Monday, December 30, 2013

Air MEDEVACs for Africa Enhanced with TCCET-E

Photo by SSG Eric Harris (12 Jan 2011)
Africa is a huge continent and the U.S. keeps a number of military and other personnel working in many of the countries throughout the continent. Most are engaged in peaceful activities such as development projects, educational enterprises, and military training events. However, every once in a while something bad happens and a crisis develops. Many times there are U.S. citizens or military members who are hurt, wounded, sick, or injured and the military has the best resources to evacuate these personnel. The U.S. Air Force in Europe has recently established the Tactical Critical Care Evacuation Team or TCCET-E. Read more about the TCCET-E in "New Air Force concept for aeromedical evacuation to meet challenges in Africa", Stars and Stripes, December 26, 2013.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Piracy and Vessels Seized in Horn of Africa Down Significantly in 2013 Due to Many Factors

Piracy in the area of the Horn of Africa (HOA) - principally coming from Somalia - has decreased remarkably over the past year. In fact, according to the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in a recent report published in December 2013 there were no incidents of vessels hijacked in the HOA area during 2013. At one time piracy in the HOA was a rewarding and sophisticated business. There are many reasons for this sharp decline to include armed guards of vessels transiting the waters near Somalia, naval task forces provided by many nations to patrol the waters, military rescue attempts, a newly established government in Somalia, and the occasional private sector endeavor (see the trailer for a documentary entitled The Project).

Friday, December 27, 2013

Those Who Serve - And Those Who Don't

The vast majority of U.S. citizens don't serve in the military. Most military service is done by members of families who have a tradition of serving. If you meet a member of the military more than likely you will find that his father, brothers, and uncles also served. There are exceptions of course; but really, you know the deal. Some families will endure the hardship and make the sacrifices and others - not so much. Read more in a blog post entitled "The Other 99% (1% Serve in the Military)" on the Afghan War News blog.

Defense Clandestine Service Worries Congress

The Defense Clandestine Service (DCS) was created in April 2012 by the Pentagon. It will see its two-year anniversary in April 2014. The purpose of the service is to recruit and manage sources (usually called HUMINT for Human Intelligence) around the world to support Department of Defense intelligence requirements. Some in Congress believe this is a duplication of effort; mirroring the HUMINT efforts of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). As a result of this line of questioning by Congress the new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is withholding 50% of the operating funds the DCS needs to do its job until DoD Secretary Hagel can justify the DCS. Unfortunately, what many in Congress do not recognize is that the DCS is a relatively new organization going through some growing pains, that it takes time to train up HUMINT operators and then put them into an environment where they can recruit sources, and it takes time to train up and develop sources so they can be effective. In addition, Congress probably does not recognize the original reason the DCS was created - to provide a robust HUMINT capability that was lacking at the start of the Afghan and Iraq wars and with the evolution of the War on Terror into a world-wide global threat. The CIA simply does not collect HUMINT in the areas needed by the Defense Department. "Congress skeptical of new Pentagon spy agency", Los Angeles Times, December 23, 2013.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Case Made for Female SEALs

A recent article in The Atlantic states that based on the success of a few females recently graduating from Marine Corps infantry training the special operations community should integrate women into their ranks as well. The premise is if the women perform well as the team leader of a Special Forces Operational Detachment then they would be accepted as equals by the conventional infantry squad leader in the 82nd Airborne Division. See the article entitled "The Case for Female SEALs" published on December 24, 2013.

As a former member of the Special Operations community I can tell you that while this is an idea has been considered for decades it certainly isn't realistic or practical. Women have a long history of participating in Special Operations but only as specialists in a specific area where they add value. Certainly an intelligence officer serving in a unit's Intel section can perform her duties and responsibilities without the worry of physical limitations; and this applies to quite a few of the jobs in the Special Operations support and staff sections. Some of these other jobs might also require the presence of women on missions - as in linguists, interrogators, female searchers, or members of Cultural Support Teams.

However, it is on the teams (whether Special Forces or SEALs) where the physical differences are most noted. There are too many cases in the military where women have been integrated into male only training (not yet into Special Operations training) but only after the relaxation of physical standards to the point where the great majority of women could pass. This, of course, waters down the standards to the point where almost ALL men pass (not really good thing). It gives me chills thinking of how much the U.S. Army Special Forces training would have to be watered down so that women could pass this demanding course.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Civilian Cyber Militia?

Is it possible that the Department of Defense (DoD) will hire part-time employees to help the National Guard thwart cyberattacks? According to a recent news release this could happen (see "Defense to Weigh Civilian Cyber Militia",, December 23, 2013). The concept was outlined in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act which calls for an assessment of the plan. An earlier proposal from Congress considered the standing up of state "Cyber and Computer Network Incident Response Teams".

Monday, December 23, 2013

Army Cyber Command to be at Fort Gordon, GA

The Army's Cyber Command will be collected into a central headquarters located at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Fort Gordon is also home to the service's Signal Center and Signal Corps. Many of the Cyber Command elements are spread across the United States to include the D.C. area and Fort Meade, Maryland. While the move might make sense from an Army standpoint of co-locating communications and cyber capabilities the Army's Cyber Command will move away from the nation's historical center of the intelligence world (Washington, DC) and from the embattled National Security Agency (NSA) located at Fort Meade, Maryland. Read more in a recent news article entitled "Army Settles on Augusta for Cyber Forces Headquarters",, December 21, 2013.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Precheck Air Travel Program Extended to Military

It is about time! The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) is extending the "Precheck Air Travel Program" to members of the military. More than 30 million passengers have experienced the TSA Precheck since it launched in October 2011 and now our military members will get this preferred treatment as well (finally). Learn more in "TSA Expands Precheck Air Travel Program", American Forces Press Service, December 19, 2013.

Monday, December 16, 2013

JP 3-24 Counterinsurgency 22 Nov 2013

The Department of Defense (DoD) has published Joint Publication 3-24, Counterinsurgency, dated November 22, 2013. A description of the publication is provided below:
"It sets forth joint doctrine to govern the activities and performance of the Armed Forces of the United States in joint operations and provides the doctrinal basis for interagency coordination and for US military involvement in multinational operations. It provides military guidance for the exercise of authority by combatant commanders and other joint force commanders (JFCs) and prescribes joint doctrine for operations, education, and training. It provides military guidance for use by the Armed Forces in preparing their appropriate plans. It is not the intent of this publication to restrict the authority of the JFC from organizing the force and executing the mission in a manner the JFC deems most appropriate to ensure unity of effort in the accomplishment of the overall objective."
You can read the pub online or download it at the link below:

 Joint Publication 3-24, Counterinsurgency, 22 November 2013.

For more information about Counterinsurgency click on the link below:

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Peace Corps and National Security

A recent article on the Small Wars Journal makes the case that the Peace Corps provides lots of bang for the buck and contributes to the U.S. national security. See "Beyond Goodwill: The Peace Corps' Contribution to National Security", by Robert Feldman, November 20, 2013.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Private Military Security Companies - A Continuing Trend

The widespread use of Private Military Security Companies (PMSC) by the US Government began in Iraq and expanded in Afghanistan. Though they have been used for many years on a limited basis, the last decade has seen their use greatly expanded. The debate of if it is good policy will continue so long as they exist but there is little debate as to why their use was necessitated.

What is the Function They Serve?

They are employed for a range of official reasons by the US Government. The most common reasons are specific technical skills that are needed in advanced weapon systems that it does not make sense to maintain full training programs for the active duty military, and support positions of a “non-military nature” where it is deemed the use of active duty military is better employed in other capacity. These functions include security for state officials, security and operation of food service facilities, and securities for other private contractors.

Private Security Contractors in Iraq - 2007
(photo dated 6 Dec 07 from Flickr CC 2.0)

Far more controversial in nature is there use for some covert operations and missions. It is impossible to tell precisely how widespread that use is for obvious reasons, but the one most overlooked is that the reporters and observers claiming widespread use for this have no way of knowing in fact if it is USSOCOM forces or PMC resources being used. The reporter that claims to know because “I asked and the person said they were not a Navy Seal” clearly has no understanding of the nature of covert operations or information security.


Many outspoken critics refer to them as mercenaries and guns for hire. Based on the concept that they carry weapons or work in security for pay and do not wear a US Military uniform it could be stretched to apply. That would also mean all bodyguards should be referred to as mercenaries, civilian contractors to the Department of Defense which make up a substantial percentage of the support staff of the military domestically should be called mercenaries, and the security guards at your local mall may well be considered mercenaries on this broad definition. Interestingly, it is the same most outspoken critics that are the cause of their widespread use.

Why is the US Government Using PMSCs?

As with most things, there is more than one reason. The most common official reason is because they are more cost effective. In other words, it costs less for the government to hire private companies to perform many functions than it costs for the military to perform the same function. The reasons given by the security companies and the government for this are many but include less cost overhead, more efficient cost effective management, and most common is lower costs of procurement for weapons, equipment, and supplies.

There may be some validity to this. The command and control structure for a private company is far leaner than that of the US Military (the Pentagon alone has 31,000 military and civilian employees working at it each day). This is made possible by the fact that private companies do not need contingency forces staged around the globe at all times. For procurement there is little doubt that private companies can be more efficient. The military is contractually obligated to sources while the private firms can comparison shop for equipment whether directly from Colt or from foreign 3rd party vendors like

The truth is it is virtually impossible to tell if the use of Private Military Security Companies is more cost effective. This is because the accounting of the multiple agencies that employ the PMSCs does not break out the costs individually and because to compare you would need hard numbers of what it costs for the US Military to provide the same service in comparison. This brings us to the real reason for the widespread use of Private Military Companies and the fact that it is caused primarily by their biggest critics.

Political Pressure of Anti-Military Gave Rise to Use of PMSCs

The biggest opponents of the use of PMSC are not surprisingly the same liberal leaning front that oppose the military regularly in every area. Through there continued demands of cuts in US Force sizes and troop deployment cutbacks the government and the military was forced to choose between further increasing the danger for troops still deployed or search for alternatives.

The failure of political interests to realize that troop force size reductions do not change the threat level or mission requirements is simply naive. For political gain they push for reduction in forces for the headlines they receive in the US while expecting the troops still deployed to do the same or more with fewer people. Since this is a virtual impossibility the use of private companies increased to make up for the short sighted politically motivated strategy.

As an example, when the to be Democratic Chair of the House Armed Service Committee called for “a phased redeployment of troops” in 2006 (see White House rebuffs call for troop withdrawal in Iraq,, Nov 14, 2006). The military, in comply to redeployment clamor, turned to the only available source of manpower- Private Military Companies- to prepare for the expected redeployment (see Census Counts 100,000 Contractors in Iraq, The Washington Post,  December 5, 2006).

So the Democratic House leadership got to claim big headlines with redeployments and troop reductions saying 10,000 soldiers a month would be reduced from the theater but it was in exchange for the manpower provided by the private military companies that do not get counted by the newspapers. The same people that condemn their use are in fact the ones that are the direct cause for the greatly increased role of private military.To reduce the role of Private Military Companies the answer is simple – return funding for and control of manpower decisions to the military.

Guest post by Timothy Brighton.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Buying Military Gear - Helpful Hints on How and Where to Buy Military Clothing and Gear

Buying Military Gear

If you’re in the army, or just wish you were, then you’ll need military clothing. If you’re just a civilian who likes camo, then you can buy whatever type of military garments that you like. However, if you’re serving then you obviously have to be conscious of what you need to buy so you don’t end up getting the wrong thing. After your first issue of army clothing, you should get a uniform allowance to help you replace garments that you need, though it may get less and less the longer you’ve served. This is why it’s crucial to know where to buy your replacements from. Whether you need technical base layers or shirts, or accessories like bags, footwear and first aid kits, here are a few tips to help you buy your much needed military clothing.

Soldiers Shopping for Military Gear
(Photo USAG Humpheys, Creative Commons CC BY 3.0)

Buy on Base

Most army bases have a clothing store, so you don’t have to go far for replacement items of your uniform. The clothing stores may have people available to tailor your clothes to your specific measurements and help make you look smarter- specifically if you are a higher class or rank, or are looking to replace your decorative or ceremonial garments.

Military Surplus Stores

There is usually a military surplus store nearby, where ever you’re based when not deployed. These stores offer a wide range of different military gear, and can offer good deals on the various garments that you may need. It may be a good idea to ring ahead and see if they have what you need in store. Many army surplus stores also operate online now, which is a great way to scout out deals and make sure that you get the most for your money.

If you’re going to buy from outside of the military, then get advice from your friends and colleagues as they may be able to recommend a good store.

Make sure that you inspect all items in the store before you buy, as some retailers buy both new and used articles. The best advice for buying online would be to buy new, as the description of the condition can be questionable and disputable from both sides.

Military Vehicles

You can also buy former military vehicles from specially held auctions. Normally registered online, you can buy vehicles singly or in lots and purchases can range from parts to cargo trucks to boats and more. You may need a licence to purchase certain types of military vehicles. It is wise to attend auctions in person, so you can check out whether the description matches the condition of the vehicle, and whether you’re happy with it over all – auction sales are final and only in very rare cases are they negotiable. Make sure you know the procedure for the auction so you can buy your military vehicle, as well as keeping in mind that you may have to pay for transportation, tax, any repairs, etc.

This post is a guest article by Timothy Brighton.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Drone Base Established in Niger, Africa

The United States has recently set up a drone base in the country of Niger located in West Africa. Unarmed Predator aircraft will fly from that location to support French-led efforts against insurgents in the country of Mali. Read more in "U.S. Opens Niger Drone Base, Building Africa Presence", The New York Times, February 22, 2013.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Small-footprint" Operations Effective in Somalia

Michael Sheehan, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict (SOLIC), at industry conference where he lauded the ability of small special operations forces to conduct effective counter-terrorism operations in problem areas such as Yemen and Somalia. He states that low-cost approaches with small footprints have helped push al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, and other terrorist organizations out of areas long considered sanctuaries. Read more in "Small-footprint Operations Effective, Official Says", American Forces Press Service, January 31, 2013.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

USSOCOM Needs Continued Support

A recent posting on AoL Defense by Sydney Freedberg on February 13, 2013 provides the argument that in the face of future defense cuts the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) based in Tampa, Florida needs continued funding. His interview with a member of the House Armed Services Committee provides the context for this argument. Learn more about the importance of the direct and indirect missions of SOCOM in this extensive article.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Air Travel Now Extremely Safe

A recent news article says that the airline industry is entering one of the safest in its history. The article states that globally air travel in 2012 was the safest since 1945. Read more in "Airline Industry at Its Safest Since the Dawn of the Jet Age", The New York Times, February 11, 2013.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

SFA and Mali - A Lack of Ethics Training?

One commentator provides his insight on the reports of ethics violations and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Mali army. He proposes that military training missions incorporate ethics and human rights training into Security Force Assistance training missions. While he poses a sound case one wonders if it is a practical solution for third world armies. These armies will do what they want to do once the training team departs - in this case, the Mali Army taking part in human rights abuses during the course of military operations and defecting to the insurgency.  You can read his article online - "US Security Force Assistance in Africa: Human Rights, Ethics Training a Must", Small Wars Journal, February 6, 2013.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Security Force Assistance in Time of Lower Defense Spending

In a time of budget cuts and shifting priorities (a Democratic-controlled government more interested in supporting entitlement programs and less interested in providing enough dollars for the defense of the nation) the Department of Defense (DoD) has to use unique measures to attain its objectives across the world.  A large standing army is not necessarily the best approach to providing security to third world and developing nations in a constrained economic environment. In addition to the fact that large conflicts cost money (and lives) the DoD has come to the realization that we probably are better off letting other nations fight their own wars.

One way of achieving the objectives above is to train and advise countries around the world (ones friendly to us) in matters of the military. In order to accomplish this DoD has been pushing the Security Force Assistance (SFA) concept - where teams of trainers and advisers go overseas and work with the militarys of other countries to help them become more professional and competent in order that they be able to solve their own security problems. One example of SFA is in Afghanistan where Security Force Assistance Advisor Teams or SFAATs are advising the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Derek S. Reveron, a professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College, has wrote an article about the DoD's Security Force Assistance program.  You can read it here on the Atlantic Council's New Atlanticist Policy and Analysis Blog. See "Defense Reduction through Security Force Assistance" published on February 8, 2013.

Friday, February 8, 2013

SOF TACLAN Contract Awarded to iGov

iGov of Reston, Virginia has been awarded a half-billion-dollar contract to provide SOF forces (USSOCOM) with increased tactical networking capability. "The TACLAN enables network-centric warfare capabilities by interconnecting deployed warfighters through a mobile information technology (IT) infrastructure and applications".  Read more in here in a February 6, 2013 news article by Miliary & Aerospace Electronics.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

SOF Needs to Stay Robust in Future

As we move away from Afghanistan (having already done so in Iraq) there will be moves to down-size the military. Those who advocate a smaller military should at the same time recognize that there will be continued conflict around the world and that the U.S. needs to be able to respond appropriately. The vast majority of these conflicts will be small and unconventional in nature - not requiring a large Navy, thousands of airplanes, and multiple divisions of Army and Marines on the ground. Many of these future conflicts, troubled-areas, and contingency events can be addressed with the very competent Special Operations Force (SOF) fielded by USSOCOM that has steadily gotten better and better over the last several decades. A writer, Whitney Grespin, states this argument very effectively in "Protecting Sound Investments: Preserving U.S. Special Operations Forces Assets in the Next Administration", Diplomatic Courier, February 6, 2013. You can view the article at the link below.

Business Defense Against Cyber Threats Inadequate

A recent report by the Federation of European Risk Management Associations (FERMA) has concluded that businesses are still not defending against cyber threats. The report was done in association with the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and other organizations. You can read more at the link below.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

U.S. Counterterrorism Effort in North Africa Less Than Successful

A recent news article states that the U.S. counterterrorism effort in North Africa has been less than successful. The primary evidence, according to the news article, are the recent events in northern Mali where a group of Islamic terrorists took control of the remote section of Mali despite years of effort by the United States. Read more in U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa defined by a decade of missteps, The Washington Post, February 4, 2013.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Invisible Armies by Max Boot

Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present by Max Boot is now available. The author examines the history of guerrilla warfare and how armies attempted to defeat insurgencies. Max Boot is a military historian, foreign policy advisor, commentator and author of other books on warfare (past and present). The author covers a wide range of irregular conflicts and insurgent leaders such as Washington, T.E. Lawrence, Mao, and others. This is a useful reference for those engaged in unconventional warfare and counterinsurgency. Irregular warfare is not going away and military professionals as well as government leaders and policy makers will need to understand this unique yet very common variant of conflict and how to defeat it. Although many of our military leaders would like to leave insurgent warfare (as in Iraq and Afghanistan) behind to concentrate on winning the big battles - it isn't going to happen. Guerrilla warfare is here to stay and we will need to know how to defeat it now and in the future.

The book is available here: Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present

Some book reviews of Invisible Armies:

"War by Other Means", Mark Mazower, The New York Times, January 25, 2013

"The Way We Fight: Max Boot's 'Invisible Armies'", The Daily Beast, January 21, 2013.

U.S. Special Ops and Mexico Anti-Drug Cartel Operations

The United States Special Operations community will be working closely with Mexican police and military authorities to help set up a JSOC type organization to fight the Mexican drug cartels. Kimberly Dozier first reported on this story in January in an Associated Press article (here) published in the Star Tribune entitled "New US special operations headquarters to help Mexican forces to fight drug gangs". She was recently interviewed by NPR about this story here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

FM 3-13 Inform and Influence Activities

The Army has just released a new field manual entitled Inform and Influence Activities or FM 3-13 (dated 25 January 2013). It replaces the old FM on Information Operations dated November 2003. The chapters cover topics such as the construct, aspects, capabilities, roles (including role of S-7), organization, targeting, assessment and engagement aspects of Inform and Influence Activities. 

If you read the field manual you will come to the realization that the Army now has a new acronym - "IIA". I just think that "IO" is so much simpler to say. "IIA" just doesn't seem to roll off the tongue. According to page VI of the new FM terms such as "IO assets", "IO capabilities", "IO cell", and "IO concept of operation" have now been rescinded.

The first paragraph of the FM's preface describes the purpose of the manual (see text in quotes below).
Field manual (FM) 3-13 provides doctrinal guidance and directions for conducting inform and influence activities (IIA) and discusses the importance of information in operational environments. It describes the Army’s view of how IIA aid the commander to gain an advantage through information. It develops the other principles, tactics, and procedures detailed in subordinate doctrinal publications.
I haven't read the FM completely but I hope it helps fix the broke IO machine that we have seen in operation in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past decade. The IO effort has been ineffective, slow, bureaucratic and simply outpaced and outperformed by the IO efforts that the insurgents in both theaters have conducted. One of the few favorable efforts put forth by ISAF has been the Radio in a Box or RIAB program and this is (for some insane reason) being dismantled.

The FM is available at the link below: