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    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    Romanian and East German Policies in the Third World: Comparing the Strategies of Ceausescu and Honecker
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett
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    The Emily Updates (Vol. 2): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
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    The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
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    The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
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    The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Emily V. Barnett
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A Troubling Start to 2016 and Global Energy Security

NBC News CRUDE OIL PRICES ARE PRESENTLY TESTING HISTORIC LOWS, WITH "NEW" IRANIAN OIL SET TO HIT THE MARKET IN 2016.  In general, that's good news for a global economy that's greatly benefited from lower energy prices thanks to the North American-led fracking revolution in tight oil and shale gas production.  That production growth has allowed the US to continue to cut its crude oil imports, thus allowing major Persian Gulf exporters to further concentrate on meeting South and East Asia's ever growing demand.

It's no mere coincidence that America's willingness to play "global policeman" in the Persian Gulf has declined commensurately with its growing energy self-sufficiency.  Yes, war-weariness was the proximate cause for Washington's strategic disengagement from the region under President Obama, who packaged that move as a necessary "strategic pivot" from Southwest Asia to East Asia so as to counter China's growing military "muscle flexing."  But that was why Obama was elected - twice.  As we've seen with the Paris terror strikes of weeks back, a Western great power (France) can easily find itself sucked back into the Middle East's many battlefields, so Americans should not delude themselves into thinking that such renewed pacifism is permanent.  The right constellation of terror strikes in the US could easily push the next president (Clinton?  Trump? Rubio?) into more vigorous action, no matter how much the Pentagon prefers to plan its high-tech future wars against more conventional opponents (Russia, China).  I mean, sometimes America's foreign policy happens to the world, and sometimes the world happens to America's foreign policy.

Ultimately, however, it will more likely be America's rising energy self-sufficiency that dissuades Washington from reassuming a lead balancing/stabilizing military role in the Persian Gulf - that, and the rise of the Millennial Generation as a force in American politics (hint, they don't see China as an enemy and greatly prefer multilateralism over unilateralism).

But here's the trick:  even as it is China, India, Japan and South Korea that import the vast majority of Persian Gulf oil (from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran), none of them show much interest in replacing the US with its Carter Doctrine notion (now fading) of keeping the Gulf open and available to the global energy trade.  Frankly, the only great power that seems to harbor such ambitions is Russia, with its surprise entry into Syria's civil war.  Yes, China just signed a naval basing agreement with Djibouti on Africa's nearby "horn," but Beijing's interests seem decidedly limited to protecting its energy shipping versus playing a direct role in tamping down the region's many bitter rivalries - any one of which could directly impact global energy security.

So that's why today's headlines about Saudi Arabia once again breaking off diplomatic ties with regional rival Iran are seriously disturbing.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran on Sunday, escalating the regional crisis that erupted after the execution of a Shiite cleric triggered outrage among Shiites across the Middle East and beyond.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh that the Iranian ambassador to Saudi Arabia had been given 48 hours to leave the country, citing concerns that Tehran’s Shiite government was undermining the security of the mostly Sunni kingdom.

Saudi diplomats had already departed Iran after angry mobs trashed and burned the Saudi Embassy in Tehran overnight Saturday, in retaliation for the execution of Sheik Nimr Baqr al-Nimr earlier in the day.

The rift sets the region’s two biggest powerhouses on a collision course at a critical time for U.S. diplomacy aimed at bringing peace to the Middle East, and it raises the specter of worsening violence in countries where they back rival factions, such as Yemen and Syria.

Despite their countless international feuds, it was the first time since a two-year rupture in 1988-1990 that diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia had formally been severed, according to Abdullah al-Shamri, a Saudi analyst and former diplomat.

To put it in perspective, an equivalent scary development in East Asia would require a similar severing of ties between China and Japan over South/East China Sea maritime disputes.  That's because the biggest and most important commodity flow in the global economy today is Persian Gulf crude oil flowing from Southwest Asia to South and East Asia by sea.  That flow can be disrupted at its source or at its destination, but either way, any such crisis would be highly destabilizing.

We in the West have long assumed that the big flow was from the PG to us, but that reality dissipated a long time ago.  The Persian Gulf is the 5th most-important source of US crude oil after (1) domestic production, (2) North America (Canada, Mexico) imports, (3) South American imports (historically Venezuela but Brazil will emerge over time), and (4) African sources.  Somebody blows up the Persian Gulf tomorrow and - in direct terms - it's a speed bump for the US economy.  It would, however, bring Asia's economic pillars to their knees rather quickly, which, in turn, would harm the rest of the global economy in due course.

So yes, we in the West should be very concerned by Iran and Saudi Arabia's long-running and highly bitter rivalry breaking out in the open so decisively right now.  We don't actually live in a "G-Zero world" (the notion that none of the G-20 powers is interested in managing the international system right now).  Russia wants to manage it's "near abroad" alright, and America seeks to manage East Asia with its "pivot" there, to match China's clear ambitions to do the same.  It's just that no one seems all that interested - save for meddling Putin - in doing the same for the tumultuous and tense Persian Gulf.

And that's a scary way to start 2016.


(RESILIENT BLOG) Government and Corporate Transparency Are Resilience Indicators


RESILIENT CORPORATION'S STOCK-IN-TRADE IS BASICALLY TRANSPARENCY IN THE SERVICE OF ORGANIZATIONAL RESILIENCE.  Everybody talks about resilience, but few can agree on what it means because it's so inherently specific to any enterprise's goals and missions.  That's why we define resilience as an organization’s capacity to anticipate disruptions, adapt to events, and create lasting value.  That last bit about "lasting value" may strike you as a bit of a punt on our part - Shouldn't you be more specific? But if you're talking to the entire universe of public and private enterprises out there, you need to leave in that definitional space for them to individually declare what it is they're trying to protect in terms of their core enterprise functioning/service/goal . . .



(RESILIENT BLOG) Dependency as Vulnerability Means the Best Cyberdefense is a Wicked Cyberoffense

NATIONAL SECURITY, AS A BUSINESS DOMAIN, IS DRIVEN BY THE MANTRA OF "BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID.  When we're just talking among ourselves, the conversation remains professional.  But there's always that temptation to go all apocalyptic when you take those conversations into the public realm.  It's the old if you only knew what I know trump-card that any professional has a hard time not using.  We can currently blame this dysfunctional dialogue on the media (driven to sensationalism) and the Internet (nutcases galore), but we cannot dismiss the grounded reality at the core of these discussions, which is dependency as vulnerability . . . 




Check it out: "The Past as a Prologue: The Future of the U.S. Military in One Graphic"

The author is Daniel Sukman -- strategist in the U.S. Army and a member of the Military Writers Guild

Interesting and ambitious look at US military operations since 1980, positing logical operational postures for the Combatant Commands on that basis.  Starts off with a fascinating world map, and then goes through the COCOMs individually.  Very nicely executed.

The conclusion caught Dave Emery's eye, so he sent it to me.


The New Map…The Non-Integrating Gap aligns with U.S. Operations over the past 30 years

Interestingly, this review of operations since 1980 confirms the Non-Integrating Gap theory proposed by Thomas Barnett in his seminal book, The Pentagon’s New Map. According to Barnett, areas of lesser development — Latin America, the Middle East, and areas of the Pacific — constitute this gap. Moreover, use of the military element of national power tends to occur in these areas. Nations outside of the gap tend to resolve conflict without outside intervention.

To address global requirements, Barnett introduced the concept of the Leviathan and Sysadmin force. In Barnett’s paradigm, the focus of the Leviathan force is major combat operations. The focus of the Sysadmin force is other missions ranging from humanitarian assistance to “Phase 4” nation building activities.

The creation of the Sysadmin and Leviathan force as envisioned by Barnett may not achievable in an era of fiscal constraints. However, the joint force should prioritize the ten missions outlined in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review per geographic area of responsibility. Using the past as a prologue indicates the feasibility of this approach.



(RESILIENT BLOG) Rating US Healthcare Systems On Infectious Diseases: Which US States Are Most Resilient?

IN THE ADVANCED WEST, WE'VE LONG AGO SHIFTED OUR THINKING ON HEALTHCARE FROM INFECTIOUS DISEASES TO CHRONIC OR "LIFESTYLE" DISEASES.    Why?  Vaccines, antibiotics, and better sanitation in general put most infectious diseases (and subset communicable diseases) in the West's rearview mirror, compared to the East and South. Plus, they've been our biggest killers for a long time, thanks to modernization. Moreover, the big medical gains that we've seen with globalization's spread include a strong shift from infectious to chronic diseases in the "rising" East and a similarly unfolding shift across the South.  Now, of the top-ten killers in the world, according to the WHO, seven are considered chronic problems  That's the good news ...



(RESILIENT BLOG) EU Leapfrogs US On Data Privacy Rules – And Punishments, Creating A Regulatory Disruption

Earth within a water drop. Ecosystem conceptTHE EUROPEAN UNION FANCIES ITSELF AS A "RULES SUPERPOWER," meaning it creates new rules within its ranks and, by the power of its economic heft, they are effectively "exported" to other regions in a sort of regulatory osmosis (you do business with Europe, you adapt to those rules, those rules spread throughout your enterprise).

Fair enough, and certainly something the U.S. has been doing on trade for decades ...




(RESILIENT BLOG) How Climate Change Will Test Our Resilience On A Very Local – Even Intimate – Level

gr1LIVING IN THE NORTHERN UNITED STATES, ONE DOESN'T EXPECT TO CONTRACT ESSENTIALLY TROPICAL DISEASES LIKE MALARIA (see Lancet's chart on left), and yet, would you be surprised that, in the early-to-mid-19th century, Norwegian pioneers settling in Wisconsin - as a rule - feared malaria significantly more than cholera?  Malaria actually remained endemic in much of the United States (more in the South, obviously) through the 1940s, whereas today in a state like Wisconsin, virtually all cases that present themselves (roughly a dozen a year) feature travelers just back from tropical locations.  But that's changing, per a great WAPO in-depth story of a few days back ...



(RESILIENT BLOG) Everybody Talks About The [Insert Gripe Here], But Nobody Does Anything About It . . . Without First Establishing Metrics

Resilient CorporationTHE ORIGINAL QUOTE, MISTAKENLY ATTRIBUTED TO MARK TWAIN, CONCERNED THE WEATHER, BUT WE COULD EASILY INSERT "RESILIENCE" TODAY - ALSO MISTAKENLY. It would be a mistake because a lot of people all over the world are working resilience, and yet, like any triumphant management buzzword (big enough to create a C-suite position trend), there's a significant range of thinking as to what the term actually means - hence the interesting blog post ("What is This Thing Called Resilience") by a Harvard academic last year on that very subject. The author, Eric J. McNulty, currently serves as director of research at the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at Harvard's JFK School ...



(RESILIENT BLOG) Resilience Begins In Your Head – Or, You’re Only As Brittle As You Think You Are

Image courtesy of nattavut at FreeDigitalPhotos.netAGE IS WHATEVER YOU THINK IT IS.  YOU ARE AS OLD AS YOU THINK YOU ARE - MUHAMMAD ALI.

Well, a couple of new medical studies suggest that your lifelong attitude toward aging and cognitive decline may significantly shape your risk of suffering Alzheimer's Disease in your elder years:

In the first study, researchers looked at data from 158 healthy people without dementia enrolled in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA). In order to find out how people in the study felt about age stereotypes, researchers used a scale with statements like “older people are absent-minded” or “older people have trouble learning new things.” People in the study gave these answers when they were in their 40s ...



(RESILIENT BLOG) Globalization = Industrial Agriculture = Monoculture = Loss Of Resilience?

WHEN IT COMES TO THINKING ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT (TEOTWAWKI [tee-oh-tuh-WA-ki] as we used to call it during the Y2K build-up), science fiction films provide a great venue for projecting today's fears upon tomorrow's technological landscapes. But those fears shift over time. My favorite example:  I grew up with "Soylent Green" (so many people, we've got to eat them!) but settled into my middle-age with "Children of Men" (nobody's having babies anymore!). What happened between those two films was (a) China's one-child policy and (b) ultrasound technology reaching India and allowing abortions en masse (naturally in favor of males - just like China, which "exported" the surplus females via transnational adoption) ...




(RESILIENT BLOG) Internet Censorship As An Inverse Indicator of National Resilience

FREEDOM HOUSE RECENTLY ISSUED ITS 2015 REPORT ON INTERNET FREEDOM, a timely notion given the ongoing debates about encryption, monitoring of social media, etc., in the wake of recent terrorist attacks ... 




(RESILIENT BLOG) President Obama Calls Upon America To Be “Resilient” In The Face of Domestic Terror Strikes, But What Does That Mean?

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S ADDRESS TO THE NATION LAST NIGHT spoke volumes about how we as Americans view the ongoing worldwide struggle with violent extremist organizations, a category within which Islamic terror groups present the biggest immediate challenges.

He began with a description of the San Bernardino shooting, the perpetrators, and the national and local responses to the crisis.



(RESILIENT BLOG) America's Strange Resilience In The Face of Mass Shootings: Is A Tipping Point Looming?

TRUMPETED AMIDST BLANKET MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE SAN BERNARDINO MASSACRE is this stunning fact: America has averaged just over one mass shooting (4 or more dead) a day for 2015 (see WAPO chart on left, clicking to enlarge).  That's right.  Mass shootings are now the norm in America.  Heck, San Bernardino was one of two mass shootings in America yesterday (the other one getting only three paragraphs of local newspaper coverage in Georgia).

If that makes you feel queasy, then you still have a conscience.




(RESILIENT BLOG) Beepocalypse (Not So) Now: The Fundamental Resilience Of The US Beekeeping Industry

WHEN WE SPEAK OF ANY ENTERPRISE'S INHERENT RESILIENCE, we're often talking about its ability to regenerate capacity despite the intervention by some degredating external variable - e.g., an attack or disaster.  Typically, something's got to give, for some period of time, when it comes to your product or service provision:  quality, reach, frequency, price, sheer volume - something. Thus, one question for any enterprise when it comes to thinking about building up its capacity for resilience in the face of disruption is, Which "give" does the least amount of long-term damage?  Here, the simplest example would seem to be market share - as in, What did the event, relative to your resilience, cost you in market share?



(RESILIENT BLOG) China’s RMB To Become IMF Reserve Currency, Crowding Out Aging Europe and Japan

YESTERDAY THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND (IMF) ANNOUNCED that China's renminbi would become its fifth designated reserve currency, joining the US dollar, EU euro, British pound, and Japanese yen.  The move comes in response to a several-year campaign by Beijing to have its currency thus credentialized.  For now, central banks around the world hold only about 1% of their reserves in RMB, but Beijing has created an outsized latent reserve currency presence (another 5%)  by concluding numerous significant currency swap deals with major trading partners.  The latter scheme was apparently enough for the IMF to finally move on China's strong desire.




Resilience is something you learn; resilience is something you earn

WHAT YOU SEE IN THIS PHOTO IS THE FUTURE OF AMERICA: Whites as the "majority-minority."  It's my family's holiday photo from a few years back, showing our three "biological" kids along with three whom we adopted from abroad (one from China, two biological sisters from Ethiopia).  If you're surprised to hear that European-descent Americans will "soon" (2043) be outnumbered by non-European-descent Americans, rest assured that I remain equally (and continuously) surprised to find myself the father of a Scot-Irish-German-Chinese-Ethiopian-American family (with three immigrants).

Actually, whites are the majority-minority already in four US states (Hawaii, California, Texas, and New Mexico), and will achieve that status among US children  in approximately three years.  A done deal, as they say, but certainly a stressful one that can engender all sorts of "take back America!" social tensions.  But as we know from history, the most "mixed" societies tend to be the most resilient, while the most racially homogeneous tend to be most brittle.  It's just that such resilience isn't a given, nor is it something with which we are born.  It's something we learn slowly, on a day-to-day basis.  It's an accumulation of experiences.  It's anything but a trivial skill or characteristic.

There's a lot of political controversy right now over the question of accepting Syrian refugees - particularly after the Paris terror strikes (as it has been discovered that one of the assailants snuck into Greece posing as a refugee).  Roughly half of US governors are - under rather dubious claims of authority - declaring their states off-limits, while others are saying they'll be happy to take them.  At first glance, it's easy to write off the former as "racists" or "Islamophobes," but it's both premature and unhelpful to do so.  Because oftentimes it's a matter of strong variations in social resilience, which - again - comes down to experience.

Two recent Washington Post stories explore these variations.  The first introduces the reader to the "first majority-Muslim U.S. city" in Hamtramck, Michigan.  Muslim politicians there recently won the majority of city council seats, and that's naturally created some tensions in a city long dominated by Polish Catholics.  Simplest example:  mosques in Hamtramck are allowed to issue their five-times-a-day call to prayer.  Unprecedented?  Hardly.  Christian churches have long been free to ring their bells to call the faithful to services.  But still, if you've ever traveled to a Muslim country as a non-Muslim and heard the call, it's truly a different frame of reference - something to which it takes a while to get used.

And that's what's largely missing on this particular political "hot potato": the vast majority of Americans (94%) don't - according to another WAPO article - interact with Muslims on a daily basis.  I'm not pointing fingers here: my Chinese daughter is the first Asian with whom I've spoken on a daily basis.  Ditto for my two black African girls.  Does that exposure now make me an expert on either group?  Hardly. But does it make it a lot easier for me to interact with Asians and blacks on a day-to-day basis?  Yeah, it does.  It also makes me highly interested in social and political and economic issues that touch upon these groups.

This is not a call for some facile, kumbaya personal epiphany among all Americans. I'll leave that argument to the preachers.  It's merely an appeal for patience.  America is 50 states, some of which are better prepared to accept an influx of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees - a flow that, in and of itself, represents a global disaster-management task.  But some US states are not - at this time - similarly resilient.  They may lack the experience with Muslims that makes Michigan more adept.  They may already be struggling to process historically heavy Latino immigrant flows (think of states bordering Mexico).  Point being, not all 50 states are equally endowed with this form of social and political resilience right now.

So here's a potentially controversial proposal:  let's encourage Syrian refugees to go where they're most welcome right now, without demonizing those states where politicians say no.  Over time, the success of those more resilient states will set a competitive example.  It's happened many times across US history with regard to numerous waves of immigration.  It's also recently happened with gays and lesbians.  States learn to want their business, their tourism dollars, their investments, and - ultimately - their permanent presence.  Laws are changed, attitudes are adjusted, communities become more accepting, and we all grow more resilient in the process.  Simply put, the more diverse the perspectives we accumulate, the better able we collectively are to surmount current and future challenges.

Something to consider this Holiday Season.


RESILIENT BLOG: Is America Ready For Soft-Target Terror Attacks? Short Of Agreed-Upon Metrics, It’s Anybody’s Guess.

From Time Story

ON WEDNESDAY TIME POSTED A JUDICIOUSLY GAUGED OVERVIEW of the near-term threat posed by ISIS across the United States (“The State of Terror Defenses in the U.S.”).  I say “judicious” because it avoids the usual fear-mongering hype so typical of these stories in the immediate aftermath of any notable terror strike.  The story notes that Americans have about a 1-in-20-million chance of dying in a terror strike (the historical record to date), but that, as a significant “soft power” (our economic, social, media, financial, etc. strengths), we naturally present a lot of soft targets (iconic sights, critical infrastructure, social gathering places) to terror groups ...



RESILIENT BLOG: The Paris Terror Attacks Remind Us That ISIS Needs Our Help To Survive

The Gap Map (real and threatened) as I would draw it today

Posted on November 18, 2015 at 4:40 pm by 

IN A SERIES OF COORDINATED ATTACKS IN PARIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) succeeds in “socializing” a war that it cannot hope to win on its home turf – without our help. Once the “central front” of America’s “war on terror,” this fight is now most definitely France’s to pursue with a vigor that its citizens may well regret. Russia faces similar strategic temptations after its jet airliner was blown up by an ISIS regional affiliate.

Don’t get me wrong: the civilized world (and by that I mean virtually everyone but ISIS) does need to eliminate this millenarian movement’s strategic sanctuary in the Levant. There is no possibility of coexistence with a violent extremist organization looking to trigger an “end times” apocalypse. And yes, that will be a very bloody effort that no one power should attempt to undertake on its own – particularly in a fit of intense national grief and anger over its citizens being heinously murdered ...



Accepting the position of Senior Research Fellow, Knowfar Institute for Defense and Security Studies

I also recently accepted an offer from China's first government-recognized NGO on defense and international security to serve as its first Senior Research Fellow.  It is an incredible honor and I look very much forward to doing some great work with the institute's very impressive staff.

I just agreed to do my first research project for KIDSS on the concept of "splendid little wars."  I will be presenting my findings in Beijing in December.

From the institute's website:

Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies (KISDS) is a Chinese think tank which focuses on following and analysing long-term strategic and defence issues. The institute provides government institutions and policymakers with advice based on its independent and in-depth research. Since its establishment, KISDS has been conducting quality research according to its major principles: "independent, objective, deliberation, and discernment." It aims to provide a platform for international discussion of strategic and defence issues, through organizing forums and seminars; publishing academic journals; and interacting with the academic community and think tanks.

Headquartered in Beijing, KISDS is divided into four specialized research units: The Centre for Strategic Studies, the Centre for Battle and Tactics Studies, and the Centre for Eurasian Studies. It publishes five journals, namely, Knowfar Defence Review, CIS and East European Defense Review, Asia Pacific Defence Quarterly, Cyber Review and UAV Review.


Joining the Security Advisory Board of iJet International


I recently signed a three-year contract with iJet International, a fascinating company that truly fulfills a significant slice of what I long described as the System Administrator function.

What I always said about my notion of the SysAdmin was that it would be more civilian than uniform, more USG than DoD, more rest of the world than just the United States, and - most importantly - more private-sector driven than public-sector funded.  So, no, I'm not surprised to be working with this very impressive firm.

From the company's website:

Helping Organizations Operate Globally With Confidence 

iJET International delivers intelligence-driven, integrated risk management solutions that enable multinational organizations to operate globally with confidence. iJET’s end-to-end, tailored solutions integrate world-class threat intelligence, innovative technology, and response services to help organizations avoid threats and mitigate risk.

In 1999, iJET became one of the first companies to offer intelligence-driven risk management to the travel industry — a change that ultimately transformed travel and security departments worldwide. iJET’s Travel Intelligence® and Worldcue® risk-management software revolutionized corporate and government business travel with the promise of keeping employees safe — not just on time.

Building on that legacy, iJET provides Integrated Risk Management solutions that begin and end with intelligence. Our proprietary technology and network of security, intelligence and geopolitical experts allows us to deliver unmatched custom intelligence, preparedness and response solutions that help clients protect their people, facilities, suppliers and information around the world. Whether your business is expanding, consolidating, or maintaining, iJET has the expertise to help you navigate your next steps for success.