Thursday, July 21, 2011

GPS Tracking for State Dept Staffers in the Danger Zones of Iraq, Af/Pak and Yemen

Wapo's Walter Pincus recently wrote about a new high-tech system to track U.S. staff on risky tours:

The State Department is installing advanced, classified security systems in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen to monitor staff movements in those countries where moving among local populations remains dangerous, according to department budget and contract documents.

The Blue Force Tracker system uses a small transmitter mounted on a vehicle, an aircraft or an individual that sends continuous signals to a Global Positioning System satellite and back to a computer in a secure command post. The command post computer shows precise locations within a 10-foot radius of tracked individuals, vehicles or aircraft on ever-changing map displays.

“This critical technology provides department personnel with the confidence to travel into highly dangerous areas, knowing there is an over-watch and a reaction capability to help them at the push of a button,” according to a State Department fiscal 2012 budget document presented to Congress. About $9.4 million was being sought to support the tracking system in Iraq next year.
No State Department official would discuss the systems on the record.

Read the whole thing here.

It's supposed to give staff confidence because the watchers will be able to pinpoint their location -- and give the State Department an "over-watch and a reaction capability to help them [(staff] at the push of a button."

So -- if we have another Raymond Davis incident in any of those four countries, this would allow for a quick extraction of personnel in danger, is that the idea? Because -- really, unless you can retrieve/extract the personnel in danger, pinpointing location is just that - a dot on the screen. 

The report did not say what type of GPS system this might be -- a wearable item like a watch, a smart phone with GPS locator, an implantable device more or less the size of rice, a waist-clip on GPS enabled thingee like a pager or I don't know -- a fake eye, a third eye, an earing, an anklet ....

If a GPS rice implant is available, that might be the best choice - nothing to remember, nothing to forget, nothing to misplace or pack or hide when you travel. And if you ever get into a tussle with overly excited security agents of the host country, nothing that may break (that Uncle Sam can then charged you with). Of course, since this is the government, they probably will have somebody check out your GPS rice implant every year for the annual inventory. Be prepared to be scanned like Ms. Kitty.

It does look like the Blue Force Tracker Program (BFT) is deploying into the hot zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen since Olgoonik Global Security, LLC is hiring Security Specialist IIs for all four countries; it says so online:

Subsidiary:     Olgoonik Global Security, LLC
Location:     Pakistan
Organization:     BFT
Requisition Number:     2010759

The Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), Office of Security Technology (ST), is responsible for the Department's Blue Force Tracker Program (BFT). BFT utilizes GPS satellite tracking for personnel, vehicles and aircraft. It is designed to maximize visualization of designated assets traveling and conducting operations in hostile or hazardous areas.  This position will be responsible for working with DS/C/ST and Embassy personnel on-site and providing technical guidance on both the BFT tracker hardware and monitoring software.

Among other things, it requires that applicants have "Bachelor’s Degree plus seven years of experience preferred; High School Diploma plus 12 years of experience can substitute for a Bachelor’s Degree." Also the following:
Security Clearance:                                       
TOP SECRET Clearance with SCI Access Required
  • Must have a current US Government TOP SECRET Personnel Security Clearance and be able to qualify for SCI access
  • Must have a current US Government Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) (less than 4-1/2 years old) or be able to successfully complete a U.S. government administered Single Scope Background Investigation.
  • Must be a U.S. Citizen.
  • Must be eligible for and able to obtain and maintain required Security Clearance/access approvals.
Physical Demands:

The physical demands described herein are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this position.  The employee must be able to stand, walk and sit for a prolonged period of time; use hands and/or fingers to handle or feel objects, tools or controls; operate office equipment; reach with hands and arms; climb stairs; balance; stoop; kneel; talk and hear. Specific vision abilities required by the job include close and distant vision.  The employee must occasionally lift and or move up to 50 pounds.  Medical conditions or physical impediments may disqualify candidates from overseas work where comprehensive medical care may be limited or unavailable, or where the condition or impediment would put the individual at unacceptable risk.  Duties may be performed in an active combat zone where the employee would be required to seek shelter. There may be stress, psychological and physical hardships, and the possibility of living in field conditions associated with this position.


Overseas travel will be required up to 90% of the calendar year in high-threat areas.  Domestic travel may be required for training and program coordination.
Work Environment:  Full-time, 84-hour week usually under hazardous conditions when deployed in a theater of operations.  Personnel meeting the provisions of Department of State Standardized Regulations, Chapter 650 – Danger Pay Allowance, and performing in a location determined a hazardous duty area are eligible to receive danger pay up to 35% over basic compensation.

Living Environment:  Lodging, meals, medical and basic life support services will be provided while in a theater of operations, as well as the prevailing per diem rate for incidental expenses (IE).

Work Location:  The location of high-risk environments will be disclosed upon interview.
Interested? Check it out here. You have to locate each job vacancy using the location country drop down menu on its website.

A side note -- DOD has been using Blue Force Tracking (BFT) for years.  In 2006, Popular Science did a piece on BFT used in Iraq. Read "Winning-and Losing-the First Wired War."

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