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: