Never Mind, We’ll Do It Ourselves: How a Team of Renegades Broke Rules, Shattered Barriers, and Launched the Drone Warfare Revolution

November 2021 No Comments

Speaker(s): Bierbauer, A. (CEO of Blackrock Strategy, LLC); Cooter, M. (USAF, Retired)

Date: 9 November 2021

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Mr. Alec Bierbauer (Blackrock Strategy, LLC) and Col Mark Cooter (USAF, Retired) as part of its SMA General Speaker Series. 

The US Department of Defense’s Predator program demonstrated how different organizations within the DoD can use synergy and coordinate technology developments, human networking, and cross-organization information sharing to achieve an objective. The program began as an army counterintelligence initiative but became weaponized after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Mr. Bierbauer commented that its initial objective was to clandestinely monitor Usama Bin Ladin and locate Al Qaida’s armed forces in Afghanistan. There were many obstacles that the Predator program initially faced, such as no US ground personnel, no past program records to reference, constantly working with prototypes of technology, and the time it takes to build trustworthy networks of allies. Following the attacks of September 11, the initiative developed from a clandestine and small operation, to a USG-wide effort to develop technology and information capabilities to find and eliminate Usama Bin Ladin and Al Qaida.

The Predator program allowed the US armed force’s technology and objectives to develop in parallel to each other. Colonel Cooter commented that even though the Taliban was mostly using older Soviet Era technology, the program was still challenged to develop new equipment, which allowed the US to move undetected in Afghanistan’s air space. The program also allowed the DoD to collect picture data, gather full motion video, and vet human sources. Despite having to overcome early adversity, which included having to outbid the Olympics for broadband space and a change in US presidential administration, the Predator program was able to locate Bin Ladin and multiple Al Qaida targets over multiple missions. 

Speaker Session Recording

Note: We are aware that many government IT providers have blocked access to YouTube from government machines during the pandemic in response to bandwidth limitations. We recommend viewing the recording on YouTube from a non-government computer or listening to the audio file (below), if you are in this position.

Briefing Materials


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