments to these articles which should be addressed, I will limit my efforts in this article to how such capacity would be added to the Regiment and practiced in application.

Economic Development Program

As stated in the previous articles, the program would not create another mission for the Regiment but instead be designed only to enhance the five existing components of modern Irregular Warfare. Specifically, the EDP would consist of three interdependent components, which collectively employ Venture Capitalist thinking, resources, tools and success metrics in empowering local entrepreneurs. The three interwoven components would be:

Academics – Structured and operated as a formal center of learning and maintained by the Warrant Officer Institute, the academic component emphasizes a body of knowledge related to universal, regional and local best practices and models. Academics would be responsible for: development of scholarly works; field and case studies; 180A, 18A and other 18X EDP training programs; and, creation, maintenance and dissemination of a base of knowledge derived from real-world operations.

Command – Structured and managed like an Investment Bank, operated within the USASOC G3 and its subordinate commands and offices, the Command component would emphasize coordination of business and financial development efforts across each Group’s Area of Responsibility. Command would be responsible for: direction; long-range planning; high-level resource and relationship access; long-term project-program approving authority; and, other operational supports.

Operations – Operationally the EDP would be seamlessly intertwined with the many other activities a SF Company, ODA or individual SF Operator engages in when executing any of the five components of IW. Specifically the Company and ODA would be responsible for building and maintaining business and investor relationships; economic information attainment and investment due diligence; business, financial and market analysis; and investment placement, monitoring and reporting.

In Practice

The best way to provide for an awareness of how this would operate in practice is to describe in brief how the program would be applied during a specific mission. The following is a depiction of what an ODA, tasked with conducting Village Stability Operations in Afghanistan, would do prior, during and post deployment.

Predeployment: As part of normal Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield efforts, the EDP trained 180A, and other ODA members would draw upon traditional and EDP specific information sources to develop a detailed picture of the economic network(s) within the communities, districts and the province to which they are assigned.

The EDP aspects of the mission preparation process would emphasize identification of: businesses and products created or sold in the communities in these districts; logistical chains (where products sold or raw materials are acquired and from whom); business owners and leaders native to but not necessarily living in these communities; skilled labor; existing and planned CERP, USAID, Ministry of the Interior and other projects; banking, investors and other finance providers; and other business related information.

Once these items have been identified, to include holes in information, the EDP database and personal experience will be drawn upon to identify business and financial resources which can be accessed and employed to enhance the local economy of these communities. Emphasis will be on developing a Course of Action which fills in information gaps and best utilizes all the available Host Nation, US and NGO funds, and supplier, customer, businesses partner and investor access and relationships available through the EDP. Initial efforts will emphasize a Course of Action which provides for improvement and expansion of existing business, development of local business leaders and investors, with subsequent and ongoing efforts focusing on establishment of new businesses to fulfill unmet need and demand.

Relief in Place: During the RIP-in the ODA would refine its EDP COA based on more current and improved information derived directly from the ODA in place and with updated information sources. Additionally, the ODA would ensure coordination and interface with the various layers of partners, agencies and organizations which will be participating in realizing the ODA’s EDP COA.

For those AOs where the ODA is conducting a RIP of another ODA, final coordination would be made between the existing ODA’s EDP efforts and the incoming ODA’s EDP COA.  And where the ODA is conducting VSO for the first time, emphasis would be placed on filling as many gaps in situational awareness and planning and establishing higher level relationships and partnerships as is possible before embedding and going operational in the AO.

Operational: Coinciding with Governance and Security efforts, the following is what would be emphasized during the operational phase of the mission by those responsible for conducting EDP efforts: training on job skills, business and finance and investing; establishing and improving situational awareness information related to economic base and participants; economic network development, expansion and improvement, to include the placement of investments and other funding in specific businesses; and, establishing, enhancing and deconflicting business relationships both intra and inter-district and between the community and the greater district, provincial, national, regional and global level economies.

At the ODA level, EDP efforts emphasize the small businesses in the local community and district, and larger businesses which reside within the greater AO. At this level the ODA’s focus will be on creating or enhancing local production while also enabling businesses which provide for local consumer needs. Fully integrated with the efforts of the ODA conducted at the village and district level, will be EDP efforts conducted by the SF Company. The Advance Operating Base, nested within the larger community centers or at the provincial level, will emphasize larger businesses which provide the products or services to the small businesses in the outlying communities or which provide external markets for the productivity of these villages.

EDP efforts at the Special Operations Task Force level would emphasize development of the overall economic base of the SOTF’s AOR. This would include integration and deconfliction of the efforts of the many ODAs and multiple AOBs within the command, and coordination of efforts and assets and resources across the entire AOR. Efforts would also be dedicated to providing coordination between the ODA and the local Provincial Response Team, USAID and many other national, provincial and international aid and development agencies focused on the AOR. Particular attention would be placed on creating linkages with the economic networks of the other SOTFs.

At the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force level the EDP would emphasize national economic development and integration of the national economy with the regional and international economy. At this level many other assets and resources would also be coordinated such as those of the Worldbank, OECD, UN, the State Department’s Crisis Response Center and many other aid and development agencies and private enterprise and finance and funding providers. Particular attention will be placed on interface with national regulatory bodies, agencies and individuals which impact the economic development efforts being conducted in the Theatre.

For a best case and best practices model we can look to the Keiretsu model employed to great success in post WWII Japan. Though Japan of course was already an industrial and commercial power before the war, there remain models and practices which can be applied in far less advanced nations like Afghanistan. In essence the Keiretsu model establishes an atomic style economic engine, whereby a funding source and a small number of large companies reside within the nucleus, around which are several rings of small businesses which feed productivity into the large companies in the core.

At the center may be a company delivering products to the market as sophisticated as a car, while on the periphery would be layers of component and subcomponent manufacturers varying in the complexity of the products built and all of which are part of the same business ecosystem and end product. Even today you can walk through the housing areas of Tokyo and other Japanese cities and in the garage attached to a family home will be five people working, machining a component for a Camry or other end item product manufactured in Japan.

Conceptually the ODA would be working to establish the outer rings of the Keiretsu model in the villages and community centers of their AO. While concurrently the AOB would be focused on absorbing the capacity of these outer rings and moving it inwards toward larger enterprises, which in turn either deliver directly to market or feed inwards to the SOTF and CJSOTF level for inclusion in finished products or for delivery to market by large enterprises with access to much larger markets.

We are not talking about manufacturing cars or consumer electronics in Afghanistan just yet, but rather, simple products designed to meet domestic and regional consumer goods demand. As the economy improves however, these same low-skilled, local manufacturing facilities and the productivity they represent will be directed to increasingly more complex and sophisticated products and larger domestic and international markets. Just as happened at a much more advanced manner in Japan and more recently South Korea.

RIP Out: During the RIP out process it will be essential to conduct a thorough handover of the EDP initiatives underway and to fill in any gaps in information the incoming ODA, SOTF or CJSOTF may have. Of even greater importance will be personal introductions and in person handover of the business and financial and agency relationships established by the previous ODA and its predecessors. As well, the outgoing ODA, SOTF, CJSOTF will need to ensure the EDP database and information repositories are current and well detailed. This would include introduction of any academic or other works completed during the deployment which provide for greater EDP situational and operational awareness as impacts the local economy, best practices, etc.

Post-deployment: One of the greatest values of the EDP is that it provides an ODA with the ability to continue to improve the economics of a given community long after they have left the country. This is not realized through the ODA remaining focused on the AO they once were responsible for but rather simply by conducting their EDP efforts during the missions they go on to conduct. It is the linkages created between the local economies in which they have and will work and which other ODAs have and are currently working in which is the real strength of the EDP.

As a natural portion of the planning and COA development for the next deployment, the ODA will look to see if there are production resources, components or markets made available by companies reflected in the EDP database which would enhance or accelerate the EDP efforts in the new AO the ODA is going to be responsible for. Post-deployment efforts would emphasize maintaining an overall awareness of the business and financial resources made available and accessible, locally, domestically and internationally, through the EDP and on how such could be utilized to improve the ODA’s current and upcoming missions.

The previous provides a view into how the EDP would be operated during VSO in Afghanistan. However, tailored correctly, these capabilities would enhance any of the five component missions of IW. The primary focus, regardless of mission type or location, would be on training local business leaders and investors on how to benefit from the relationships and resources provided by the ODA to improve the standard of living for their own children.

Special Forces Warrant Officer Corp

Though designed and operated to provide for short and medium returns, the EDP is first and foremost about continuity and long-range gains. And those Green Berets tasked with continuity, relationships and long-range planning are the Warrant Officers. Of course the difficulty becomes one of how responsibility for and operation of the EDP would be added to the already over tasked and understaffed Corp. There are however models for such.

Many large Investment Banks operate their own Venture Funds (Vertical System combined with Horizontal Disruptor) and this well developed model from the financial world would be adapted to fit the unique nature and needs of the EDP. The following structure and framework was developed from the IB with VC Fund model and is excerpted from the proposal presented to the Command Warrant for Special Forces and the Commandant of the Warrant Officer Institute in 2011.

As a program and not a for-profit business or financial firm, and unlike an actual IB or VC Fund, the EDP will not own or directly manage any business or financial assets. However, the operational structure and approval authorities, the asset allocation decision analytics and the Risk & Uncertainty and Return on Investment modeling will closely follow that of a large Investment Bank with owned Venture Fund.

Though guidance and higher level relationships and access are provided from the IB hierarchy above, the greatest strength of the VC world is its ability to make decisions and apply resources rapidly and independently at the edges. What this means is ODA & Company level 180As will oversee a number of specific local initiatives with SOTF & Battalion level 180As overseeing a portfolio of ventures across their AOR and the Group level 180A responsible for a portfolio of portfolios across the AOR of the Group. And of course, these efforts would all be coordinated and overseen, though not managed, across and between the Groups by the parent organization, USASOC.

Just as in the IB and VC worlds, this will require experienced and highly educated, skilled and connected Warrant Officers at every level. In order to ensure this high degree of individual capacities, a three tiered certification process is recommended, with each level demonstrating thorough understanding, not just knowledge attainment. Though focused on the Warrant Officer Institute and its education and training guidelines, ongoing education should very much include opportunities to pursue civilian education at higher institutes of learning, both undergraduate and graduate.

Level I – Area Analyst – Equivalent to Investment Analyst

Role: A Level I is trained to analyze assets and businesses and to make recommendations as to the application of financial and other resources to the formation of new or expansion of existing businesses. The primary focus of a Level I is the business and financial success of specific individuals and ventures in the communities of the AO. The purpose of these efforts is to apply job creation and economic development as a means to enhance stability efforts and assist in attaining the Commander’s desired endstate.

Responsibility: Prior to deployment and as part of planning, a Level I would look at the EDP database to see what assets, individuals, skilled labor, productive resources and businesses exist within the AO and what if any EDP focused efforts and capabilities have been applied. Level I’s are responsible for EDP specific COA development which is an integrated and supportive portion of the overall COA for the mission. While operational, the Level I is responsible for oversight, placing investments analyzing assets and investments and for ensuring the EDP database is current and correct.

Level II – Area Developer – Equivalent to a Managing Director

Role: A Level II is trained to analyze a portfolio of ventures and to make recommendations as to individual ventures in the portfolio and the portfolio as a whole, to provide operational and funding guidance to Level I’s conducting EDP efforts at the ODA level. The primary focus of the Level II is the business and financial success of a portfolio of individuals and ventures with purpose to establish or enhance a network of ventures across the AOR.

Responsibilities: While the Level I is primarily focused at the tactical level of business, the Level II is focused on operations with the purpose to assist the Level I in their efforts to grow specific businesses within the portfolio. The Level II provides guidance as to: business operations; marketing; partnerships & alliances; contracting; vendor management; regulatory compliance; and more, with particular emphasis on access to higher level relationships and application of Seed & Angel funding and VC style investment analytics and oversight.

Level III – Area Partner – Equivalent to a Partner in a VC Fund or Investment Bank

Role: A Level III is trained to analyze and manage a portfolio of portfolios and to make determination as to the businesses approved for funding and support, to be sustained and which are to lose support or to be transitioned to other organizations or agencies. The Level III provides very high level access and resources and is responsible for management of the EDP at the Group or Battalion level. The focus of the Level III is on expansion of the overall economy, with particular emphasis on international investment and economic integration and expansion.

Responsibility: Whereas the Level I and II is focused on tactical and operational application of the EDP in their specific AO or AOR, the Level III works to strategically apply the program across the greater AOR. Where the Level I works with very small businesses and the Level II focuses on enhancing the efforts of the Level I while working with larger businesses, the Level III works with large businesses which absorb or feed the productivity of the lower levels and which operate nationally and internationally. The Level III is also dedicated to improvement of the EDP itself, which efforts emphasize relationship development with corporations, investors, markets, academia, government and regulators and regulatory bodies as well as resource and guidance development.

Staffing Recommendations:

Level I: Every 180A serving on an ODA should be certified Level I.

Level II: At least one Level II should be resident in each SF Company.

Level III: Every 180A working in the EDP at the battalion level and above should be a Level III.

As with all endeavors undertaken by an ODA, success of the EDP will be dependent upon more than a single MOS or individual and instead will be dependent upon the capacities and efforts of the Team and the many other participants in the SOF community. In addition to those within the ODA and native to SF, there are many other participants to the EDP which already work closely with SF and which are part of the greater SOF or US Government Aid communities. The EDP would provide a framework for how these assets are employed and tailored to different mission types and environments to maximum effect.

Training Regimen

EDP specific training would be enmeshed in the curriculum of the Special Forces Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, to be added in various parts of the Special Forces Qualification Course and to other specific 18X courses. These studies and courses of instruction would emphasize the program, its purpose, application and impact and how the various participants contribute. However, EDP training and education for 180As would be more collegiate and administered separately by the Warrant Officer Institute.

To ensure 18 Series EDP certified practitioners are and remain competitive with their civilian counterparts, it is essential the education and training program be rigorous and thorough. This means all coursework must directly correspond to that offered in comparable collegiate courses and programs. To meet this demand and to deal with obvious time constraints, academics would be broken into three components administered separately over time, with the work of all three, combined with on the job experience, which in total would equate to an MBA worth of study.

Level I – (1 month. self paced and driven – online) Assigned reading and coursework providing for a basic understanding of accounting, finance and business, sales and Entrepreneurship. Level is attained when coursework is completed.

Level II – (3 months. self paced and driven – online) Advanced reading and intermediate coursework on business, accounting, finance, sales, marketing, and Venture Capital with additional focus on regional and industry specific studies. Level is attained when coursework is completed and formal paper has been accepted by the Warrant Officer Institute.

Level I and Level II blocks of instruction and books, provided by Skillsoft, are available now through the AKO portal. And with completion of these programs automatically reflecting in ATRRS, very little additional administration is needed.

Level III – (6 months. Internship and Schoolhouse) Advanced coursework on business, and financial and fund management focused heavily on regional studies and culminating in a thesis paper. First component of study would be a two month internship with an Innovation Center or Investment Fund (Angel or Seed, Private Equity or Venture Capital), with the second being University style, civilian advised classes and thesis development and completion conducted at the WOI at Ft. Bragg.

Additionally, there are a growing number of top level universities offering MBA programs which combine studies in entrepreneurship and Venture Funding. The WOI and Regiment would work with the American College Equivalency and one or more of these universities with the purpose to provide 180As who have completed Level III, and served a period of time in such capacity, with an MBA or to be within a few credits of such.

Level I and Level II training should not be limited only to 180As but should be available to any 18X qualified individual. Acceptance into Level I studies would require approval of the first Level II 180A in the Command. However, approval into Level II studies would require approval of the first Level III in the Command and would be solely dependent on a demonstration of superior comprehension during Level I study and during application.

Phased Introduction

The first step would be to add those things which do not require any or very little additional investment in time or money. Level I training is one of these, as is the introduction of an EDP database. As part of the previously referenced proposal to the WOI, I developed the Level I and II curriculums from courses now available through AKO which could be rolled out immediately at no additional cost. As well, an SQL database is being developed by a member of the Regiment which could easily be maintained by the IT department of USASOC and which could be made available through the existing USASOC, Group or Battalion portals at very little cost.

Though the coursework for Level II has also been identified and is now available through AKO, a position need be established within the WOI responsible for formalization of Level I and II certification. This same office would be responsible for providing guidance as to who should be recommended to proceed to Level II, to qualify and approve the first class of applicants and to make final determination of who is awarded Level II certification. The individual chosen to head this office would be a civilian (though prior SOF experience would enhance efforts) and must be experienced in business, Venture Capital and academia. Additionally, this office will develop the Level III program, attain necessary supports and relationships, conduct requisite hiring and make determination as to who will attend the first class.

Finally, prior to graduation from Level III, individuals will be identified from the class who possess superior understanding and comfort with the Mind of the System and the Mind of the Disruptor and with Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital. It will be these individuals, and the many Level Is and IIs who are also driven to contribute, who go on and are the driving force and intelligence which expand this meager beginning into the overall program.  However, this is not a short-term project, and though steps can and should be taken immediately, it is projected to take up to five years for the final EDP structure and its many tools, resources, relationships and body of practitioners to be in place to make a major impact. 

About the Author(s)



Mon, 09/10/2012 - 1:25pm

In reply to by emburlingame

I would like to address a statement made in your response to Bill.

“Directly in concurrence with your comment, this would require we actually adhere to the selection criteria of sending to a given school those individuals who demonstrate a natural aptitude in the field. As it is now, we seem, far too often, to send people to specialty schools they can graduate from, but in areas where they have no real aptitude and as such cannot really contribute to mission success.”

As a member of the Special Forces Regiment for less than two year, to state that anything institutionally happens far too often is comical. Allow yourself to mature in this organization prior to attempting to make broad changes to it. You will likely be surprised with what you find.


Sat, 09/08/2012 - 7:30am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill- to your comment:

"Assuming the SF community agrees this skillset/mindset is needed in the ranks, then what is that skill or mindset we need to encourage? Since entrepreneurship is more about attitude than skill sets, I'm not sure how three levels of training would "teach" being proactive, and may in fact ingrain a set way of thinking that is counterproductive."

This topic was the purpose of the previous article 'Irregular Warfare and the Two Minds of the Venture Capital Green Beret'. As is supposed to be the case with many of the sub-skills Green Berets are further educated in, those selected to perfect their capacities through education would be those who demonstrate an aptitude for entrepreneurial and investor-like thinking. Directly in concurrence with your comment, this would require we actually adhere to the selection criteria of sending to a given school those individuals who demonstrate a natural aptitude in the field. As it is now, we seem, far too often, to send people to specialty schools they can graduate from, but in areas where they have no real aptitude and as such can not really contribute to mission success.

"Since our greatest entrepreneurs don't have MBAs from the conformity factories, maybe we can come up with another approach other than 3 skill levels of qualification that doesn’t stifle innovation."

This was also discussed in the previous article and in particular identifying those who demonstrate both the Mind of the System and the Mind of the Disruptor. I can say from personal experience the difference between a successful entrepreneur and the unsuccessful entrepreneur is the first harnesses both Minds, which requires the canalization and enhancement of entrepreneurial thinking with conventional tools. This would be the only purpose of the formal training program, to provide for a baseline of financial and business knowledge, thinking and language for those who lack such.

"Then the bigger question in my view is it really worth the investment in time? How will it be employed during missions?"

One need put the time into playing out the thought game enabled by this article and the previous two to understand how this would be directly applied, though respectfully, for brevity sake these articles do not provide a solidly clear view into how exactly things would function. In terms of the investment value of adding such a program we must look at three separate value add. The first of course, and as is the case with all other 'non-lethal effects' efforts, benefits derived must enhance the ODA's ability to meet Commander's Intent on the ground. Secondary, though no less important, would be sustainable stability gains derived over time and between and across multiple engagements with US forces and other development agencies and after such have departed the area. Lastly, and as touched upon my NedMcD in his comment above, perhaps the greatest value would be in the SF personnel who go on from uniformed service to the private sector or to development partner agencies, NGOs or even more importantly into the business and financial sectors with direct, on the ground relationships and experience.

"Do we really need three levels of qualification? These levels of qualification have done more harm than good in SF for other skill sets, so be careful what you decide to replicate, besides replicating isn’t very entrepreneur like."

As stated herein above, in response to your comments, this is a serious problem across all of SF and its many specialty schools. However, this is not so much a problem of the schools themselves, but rather the selection criteria of who gets selected at the Company and ODA level to attend these schools. Concurrent to this, we seem to have developed the mentality that only the guy who went to a particular school is the guy most capable of handling that task in practice, which is quite often not the case. But this is of course the topic for another article perhaps.


Fri, 09/07/2012 - 8:37am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.

I like the shiny penny metaphor and it made me think if this was the case with my own interest in this concept. What I am attracted to are concepts that when debated and analysed in the end do produce that middle ground and offers an institution like the military a new approach against threats. For example, Adm. Willian McRaven has been putting forward new thinking for how SF units operate, where they deploy and how they can be activated.

In relation to EM's concept the following sets out what a deeper analysis:

1. I fundamentally believe our armed forces, conventional or uncovnentional must first and foremost be capable of conducting military operations at a level that exceeds our potential enemies. Now we must have the fighting capability to defend against nation to nation conflicts and the engage against insurgencies where their presence threatens our foriegn policy interests. In other words they must follow the hedgehog concept.

2. while being consistently the best at irregular warfare, SF units can look to incrementally insert new ideas. The additive effect of many small initiatives act on each other like compound interest. Isnt this one of the unique aspects of SF units?

3. I dont think there needs to be a separate training regime for economic development. Throughout the developing world, in some of the most baron circumstances, local people are applying basic economic principles without everh having read Milton Friedman. You are right, as soon as you start putting a structure and tight process around creativity, you lose the very thing you were attempting to pursue. When we think about it most of the terrorist and insurgent we fight have never been to fancy economic schools and yet are entrepreneurial, adaptive and combine military tactics with political and economic instruments. Perhaps instead and depending on the stage of a mission, an SF unit has a specialist on the team with this skill set. What may be worth considering for SF units is ensuring they have the freedom of decision making to implementing economic development initiatives (either small scale or in connection with multi-nationals were relevant). As I understand SF advisors in Philippines were very effective at turning around how the AFP addressed their own insurgency challenges. The Philippine Armed forces Specail Ops Teams assess and help plan and implement development projects as well as their fundamental purpose of eliminating insurgents - call it hunting and helping.

4.SF units are often operating the closest to the population with the most consistent engagement then they will have a far better understanding as to the potential for economic development - NOT welfare as with many government aid programs. But not every engagement or mission will be suitable for economic development projects or this skills set.

5. the indirect approach of "by, with and through" local forces or a host nation can accomodate economic development in very tactical ways to address the "grey areas" once the SF units initial kinetic priorities have been met.

So I dont think we are chasing shiny pennies or trying to be part of the in-crowd of disruptive thinkers. But maybe coming at future challenges as John Boyd argued in his 1986 slide presentation on Patterns of Conflict:

1. Willingness to support and promote (unconventional or difficult) subordinates that accept danger, demonstrate initiative, take risks, and come-up with new ways towards mission accomplishment.

2. Dedication and resolve to face-up to and master uncomfortable circumstances that fly in the face of the traditional solution.

I hope this meets your mark of critical thinking. But you have made me consider thinking deeper before responding to papers, which is a good thing.



Bill M.

Fri, 09/07/2012 - 5:32am

In reply to by JasonT

JasonT and EM,
Exactly why is this type of thinking needed? Please provide some supporting logic for this claim.

There are numerous approaches to economic development, many of which have been proven ineffective overtime, while others work only when a number of other environmental factors are present, so suffice to say the approach must be appropriate to the environment we’re working it. The bottom up approach to economic development is hardly new; many have been practicing this approach for years with mixed success. What is new about EM’s proposal is that the military, specifically Special Forces (SF) should be taught to facilitate bottom up development as an essential aspect of irregular warfare. EM’s proposal is what should be debated. Why should SF do this? The group think and non-critical thinking answer is if the people have sufficient wealth and means to produce that wealth they won't fight, but history has proven this argument has limited factual support, so there must be more to the underlying logic, or at least I hope there is.

First, why should the SF or any organization in the military focus on this? I know one of the answers is that our other government organizations are not effective, which is at least partially true, but does that imply the military should do it, or rather does it imply that the other government agencies should be fixed? Two arguments that are pro EM’s concept, first we can’t control fixing other agencies, and second unity of effort means something, and if one organization, the military in this case, controls the tool, then it will be more effectively integrated in the overall effort.

However, getting back to irregular warfare, which I believe is EM’s focus; I think an argument can be made that in some cases facilitating development could be counterproductive. Since irregular warfare in broad terms is non-state groups/actors waging war against the state and other non-state groups, then enabling these groups to develop economically may lead to greater instability between the warring factions by further empowering these factions with the means to acquire greater military might (an irregular arms race). Each situation is different and needs to be carefully assessed during strategy development.

In many cases there are plenty of indicators that these groups don't need a whole of lot of assistance with entrepreneurship based on the amount of money they are able to make in the gray and black economy through various business ventures ranging from selling fuel on the black market, to the narcotics trade, to taxing more legitimate businesses. Of course we encourage this if we’re conducting unconventional warfare and criminalize it if we’re supporting the state, but morality aside a lot of these irregulars know how to make money. Some of them, like the cartels in Mexico use the money to compete with the state for the goodwill of the people, in other cases the people don’t see a cent of it.

Development may or may not be relevant to particular IW mission, but I’m getting more and more concerned that we’re losing our will to focus on conducting military operations at the tempo needed to deny freedom of movement to the irregulars. These military operations include numerous small unit patrols, area ambushes, sniper operations, etc. in addition to the intelligence facilitated raids we are currently doing. It seems we have forfeited the military/security initiative to every other approach under the assumption we can't shoot our way of this mentality, which is often true, but that doesn’t mean the military aspect isn’t important, and we have taken it to that extreme. That type of initiative requires a certain level of trust of subordinate units that currently doesn't exist in our micromanaged force, but it would have a telling effect in many situations. Hearts and minds implies more than getting people to like us. It also implies convincing them that we're going to win, and based on what I'm reading I don't think we have achieved that in Afghanistan.

EM makes an argument that this is another tool we need in our rucksack for irregular warfare. Assuming the SF community agrees this skillset/mindset is needed in the ranks, then what is that skill or mindset we need to encourage? Since entrepreneurship is more about attitude than skill sets, I'm not sure how three levels of training would "teach" being proactive, and may in fact ingrain a set way of thinking that is counterproductive. Since our greatest entrepreneurs don't have MBAs from the conformity factories, maybe we can come up with another approach other than 3 skill levels of qualification that doesn’t stifle innovation. Then the bigger question in my view is it really worth the investment in time? How will it be employed during missions? Is there a system to support it, e.g. micro business loans for example that SF controls? Is this a mindset/skill set that one can self-educate oneself and apply as appropriate if the ODA isn’t micromanaged, when it is relevant? Do we really need three levels of qualification? These levels of qualification have done more harm than good in SF for other skill sets, so be careful what you decide to replicate, besides replicating isn’t very entrepreneur like.

I'm not opposed or for this concept, but in its current state I don't think it has been adequately debated. There seem to be two schools of thought, the kids who think every new idea is a shiny penny they should chase and embrace under the illusion doing so makes them disruptive thinkers, and the other school of protect the institution/regiment, which means avoiding all change. Somewhere in the middle there needs to be a debate on this that involves critical thinking. If we need it, why do we need it? How does it apply to irregular warfare? Why should the military do it?


Fri, 09/07/2012 - 2:55am

In reply to by JasonT

Jason T:

Thank you for the read and the comments. To your comments, please know the civilian corporate and financial worlds are critical participants at multiple levels. However at the level the ODA is working at, the very base layer of the global community and economy, the most important linkages are between local and domestic production and consumption capacities. The mid-sized and larger projects and linkages with multi-nationals are well represented by the many existing participants you mentioned in your last paragraph. This last is why the Venture Capital and in particular the Angel and Seed models are the most relevant as they focus on creating capacity from not much more than potential at the entry level of the economy. You may have already done so, but if not I would recommend the first two articles in this series, as they provide greater detail along your line of thinking. And though the comments to the first would require some time and patience, there is a lot of additional information contained in the comments to the first article.

This thinking is what we need if we are to adapt as fast as our enemies in failing states, particularly where it may be political and diplomatically difficult to have large numbers of conventional forces on the ground.

Please correct me if this is included, however, I think you could look to go further by reaching out to multi-national corporations, particularly those in the resource sector, whose own need to invest in conflict ridden arenas could augment the unconventional approach you are recommending.

This may not always be appropriate. But the private sector with interests in resources or other commodities will have a deeper level of commitment than many USAID or State Dept. implementing partners. They are not building infrastructure or human capital required to support their investment for the long term. These projects, while creating a quick impact, run the risk of leading to welfare and unsustainable micro injections of cash.

There are good examples in Colombia, Nigeria, PNG, Indonesia, Mali and other states where unconventional warfare units could link with multi-nationals to coordinate investment projects around critical priorities for stability while delivering long term economic development. Think of how many chickens, eggs, water, haircuts, mechanics, etc are required to support a medium to large scale mining enterprise from project developement to operations. Many of these projects overlap with US military priorities and where SOF advisors may be deployed.

One reservation with your thesis is that there are plenty of government entities, that are already geared to do exactly what you are proposing so wouldnt this create simply another well-meaning quick fix project that is uncoordinated with other donor funded projects? How would you ensure coordination and avoid duplication of projects?