Security Contractors and Security Operators

[full text of the interview of Carlo Biffani by Emma Evangelista in  Difesa & Sicurezza]

What does it mean to convert risks into opportunity?

It means ensuring that the client is able to act despite a complex and potentially risky context, without having to renounce a contract, and actually acquiring a strategic advantage for accepting to operate in a situation where other competitors, given the possible risks, might withdraw.

Scenarios, forecasts and action in the Intelligence cycle.

It is fundamental to analyze the situation, but can this just be delegated to computer experts? Absolutely not. It is essential to have HUMINT (i.e. Human Intelligence), which means having men in the field who listen, perceive, register information and moods, deal with local issues on a daily basis, read and analyze weak signals. We always explain to the customer that an activity based on risk assessment, training, issuing procedures, good planning and implementation is essential, but that nothing can replace the valuable work of those who accompany the client on his journey and stay in the country where the project is to be conducted.

What is the difference between a contractor and a security agent trained by you?

Generally speaking there is no substantial difference. The training required is always multidisciplinary. In general there is the impression that security contractors are people who deal solely with armed protection in countries with medium to high risk levels, but security agents deal with planning, risk assessment, surveys and all the more “intellectual” facets of our work. There is actually no strict distinction of roles in this respect, between operations and planning. In our work you need to know lots of aspects, some of which are tactical, others more academic in a manner of speaking, such as planning of activities in non-permissive environments, international law, mapping, communications, evacuation procedures, travel security and much more.

What does it mean today to be a security contractor and how many contractors are there in Italy?

In Italy, the national system and the world of industry have not fully grasped the importance of the support provided by the companies promoting and providing the services that they can give. It is paradoxical that on the world level this sector is constantly growing, but major corporations turn to international players for services that some Italian companies could certainly provide; in Italy they find it hard to undertake promotion given an overall climate of diffidence and the lack of a specific culture, as well as shortfalls in the regulatory context. Regarding the question, there is no single definition. If we wanted to give a brief description to this profession, I think this could be risk managers for areas in conflict. There is a small number of contractors working full time in this area for the major firms in the sector generally connected with the USA-UK market, and they probably amount to less than 100 professionals.

In recent years we have seen armed escorts on merchant vessels and men in foreign brigades basically fighting for payment. How remunerative is this activity today?

We have to look at the legal framework in Italy in these areas. With regard to the rules for embarking armed personnel on ships registered in Italy, which I modestly provided my own contribution in drawing up, this market has been shrinking for at least a couple of years and the pay for the personnel who, it should recall, are employed by Italian private security companies, are not much higher than for ordinary authorized security guards. With regard to the second part of the question I cannot be of much help since I have no idea how many Italians go to areas in conflict to fight with local armies, something that is prohibited by our legislation and subject to prosecution, rightly so I would add, under the Criminal Proceedings Code. As for the last part of the question, I would stress that except in the merchant fleet sector, there is no specific regulatory framework, a shortfall I have been reporting over the past twenty years whenever possible to bodies like the Parliamentary Committee for the Security Services and the Senate Defense Committee. The only thing to clarify is that people like us who have been providing services for over 20 years in risk management in non-permissive area are not violating any law since we do not operate in military conflicts and are not paid by foreign armies, so that this activity can in no way be confused with that of mercenaries, something that is prohibited and subject to prosecution. As long as fighting is underway, there can be no opportunity for business conducted by companies providing humanitarian support and reconstruction, the type of companies that always ask us for support. It is in our own interest to have fewer critical factors and for fighting to cease, in order to provide support to the corporations that want to do business in certain parts of the world.

What are the main characteristics and the licenses needed in this sector?

Good psychological balance and physical endurance, professional training and adaptability. There are a number of certification, above all linked with the sector in the US and UK, which can be helpful in working for security firms in those countries, but above all what is taken into account in personnel selection is military experience, and such experience must necessarily be at higher levels over the medium and long term.

What is the difference between training a private professional and a member of the armed forces or the police?

These are completely different activities and thus require a different type of training. Nevertheless, as I explained before, experience in the armed forces or the police enables personnel to have a type of training and experience, which is often highly useful if not indispensable for practical deployment in today’s world.

Why do the armed forces and the police turn to a firm like yours for training their men?

We do not have direct official relations with units of the armed forces and police, though I am personally in almost daily contact with members of these forces, of all levels and tanks. These organizations naturally have their own training facilities and courses and are not susceptible to “interference” of any kind. However, we are pleased to be able to frequently host personnel from these areas to lectures where we discuss aspects that our counterparts find to be of interest. Personally, in my role as instructor and lecturer, I have often been invited to discuss my approach and experience; over time, I think that these forms of contact and exchange of opinions can and must increase.


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