Friday, June 22, 2012

What is Media Battle-Space Awereness?

Jeff Brown, Senior Operations Research Systems Analyst at Leonie Industries. Jeff will be presenting at the London IO Global conference, 26-29 June 2012, along with Bill Balkovetz and Ronald Walters. ( Next week is the IQPC's annual London Information Operations (IO) Global Conference. The theme of this year's gathering of IO experts and in the field practitioners is ‘Delivering Effects through Influence Activity’. Leonie is a co-sponsor and in accordance with this theme, will be presenting on the subject of 'Media Battle-Space Awareness' to answer the question: “What role should the Information Operations community play in combating the influence of extremist groups and how can progress in this area best be monitored?”

What is MBSA and how did the concept come about? 

Leonie Media Battle-Space Awareness (MBSA) Teams enhance the existing Information Operations (IO) process by combining Operational Visualization with Geospatial Analytics in order to empower IO planners and leaders with more effective planning, dissemination and assessment of their engagement campaigns. MBSA was developed in response to challenges the Task Force faced while trying to measure the effects of their information battle-space operations in response to queries from highest leadership and funding decision makers. Prior to MBSA, the main source of assessments were surveys that measured perceptions and attitudes on a variety of subjects related to the task force goals but provided little quantifiable evidence of effect. MBSA provided a coherent geospatial and temporal display of a variety of data sources in order to examine interactions that were not previously discernible. The MBSA process showed immediate significant value-added, not only during assessment, but also in planning and dissemination. MBSA was quickly adopted and incorporated into these aspects across Task Force operations.

What do Leonie's MBSA teams do? 

During the planning phase, the MBSA Team assists the Task Force with clarifying objectives, determining the desired effects from those objectives and developing an initial set of indicators, or measures of effectiveness (MOEs), to inform the effects. Additionally, the MBSA team helps to identify the right data needed to analyze the MOEs, identify any data gaps and recommend alternative indicators based on existing data or additional data collection efforts. The output of the planning phase is a baseline visualization of the indicators regarding the intended target audience.

Dissemination has two key components: target audience and medium. During the dissemination phase, the MBSA Team creates geospatial overlays of the engagement campaign (5Ws) and media monitoring in order to gain knowledge of support for and against the issues, themes and messages. Knowing who does not support the issues, themes, messages and how to counter and/or shape their messaging also helps to achieve the desired effect(s). Geographic display of stations, their allegiances/affiliations and where they stand on supporting or disrupting desired effects serves as an overlay to compare or evaluate current engagement strategies. The media monitoring overlay when viewed with the baseline and engagement overlays provides easy ability to confirm or deny the success of the dissemination strategy as well as enable the selection of new dissemination channels. The geospatial visualization of the dissemination plan, MOE and impact indicator data enhance assessments.

During the assessment phase, the MBSA Team conducts geospatial analysis of the various overlays to determine, in relation to the desired effects, the current status of the engagement and the operational environment. From this analysis, the MBSA Team provides conclusions and recommendations as thoughtful, logical guidance back into the Command’s planning efforts and as an input to the Command’s periodic assessment reports.

How does MBSA enhance the current IO process?

MBSA enhances the current IO process by improving situational awareness of the battle-space to a level that enables effective Information Operations and Effect(s) Assessments. MBSA aids in maintaining current knowledge of adversarial and non-adversarial target audiences and what it takes to create an effect within a selected audience. MBSA currently enables Information Operations leaders and planners in countering the influence of extremist groups and in monitoring that progress by combining Geospatial Analysis with rich Operational Visualization, promoting more comprehensive planning with visualization layers, focused target audience characterization and dissemination, and objective assessment of the measured effects of planned operations.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Response to Camille Chidiac’s Suspension

On May 30, the U.S. government suspended Camille Chidiac, a minority owner of Leonie Industries. The government placed Mr. Chidiac on the “Excluded Parties List” (“EPL”) of individuals and corporations suspended or debarred from U.S. government contracting. This action followed Mr. Chidiac’s May 24 disclosure of involvement in an online “misinformation” campaign, which in turn prompted his announcement that he would sell his shares in Leonie.

Mr. Chidiac’s placement on the EPL relates to him as an individual. Leonie has not been placed on the EPL, and the government has not indicated that Leonie has done anything that would warrant placement on the list.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation ("FAR"), which governs federal contractors, states that an individual’s suspension from contracting does not affect the corporation unless the individual’s conduct is in conjunction with their performance of duties for or on behalf of the contractor, or with the contractor's knowledge and approval. Neither of these conditions is present here.

Since resigning as an officer and employee of Leonie in 2008, Mr. Chidiac has not been involved in any way with the operation, management or performance by Leonie under its contracts with the federal government. Leonie was not aware of and did not authorize Mr. Chidiac’s online activity.

Mr. Chidiac has made it clear he acted as an individual and independent of the company. And, as he said on May 24, he is “in the process of completely divesting my remaining minority ownership from Leonie." The divestment process is not yet completed.

Leonie continues to operate as a responsible government contractor.

Leonie has successfully competed for and won multiple contracts based on the company’s performance record and the high quality of the teams we deliver. Our record of success is evident based on the consistently positive performance reviews and employee commendations the company has received, as well as the individual civilian service awards made to Leonie employees for their work.

It is also worth noting that since Leonie began government contracting in 2004, the government has conducted routine audits of the company on several occasions and has found Leonie’s systems and operations to comply with all government’s requirements.

Leonie’s employees and partners continue to work hard to meet and exceed the requirements and expectations of our customers and we remain honored to support the national security mission of the U.S. government.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Development: Winning USAID Essay

Glen Scott Allen, PhD, Director of International Development Projects, Leonie Michael Joseph, Chief of Staff, Business Development, Leonie

Mrs. Khan awakens at 4:00 am on a cold morning in her modest house in a remote province of Pakistan. This is the day she makes her monthly trek to a distant market to spend her husband’s remittance check. It’s a difficult journey with a long list of possible obstacles. Will the bus arrive on time? Will it break down on the road to the market? Will there be papers to fill out that she cannot read? If any of a dozen things go wrong, she will be struggling to survive until the next month, and the next journey.

On her way to the bus stop, Mrs. Khan passes a concrete shell of a building. Originally intended to be a local market and exchange, a place where people like her could reliably receive remittance checks, its construction was halted years ago. Its demise was the result of a tangled web of shrinking budgets of foreign aid agencies, the corruption and inertia of the national government, and the local innate distrust of projects created and managed by foreigners.

In ways numerous but not always obvious, Mrs. Khan’s stressful journey and that unfinished building are two symptoms of the same problem.

Mrs. Khan is just one of the millions of people in developing countries who depend for their very survival on remittances. The process of sending, receiving, and using these funds is fraught with difficulties. And while these remittance and Diaspora networks have existed for hundreds of years, the technology supporting them really hasn’t changed. In most cases, a husband or brother or child still puts hard currency into a postal system and hopes for the best.

There are alternatives. The hawala (“transfer of financial obligation”) networks that exist primarily in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia are more flexible but fraught with their own problems. The strength of hawala networks is that they don’t depend on the actual transfer of hard currency; rather, a remitter may simply establish an “obligation” with a local hawaladar (hawala broker), who then “transfers” that obligation to another hawaladar in the remitters’ native country. The in-country representative can then “pay out” that obligation to the recipient through cash, goods, or services. These networks are especially dependent on trusted ties between families and neighbors, and can sidestep barriers such as governments, banks, and currency transfer fees. However, precisely because they sometimes operate outside the boundaries of governments and businesses, they are unregulated, and therefore come under suspicion of trafficking in illegal transactions—especially as funding for terrorist organizations.

The advantages and challenges of diaspora/remittance/hawala networks are deeply related to the issues faced by any international development agency that seeks to deliver basic health, education, sanitation, or other services to remote populations. However, new technologies could prove key to solving not only Mrs. Khan’s problems, but also those of development agencies working to improve the quality of life for her and millions of people like her.

It is clear that diaspora networks play an important role in the support of their families and communities. According to recent World Bank studies, reported remittances from diaspora networks reached $351 billion in 2011, with untold additional billions in goods and services.[1]

Recognizing the power of such networks, USAID recently established the Diaspora Networks Alliance (DNA), which it describes as a framework that enables partnerships—between USAID, other donor organizations, the private sector, and diasporas—built on “knowledge-generation, engagement, and operational work, with the purpose of promoting economic and social growth in the countries of origin.” The financial potential of these networks is explicitly recognized by USAID as one that could potentially change the very nature of international development models: “Of all of the capital that flows abroad from the United States, an estimated twenty-five percent or more are recorded remittances, which makes them second only to private capital flows ….”[2]

Currently, however, diaspora support programs are generally unorganized, informal, and disconnected from long-term, sustainable development strategies, and none suggest a link between family remittances and local development goals. Many of the diaspora engagement models rely on existing international financial infrastructures, such as brick-and-mortar banks, national ministries of finance, and large international monetary agencies. Each of these enabling structures brings with it a set of limitations and distrusts. Additional problems include lack of grass-roots engagement, discontinuity between micro- and macrodevelopment planning, insufficient knowledge of local needs, research data that is never shared with local professionals, and even local attempts to malign or undermine projects by forces hostile to “foreign intervention.”

Recent innovations in communications technologies offer an excellent opportunity to effectively engage diaspora networks in these larger issues of development programs while maintaining their local authenticity. The goal is creation of a self-sustainable, long-term model that can be replicated for different diaspora networks across the globe—a model that leverages pre-existing streams of money, information, technology, and, most important, trust. We call such a model the Facilitated Diaspora Network, enabled by the latest Internet and telecommunications technology, initiated by international development entities, but then handed off to members of the specific diaspora network to manage and maintain.

The first step in creating a Facilitated Diaspora Network is the establishment of a web-based “hub”—a clearinghouse website to be used as a central point of entry and information for current remitters, including family, community, and third-party donors. Such a website would include background information about a community, forums for discussions about local issues, a catalogue of local development needs, links to international development agency efforts and resources, and tools to enable contributions directly to specific family recipients and development projects.

The second step involves utilizing the hub as a centralized link between remitters/donors and receivers/projects, and would draw on innovations in mobile communications that enable direct monetary transfers, by-passing many of the obstacles encountered not only by Mrs. Khan, but by the aid agencies as well. An estimated 5.5 billion people in the world already have cell phones, and recent innovations in microcell technology, smartphone capabilities, and mobile- money support have demonstrated that mobile device-based approaches are effective even in some of the most remote areas of the world. The GlobalGiving and Aceh Besar “Midwives with Mobile Phones” programs are examples of this success.

In its simplest form, such a network would allow a remitter to sign into an account at a “hub” website, make a payment to the network’s central fund, and designate a family recipient. The recipient would receive notice of the transfer, and their mobile device would store the information, which could then be used at a market or with a local agent to pay for goods and services. The facilitating entity would handle the actual transfer of funds. As an option, the family remitter could designate a portion of the donation to a particular local aid project which, depending on the project’s scale, might be overseen by an international or a local entity. For community-based remitters and third-party donors, the hub would serve as a convenient portal for making contributions (similar to GlobalGiving) and accessing real-time information about development progress. For the remitter and receiver, the process would be painless, efficient, and reliable. For donor and recipient countries, and the facilitating international entities, it would be centralized, accountable, and transparent.

Still, even with such a streamlined remittance/donor process in place, one might ask how the remitters can be convinced to divert even a small portion of their limited funds to local rather than family aid. The key will be making a clear case for how local development is aid to their families: a market that makes Mrs. Khan’s long trek unnecessary, a clinic that improves her health security, or a school that educates her children. For many remitters, such contributions will fulfill religious obligations for charitable giving. In other cases, the donations might go to local businesses, serving as investments offering future returns. Additionally, a portion of the facilitating entity’s revenue would be re-invested in the development projects, providing a sustainable base of funding. Taken together, these factors result in diaspora participants who are invested in aid efforts as their projects—to an extent they never have been for projects conceived and financed entirely by foreign donors.

Admittedly, there are challenges to this approach, such as concerns about the diversion of funds, and the differing monetary exchange, as well as the security policies of the donor and recipient countries involved. However, there are several reasons both types pf nations would welcome and even actively support such networks. Diaspora “hubs” will allow for much greater oversight and transparency than currently exists, particularly with the essentially invisible hawala networks. Money that enters the facilitated network is not available for the illegal networks. Perhaps most important, many nations have declared their desire to dramatically increase remittances and are fully aware that they receive no taxes or fees from the invisible transfers, suggesting they will be highly motivated to work with facilitating agencies to overcome these and other regulatory and security challenges.

Ultimately, diaspora and hawala networks survive on the trust they engender among their constituencies:
  • They comprise relatives, neighbors, and acquaintances.
  • They are granted credibility by word of mouth among networks of people who know one another.
  • They are often a source of pride among the people from the village, town, or region they serve.

Therefore, any model that seeks to capture their dynamism and flexibility must recognize the importance of maintaining their specific and local authenticity. By tapping into the philanthropic potential of diaspora networks, enabling them with innovative technologies, and coordinating their efforts with those of international aid entities, we believe it is possible to expand and strengthen community relationships, engender local and sustainable development efforts, increase the funds available for such efforts, and create a new and stable model of international development.

[1] Sanket Mohapatra, Dilip Ratha, and Ani Silwal, “Outlook for Remittance Flows 2012–2014: Remittance Flows to Developing Countries Exceed $350 Billion in 2011,” World Bank Migration and Development Brief 17,

[2] USAID fact sheet, “Diaspora Networks Alliance: Framework for Leveraging Migrant Resources for Effective Development & Diplomacy,”