CBRN in Syria risks profiteering and incompetence

Syria is an interesting beast for the CBRN community. It one of the most present threats of CBRN use in the news media - and in the midst of this strife, like all wars, there is the danger of profiteering and incompetence.

NTI reports today about Israel SF deployments here based on reporting from the Xinhuua News Agency on sunday. Buried in the article is the part that should have some eyebrows raising.

NTI reports that CNN on sunday here talked about the use of private security to train the Syrian opposition.

Pause for a moment. The single greatest CBRN threat situation that any country has seen, far greater than Iraq as we have country meltdown and definite possession here, and the decision has been to train the opposition with PRIVATE SECURITY? I may need to take some deep breaths.

Because obviously private security train with CBRN agents at the military training facilities around the world? Or perhaps because they have done so much in the past securing chemical agent facilties in situations involving the complete breakdown of society? Or in fact because of a technacality on the level of help (non-military) that the West promised.

Don't get me wrong. Some companies have great experience. Almost always due to military or emergency service. But the market is also strewn with criminally awful trainers that teach a mess of stolen government material (lets remember who owns the IP of lessosn you were given when you were in service shall we?), google research and armchair opinion. Almost without exception not backed up by rigorous scientific and training research. Often without even having a rigorous training design approach.

Let's also remember how these companies have in living memory failed to secure the US Nuclear Arsenal in the face of an elderly nun. Thank goodness Syria is majority Muslim. It also failed to recruit (let alone train) enough people for the Olympics and other companies have had staff failing to monitor important radiation screening security systems at ports.

The trouble is that everyone suddenly becomes an expert at CBRN, a traditionally poorly funded area, when there is a sniff of money. And sadly the procurers of the services are often Foreign and State departments whose ability to understand the nuance between a sensitive site exploitation and bog standard CBRN drill taught to everyone in a force is limited to say the least. I'd love to see the insurance cover for these guys too....

Now I hope I am wrong. Things have changed and people aren't getting contracts because they were first name in the rolladex or google. I'd like to think companies don't make wildly inaccurate claims about their capability and experience (Gwyn and I recently got up to 16 different people that said they were responsible for the CBRN security at the Olympics). And I would definitely like to think that once again a history of not giving two flying monkeys about CBRN hasn't led to panic driven last minute procurement of goods and services with a minimum of due diligence (which some prior planning could have averted). that would be just crazy and so I am almost certainly wrong.

Of course if I am right some (not all - there are good ones) companies are cashing in and profiteering on the misery and fear in Syria and may not only not be impriving capability but could potentially be endangering their own personnel and Syrians on both sides. Great to see that the OPCW (hang on aren't they supposed to help train people....) aren't doing anything because Syria haven't signed the CWC - of course the training is Jordan and Turkey who have..... Frankly if the OPCW doesn't become at least involved in making sure the training is appropriate and good enough its going to be another nail in its funding coffin.

Steve's view on the hierachy of who should be training them?

1. (Theoretically) The OPCW (though many will say they lack the ability)
2. Military SF with expence in WMD site exploitation (or at least trained for it)
3. Specialist CBRN training staff (active)
4. Speciliaslist CBRN training staff (retired) but with Gov CBRN school support

Totally unbacked & unverified CBRN training without any government QA from qualified schools (or civilian equivalents) is irresponsible.

That is all.

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