Who has more freedom of movement in a combat zone: a highly trained and well-resourced Special Operations fighter, or an untrained volunteer working for a cash-strapped religious non-governmental organization (NGO)?

In the author’s opinion and experience, the answer is the NGO worker — and by a long shot. The reason for this predominantly boils down to organizational culture, resources, and risk tolerance. Is this a perfect basis for comparison? Definitely not. But it certainly provides differences to be identified and appreciated for the purposes of healthy discussion.

Some general thoughts on risk

Life is certainly full of risks, many of which we automatically accept, cannot change, and do not even consciously consider. Doing so would be debilitating, counter-productive, and would not lead us in the path of a peaceful and meaningful life. But what happens when an organization loses sight of this and trends towards risk aversion? What if risk tolerance is so low that it precludes operational success? What is the relationship between risk management and acceptable war costs?

Risk management is the bane of all staff officers and the primary mechanism by which the military attempts to identify and assess risk. Risk management is not a new concept and was born from the well-intentioned desire to minimize risk to the mission and the force.