Rick Francona is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who is now "a media analyst on Middle East political-military events, currently under contract to NBC News, and appears regularly on NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, MSNBC, CNBC, Hardball, Countdown, and others." Prior to his role as a media commentator, Francona's biographical note states that he "consulted with government and private firms." Fancona retired from the military in 1998.
Francona's biographical note states that he worked as a linguist in Vietnam conducting aerial reconnaissance missions over Vietnam and Laos until 1973. After learning Arabic he worked in the Middle East between 1975 to 1977 and then as an Arabic language instructor at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. From 1979 he was an instructor at the Air Force intelligence school in Denver, Colorado and then worked as a Middle East operations officer with the National Security Agency between 1982 and 1984. "In 1984, he was assigned as an advisor to the Royal Jordanian Air Force in Amman, Jordan. In 1987, Lt Col Francona was assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency as the assistant Defense Intelligence Officer for the Middle East. During this assignment, he spent much of 1987 and 1988 at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, as a liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces directorate of military intelligence. Lt Col Francona traveled extensively as an observer of Iraqi combat operations against Iranian forces, and flew sorties with the Iraqi air force," his biographical note states.
"Immediately following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August, 1990 and through the Gulf War, Lt Col Francona was deployed to the Gulf as the advisor on Iraqi armed forces and personal interpreter to commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, General Norman Schwarzkopf. As such, he was the lead interpreter for ceasefire talks with the Iraqi military at Safwan, Iraq, in March, 1991. After the end of the Gulf War, the colonel served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and was a principal author of the Department of Defense report to Congress on the conduct of the Gulf war. In 1992, he was selected to be the first air attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, returning to the United States in early 1995. From 1995 to 1996, Lt Col Francona served with the Central Intelligence Agency, and participated in a variety of sensitive operations in the Middle East, including the escape of an Iraqi scientist's family. During one of these operations, he survived an attempt on his life by Iraqi intelligence service agents. In 1996, the colonel was selected to develop the Department of Defense counterterrorism intelligence branch. In late 1997, the colonel led a special operations team supporting NATO forces in Bosnia," his biographical note states.
The Pentagon's military analyst program
In April 2008 documents obtained by New York Times reporter David Barstow revealed that Francona had been recruited as one of over 75 retired military officers involved in the Pentagon military analyst program. Participants appeared on television and radio news shows as military analysts, and/or penned newspaper op/ed columns. The program was launched in early 2002 by then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke. The idea was to recruit "key influentials" to help sell a wary public on "a possible Iraq invasion." 
- "Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona: U.S. Air Force (Retired)", accessed April 2008.
- David Barstow, "Behind Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand," New York Times, April 20, 2008.
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