Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Degrade and Defeat ISIL by John Allen

General John Allen (Ret), appointed by President Obama to be the special envoy to the international coalition to defeat ISIL, has penned a piece entitled "Degrading and Defeating ISIL" posted on DIPNOTE - U.S. Department of State Official Blog (December 29, 2014). The article spells out the objectives of the international coalition and the gains made thus far on the political and military front.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Operation Inherent Resolve

It appears that the Pentagon has finally named the campaign against the fighters of the Islamic State. The campaign against the Islamic State taking place in Iraq and Syria is now known as Operation Inherent Resolve.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Iraq War News

The war in Iraq (and Syria) is heating up. Advisors, intelligence types, SOF operators, JTACs, divisional headquarters, drones, Ospreys, the occasional CIA agent, contractors, and other types of personnel and equipment are flowing into Iraq or nearby countries to support the personnel conducting the air war and those who are wearing "sneakers on the ground". It can get confusing to try and figure it all out if you are not reading the daily classified SITREPs and sitting in on VTCs and staff meetings at the classified level. Fortunately there are a couple of websites out there that try to explain it all and put the information into context. One of these websites on the Iraq conflict is www.iraqwarnews.info. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ISIS and Air Power: Attrition Through Bombing?

The air power advocates are embracing the current bombing campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Air power in many conflicts works great (Kosovo, invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, invasion of Iraq 2003) but the effectiveness falls off once the initial target sets are destroyed and the enemy adapts. Air power in a hybrid or asymmetric war can only go so far. The type of warfare utilized by ISIS will morph based on how we fight them. Groups like ISIS are composed of three things that make them work: stuff, people and ideas (according to Matthew Cavanaugh of The War Council). Stuff, if it is large enough, can be found, and if valuable enough can be bombed and destroyed. People can be bombed if they mass in a big enough formation and if they can be found. Insurgents typically don't mass and try to blend in with the population. Where ISIS is trying to hold territory they certainly will be at risk. Where they are mounting offensives to gain more territory they are at risk. Ideas are hard to destroy by bombing; especially if a group like ISIS is better at tweeting than you are. So defeating or destroying ISIS through attrition (by bombing) is unlikely; degrading through attrition (bombing) is surely possible. Air power, when combined with SOF operators and JTACs on the ground to identify targets can be effective. When air power, SOF/JTACs, and ground troops (Free Syrian Army, Kurds, Iraqi Army, and other Arab forces) can be extremely effective and could possibly lead to defeat within Iraq. Syria? Probably not. Read an interesting article on this topic in "Destroying Value: ISIS, The Anaconda, and War on the Cheap", The War Council, October 1, 2014.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Paper - SOF and Private Security Companies

A paper has recently been published in Parameters and posted on the Strategic Studies Institute portal of the U.S. Army that looks at the relationship between special operations forces and private security companies (or private military companies). The paper abstract is below:
"This article examines the potential role of private security companies as part of a global special forces network. It reveals three factors that may influence the utility of such companies: (1) the industry's largely defensive forces; (2) the implications of serving a humanitarian and development clientele; and (3) the challenges of retired special forces personnel moving to the private sector".
The paper - "Special Operations Forces & Private Security Companies" - by Christopher Spearin, was published in Parameters, 44(2) Summer 2014, pages 61-73. Dr. Spearin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Defence Studies of the Royal Military College of Canada located at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, Ontario.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An Independent Kurdistan?

Kurdistan has been in the news a lot over the past few months as we learn more and more about the struggle in Iraq and Syria. Prior to 2014 few people could accurately place Kurdistan on the map - a geographic area containing Kurds in northwestern Syria, southwestern Turkey, northwestern Iran and northeastern Iraq. This area of the world almost gained its independence shortly after World War I but soon found out it was sold down the river by the European powers. Since then, it has suffered as a minority population in those four countries.

A huge change has taken place for Kurdistan as a result of the current conflict in Iraq. In 2014 the Kurds of Iraq have emerged as the force that will make the difference between the Islamic State being contained or becoming a true nation spanning the greater part of Iraq and Syria.

Up until mid-2014 the Obama administration was reluctant to provide arms, money, equipment, air support, and advisors to the Kurds. Its stance was that any aid to the Kurds should flow through the corrupt and inept central government run by the Shia regime.

During the height of the Iraq War (2006-2007) Vice President Biden was one of the few politicians who thought that Iraq would survive and thrive as a three-state entity - the Shia, Sunni, and Kurds each having an autonomous region. There was little support for that notion; especially from the political right. Some neo-cons have had a change of heart - see a piece entitled "Hello Kurdistan" by Daniel Pipes (September 10, 2014).

Then the rapid advance of the Islamic State and the embarrassing losses of the Iraqi Army turned the tables. The Obama administration was hit in the face with reality; coming to the realization that if the Islamic State was to be stopped it would be largely because the Peshmerga came to the rescue. Soon air support and aid flowed to the Kurds. This aid should continue and efforts should support the independence of an Iraq Kurdistan. This new entity should be welcomed into the world. The United States would finally have a "friend" in the Middle East that we could depend on. The question is - can the Kurds depend on the United States?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

SAMA Contract for Advisors and Trainers in Iraq

With the newly declared commitment on the part of President Obama to form a coalition to fight the Islamic State there is widespread speculation among the civilian firms providing services and support to the Department of Defense on the possibility of lucrative contracts in Iraq and the Middle East in general. The fight against the Islamic State (also referred to as ISIL and ISIS) will likely last for a number of years. The President has said (in a September 2014 nationwide speech) that the U.S. (and the coalition) will degrade, defeat and destroy the Islamic State. Hmmmm. Degrade maybe. Defeat a slight maybe. Destroy? Very unlikely. At any rate, the fight may go on for years and defense contracts in support of the effort are likely to be forthcoming.

One of the first contracts may be to provide advisory and training services to the Iraq ministries of defense and interior. The use of experienced civilian advisors would lessen the need for military advisors to operate in Baghdad - decreasing the overall number of U.S. military in Iraq.

In fact, the defense department has already sent out a "solicitation" for " . . . interested vendors with the capability of performing Security Assistance Mentors and Advisors (SAMA) services in Iraq."

The contracted firm would provide personnel to support the Government of Iraq (GoI) in ". . . administration, force development, procurement and acquisition, contracting, training management, public affairs, logistics, personnel management, professional development, communications, planning and operations, infrastructure management, intelligence and executive development". The advisors would be working at the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).

U.S. special operations forces (SOF) previously provided advisors and trainers to the CTS and its subordinate units in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq but these were significantly reduced towards the end of 2011. In early 2013 the President directed the CIA to provide assistance to the CTS in an effort to fight al-Qaida affiliates backing Islamic militant groups in Syria.

The advising mission will likely be similar to the Security Forces Assistance advisory effort that will be in place during the Resolute Support mission that will start in January 2015 in Afghanistan. The SAMA solicitation (W560MY-14-R-0004) was posted on August 11, 2014 on the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website. You can read the solicitation online at this link.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Army Closes Army Irregular Warfare Center (AIWC)

The Demise of the Army Irregular Warfare Center

It appears that the U.S. Army is once again burying the hard-earned lessons learned of counterinsurgency. The same thing happened at the end of the Vietnam War. Forgetting the counterinsurgency lessons of Vietnam (the conventional army wanted to get ready for the Soviet troops that would invade western Europe) would cost us dearly in the early days of Afghanistan and Iraq. Once the army recognized that it was fighting insurgencies in both Afghanistan and Iraq it had to quickly re-learn the doctrine, strategy and tactics of counterinsurgency. The early beginnings of the Counterinsurgency Center (now called the AIWC) had its origins in the need to gather up past COIN lessons learned and disseminate them in a field manual entitled Counterinsurgency (FM 3-24).

The Army is getting rid of the organization that would capture the lessons and educate the force on the past decade of fighting insurgents. On October 1, 2014 the Army Irregular Warfare Center (AIWC) will close its doors.  The AIWC mission is described below (taken from the AIWC portal):

"The AIWC integrates and collaborates information exchange and analysis for irregular warfare (IW) activities in order to advocate DOTMLPF-P solutions addressing IW capabilities and threats. AIWC synchronizes and assists in the development of IW and Countering Irregular Threats (CIT) enterprise to support a coherent Army strategy that accounts for building partner capacity, stability operations and other pre-crisis activities".

The IW center's focus was on integration, security cooperation, security force assistance, stability operations, and counterinsurgency. As defined by Joint Publication 1-02 (January 2011), "Irregular Warfare is a violent struggle between state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations. IW favors indirect and asymmetric approaches, though it may employ the full range of military and other capabilities, in order to erode an adversary's power, influence and will". The five primary activities of IW include Foreign Internal Defense, Counterinsurgency (COIN), Counterterrorism, Stability Operations, and Unconventional Warfare.

The center, at one time it was called the "Counterinsurgency Center" (formed in 2006), is responsible for the development of irregular warfare doctrine (to include counterinsurgency). It had as its leader and staff members of the military community that were knowledgeable on irregular warfare in all its variations. It was recently responsible for the publishing of the recently issued FM 3-24, Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies, May 2014.

It is truly amazing that the Army would close AIWC. Irregular Warfare is the most common type of conflict in the world today. One only has to look around the globe for examples such as Russia's use of hybrid warfare in the Ukraine, the mix of conventional and IW by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and the current insurgency in Afghanistan where the Security Force Assistance mission is still ongoing.

It is unknown who will pick up the task of keeping the Army current on irregular warfare and counterinsurgency (perhaps they will leave that to the Navy or Air Force). A more appropriate organization would be the U.S. Army Special Warfare Center and School. At one time the U.S. Army Special Forces were considered the experts on counterinsurgency. One would have thought that the Special Warfare Center and School (SWCS) would have been in charge of writing the 2006 version of FM 3-24. Perhaps the next update will come from SWCS in a few years?

See "Irregular Warfare Center to close Oct. 1", Army Times, September 1, 2014.
Learn more about the Army Irregular Warfare Center (AIWC).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Unconventional Warfare A Better Option for U.S. Goals

A recent article in Foreign Policy Magazine by Whitney Kassel raises some interesting points on the use of unconventional warfare (UW) to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives. The author provides us examples of how training, advising, assisting, and equipping foreign military forces have yielded less than optimal results for the goals of the United States. The Pentagon calls this providing Security Force Assistance (SFA) to a Foreign Security Force (FSF) . See Security Force Assistance in Afghanistan for an example of SFA at work.

Kassel argues that the White House et al should consider the use of unconventional warfare by Special Operations Forces (SOF). A more accurate consideration would be UW by U.S. Army Special Forces; this military organization is specially trained for UW (see Special Forces training). The example provided in the article is the use of Peshmerga forces in the current Iraq conflict. The Peshmerga, Kurdish security forces, are organized loosely as either part of  the regional security force of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) or one of the militias of various Kurdish political parties in Kurdistan. Read the full article at the link below:

"Send in the Guerrillas", Foreign Policy Magazine, September 8, 2014.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

DoD Report - North Korea's Military

The Department of Defense has released an annual report to Congress on the military and security situation in North Korea. The report, entitled Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People's Republic of Korea 2013, was published on February 4, 2014. The report provides an assessment of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, factors shaping the North Korean security and military strategy, trends in North Korean security, doctrine, capabilities, and other military security developments. The report is an Adobe Acrobat PDF, is 22 pages
long, and less than 1 MB big. It can be read online or downloaded from a DoD website at the link below.


Special Forces to Train Iraqi Army in Jordan

Recent news reports indicate that United States Special Forces teams have been sent to Jordan to take part in training events with Jordanian and Iraqi Special Forces units. This is a quiet and small way of helping out the Iraqi government in its attempt to quell the rising power of the Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Of course, the resurgence of the terrorists and guerrillas in Iraq is a result of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki not sharing power with the Sunni's. The training event will bolster the ability of the Iraqi special units to conduct special operations. Read more in "U.S. Special Forces Sent to Train Iraqi Special Forces in Jordan", The New York Times, March 7, 2014.

U.S. Military Increases Footprint in Africa - But it is a Small Footprint

While the United States military continues its withdrawal from Afghanistan it is increasing its presence in many parts of Africa. The role of the U.S. military in Africa is that of training and advising host nation military forces. The Marines, Army and Special Forces are sending small teams to various locations to conduct small-scale operations.The command that has responsibility for Africa is Africa Command or AFRICOM located in Stuttgart, Germany. It is headed by a four-star general (currently General David M. Rodriguez). AFRICOM is one of six unified geographic combatant commands within the Department of Defense unified command structure. The mission of AFRICOM is to deter and defeat transnational threats, prevent future conflicts, support humanitarian and disaster relief, and protect U.S. security interests on the African continent. Read a recent news story on military deployments to Africa in "U.S. military presence in Africa growing in small ways", Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2014.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Retirement Perks for Generals and Admirals Questioned in Light of COLA Decrease for Military Retirees

One of the provisions of the Ryan-Murray budget deal was to slash a percentage point off the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) provided to veterans at the end of each year. So if the cost of living is 3% in a given year the veterans COLA is only increased to 2%. Over the course of time this adds up to a lot of lost money. Hopefully members of Congress will change this over the next few weeks. Congress saw the veterans as an easy target. Less than 1 per cent of the population ever serves in the military; so recognizing a weak voting block they saw an opportunity to save $6 billion. Of note, is the silence of our senior general officers on this matter. It would appear that they care more about weapons systems (airplanes, ships, and tanks) than about the people that operate them. Of special note is a perk that generals and admirals receive if they retire with more than 40 years service. These individuals receive more than the base pay they would have received while on active duty. Read more on this in "Senator Questions Retirement Perks for Generals and Admirals", POGO.org, February 5, 2014.

Iraqi Suicide Bomber Recruiter Suffers Work Accident; Kills 21 Of His Would-be Suicide Bombers

Iraqi Bomb Maker Detonates Bomb In Class - Just a Bit Early!

In a case of "you can't make this up" we learn that an Iraqi recruiter and trainer of suicide bombers has accidentally killed himself and 21 of his students. The students would presumably be suicide bombers who would enter Shia neighborhoods in Iraq or target members of the Iraq security forces and self-detonate. Read more in "Suicide Bomb Instructor Accidentally Kills Iraqi Pupils", The New York Times, February 10, 2014.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

More Tanks Make Us Less Safe

Pennsylvania is home to a major plant producing armored vehicles for the Army. Funding for armored vehicles will likely go away if the Army gets its way. It has too many tanks and armored vehicles now. With the budget for the military shrinking the Army is faced with cutting its combat brigades and carefully choosing which weapons systems it needs. However, Congress allocates the funds. Congress will attempt to keep funding for armored vehicles at a higher rate than needed protecting the profits of firms in their congressional districts and protecting jobs. If Congress gets its way the nation suffers. We will buy equipment that we don't need and will not have enough money for the equipment that we do need. Warfare changes and so does the equipment needed to fight the wars; we need to be adaptable and think about more than a firms bottom line and a few hundred jobs at a defense firm. Read more in "The end of the tank? The Army says it doesn't need it, but industry wants to keep building it", The Washington Post, January 31, 2014.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Piracy and the Law

Read a review of an article entitled "Using Force on Land to Suppress Piracy at Sea" by Steven R. Obert. The article is an addition to the legal literature on piracy. Read more in on the article on the Lawfare Blog.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Failing to Learn COIN Lessons (Again)

A retired military officer and scholar writes on how we will soon make the same mistake at the conclusion of the Afghan War that we made at the conclusion of the Vietnam War - not learning from lessons learned. A most excellent article. He cites some reasons for the neglecting of COIN lessons learned after Vietnam: the war was over, NATO had to be able to take on the Soviet Bloc in Europe, and the 1973 Arab-Israeli Conflict had shown the value of high-tech weaponry to defeat an enemy. The U.S. moved into the AirLand Battle doctrine which was Europe centric. The Army was convinced that the general purpose forces, if well-trained for conventional combat, could easily prevail in other cases or types of warfare. Read more in "Failure to Learn: Reflections on a Career in the Post-Vietnam Army", War on the Rocks, January 24, 2014.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

How the Army Loses Its Leaders

The United States military sinks a lot of time, money, and effort to educate, train, and develop its leaders. The professional education programs are unmatched by the civilian world. However, the military fails when it comes to officer assignments. One of the results of poor officer management is that the military services bleed talent -officers leave prior to their finishing up their 20, 25, or 30 year careers. In addition, many officers who do stay are unable to contribute nearly as much as they could if assignment policies and "career paths" were less restrictive. Learn more in "How to lose great leaders? Ask the Army", The Washington Post, February 5, 2013.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

33,000 Jobs for Women to Open in Army

MAJ Melissa Bembenek
(2011 photo by SPC White)
The Army will open up a lot more positions for women in 2014 - about 33,000 jobs total. The new positions are available as part of the elimination by the Department of Defense of the direct ground combat exclusion policy (put in place in 1994). The policy barred women, regardless of their military occupational specialty (MOS), from being assigned to any combat units below the brigade level. Read more in "Army opening 33,000 jobs to women", Army Times, January 23, 2014.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Give the A-10s to the Army and Save Billions

The Air Force generals are once again trying to scrap the A-10 Warthog close air support aircraft. The A-10 was specifically designed to support ground troops and kill tanks in a European conflict against the Soviet bloc nations. It saw extensive service in Iraq and Afghanistan supporting the ground troops. It is the best ground support aircraft in the inventory. However, the A-10 isn't sexy and the Air Force is trying to dump it once again. The replacement aircraft will be the F-35A. Current plans are to acquire 1,743 F-35As - and 300 of them would be allocated to the ground support role. As we have seen in the past whenever you develop a multi-role aircraft it tends to do all things okay. In this case the F-35A will be an "okay" ground support aircraft - not a "superb" one like the A-10. The cost of the 300 F-35s allocated to the ground support role will be $37 billion. The cost of retaining the A-10s will be $3.7 billion. Hmmmm. Let's do the math. Yep. Keep the A-10. Save money by making 300 less F-35s. And while we are it, let's give the A-10 to the service that wants and needs it. Give the A-10 to the Army and the Army National Guard. Read more in "Save the A-10: Give it to the Army", Real Clear Defense, January 22, 2014. (Photo by DVIDS).

USAID Sees Growth with Afghan and Iraq Wars

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has seen some rough times in the 1990s when Congress wanted to abolish the agency or move it into the State Department. However, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq brought it back into the forefront. What is especially crucial about the role that USAID played is that it was one of the actions arms of the counterinsurgency doctrine used in both wars. Read an article (and view a 23 minute video) about USAID and the challenges it faced in the past and the key role it played over the last decade in the Middle East and South Central Asia in "Bruising 1990s and Sept. 11 shape today's USAID", DEVEX, January 20, 2013.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Odierno Shows Disrespect to Army Guard

The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) is quite displeased with the lack of respect that General Ray Odierno has shown to members of the Army National Guard. A recent speech by the Army's Chief of Staff was less than complimentary on the Army National Guard. Some of the statements that Odierno made was that the guard and active army were not interchangeable, the guard only trains 39 days a year, and that the guard must decrease its size. Read more in "Army chief's comments 'disrespectful' of Guard, NGAUS president says", Army Times, January 13, 2014.

Will Congress Reverse COLA Cuts for Veterans?

Retired military veterans are looking closely at Congress and how it acts to fix the disgraceful reduction in Cost of Living Expenses (COLA) that Representative Ryan (Republican) and others in Congress endorsed. Representative Ryan - usually supported by veterans - will soon find he (and others) will be losing support if this COLA cut stands. Learn more in "What Will Congress Cut to 'Support Our Troops?", National Journal, January 20, 2014.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Piracy in Gulf of Guinea Region

The Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa is seeing an uptick in pirate attacks on shipping. There were a total of 48 pirate attacks in the region last year (2013). In 2010 pirates started to focus less on smaller fishing vessels and more on oil tankers. It is unlikely that there will be a deployment of European Union naval forces to this area to combat piracy. However there will probably be some naval advisers and funding for ship tracking capabilities extended to some of the coastal African nations. Read more in  "For a different African piracy problem, Navy seeks solutions on shore", Stars and Stripes, January 20, 2014.

Locker Room Talk to Cease at Military Academies

The "chickification" of the American military continues. Pentagon officials have stated that they are now going to concentrate on eliminating crude behavior and "locker room talk" at the military academies. The officials say that they want to review policies and training in order to socialize the cadets to the new norms of behavior. Learn more in "Military cracks down on locker room talk", The Hill's Defense Blog, January 10, 2014.

Senate Vote Upcoming on Veterans Pension Cuts

The United States Senate may vote soon on restoring the cuts to retired Veterans. The latest budget passed by Congress sliced $6 billion off the budget by reducing the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) raises per year by 1%. For many veterans who retired expecting a pension from the government for their many years of service this was a kick in the teeth. Congress needs to reduce the deficit and balance the books but there are other places to do this. They should be looking at the payments made to those who are chronically unemployed ($8 billion was recently voted to extend freebies for three more months), eliminating expensive weapons systems, reducing pork barrel expenditures, and developing efficiencies within a bloated government that needs downsizing. Congress should not be punishing one of the most productive segments of society. Read more in "Senate could vote to restore $6B military pension cut next week", DEFCON Hill Blog, January 21, 2014.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Iraqi Commandos to be Trained by US in Jordan

There is the possibility that Iraqi Commandos could be trained by U.S military forces at a private military training facility in Jordan. Jordan and Iraq share a common border. The United States is grappling with how to support an Iraqi government that has neglected and isolated the Sunni population resulting in increased support to al-Qaeda in Iraq. The insurgency is once again growing and the Iraq government and military are having difficulty keeping it under control. Without a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraq government the United States will not put trainers or advisors back on the ground in Iraq; however, it can offer training assistance to selected Iraq units. Read more in "U.S. could train elite Iraqi forces in Jordan", Chicago Tribune, January 9, 2104.

COLA Breach of Faith Hearings

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold hearings on the impact of the pending cost-of-living adjustment cuts for military retirees. The COLA reductions (1% each year) will have a huge impact on the overall retirement pay that veterans receive. This is a terrible breach of faith to the veterans that served 20 or more years - especially in light of the past twelve years where the country has been constantly at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Learn more in "Senate to hold hearing on pending COLA cuts", Military Times, January 20, 2014.

Reflective Belts and the Air Force

The Air Force has rescinded its rule that Air Force members must wear the very famous and despised reflective belt anywhere and everywhere with its Physical Fitness uniform. Someone appears to have some common sense in the Air Force. See the story here. One wonders if the Army will follow suit (read more on Army's policy of reflective belts).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Budget Fight: Creating Tension Between Active Army and Army National Guard

There is a little bit of tension developing between leaders of the active component of the Army and the Army National Guard. The tension, in part, stems from recent (Jan 14) statements made by the U.S. Army Chief General Ray Odierno about the National Guard not being able to take on some of the active-duty force's responsibilities. Odierno believes that as the active duty strength falls the Army National Guard strength should also fall.

A contrary line of thinking is that saving money could be the result of decreasing the size of the active component and increasing the size of the guard and reserve component. The reasoning is that the guard and reserves are less costly because the troops would receive part-time pay, require very little infrastructure support, and would live at home. A comparison of actual training days served between the reserve component and the active duty force would see that the cost benefit of the reserve component. Critics who say that the guard and reserve only train 39 days a month (two week annual training and monthly weekend drills) have not kept pace with the busy OPTEMPO of the reserve components over the past twelve years. Many reservists and guardsmen spend months on active duty every year participating in training events, exercises, and schools. In addition, the reserve components have sent units multiple times to deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. One constraint for additional training time for the guard and reserve is the limited amount of training and school funds provided by the active component - if this amount increases it would decrease the training gap considerably.

Read more in the news articles below:

"Air Force, Guard, Reserve: Can't They All Just Get Along", National Defense, January 10, 2014.

"Guard leaders stress readiness as budget war rages", Delaware Online, January 11, 2014.

"Trouble Brewing Between US Army's Active Duty and Guard Forces", Defense News, January 13, 2014.

SOCOM Orders Radios from Harris Corporation

USSOCOM is improving its communications ability with the purchase of additional radios. It has just presented Harris Corporation with a contract of $18 million in additional wideband tactical radios - more Falcon III AN/PRC-117G and AN/PRC-152A radios. The radios, among other purposes, will deliver tactical Internet capability to the battlefield. Applications will run on the radios (and network) that provide collaborative chat, biometric enrollments, video conferencing, and video ISR. Read a press release by Harris Corporation on The Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2014. (Photo by CPL Manuel Guerrero, 17 Feb 2010).

Paper - Employing ISR

A recent paper has been published in the January-February 2014 Air & Space Power Journal entitled "Employing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance: Organizing, Training, and Equipping to Get it Right". The paper states that the Department of Defense must move forward quickly to not only acquire ISR systems but needs to also define how they will be employed and who is to manage the ISR system or network. The author says that there is a lack of joint and service-specific guidance or employment standards. The guidance is necessary to ensure mission success and the effective integration of ISR at the tactical level. You can view the article at the link below.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Somali Pirates Apprehended After Attack on Oil Tanker

In one of the first pirate attacks in 2014 five Somali pirates were apprehended after they unsuccessfully tried to board an oil tanker. The oil tanker private security team repelled the attackers. The European Naval Force boarded the pirate mothership and took the five prisoners for subsequent legal action. Learn more in "Suspects Apprehended in 2014's First Gulf of Aden Pirate Attack", Maritime Executive, January 20, 2014.

SOCOM GMV Contract Disputed

AM General is disputing the SOCOM award of a $562 million contract to General Dynamics for the Ground Mobility Vehicle program. AM General is the maker of the HUMVEE which is being replaced by the HUMVEE based GMV. Read more about this in "AM General Sues SOCOM Over Vehicle Contract", Defense News, January 10, 2014.

Sunni-Shia Conflict Could Widen in Middle East

The Sunni - Shia conflict in the Middle East currently being played out in Iraq and Syria could potentially widen and engulf the entire Middle East. In Iraq the Shia dominated government has successfully alienated the Sunni population with the result that al Qaeda Iraq (AQI) has seen a resurgence. In Syria Sunni extremist groups have hijacked the revolution from moderates and are fighting the Shia-based Syrian government. The United States and other Western powers are liable to get dragged into the conflict. Read more in "Former NATO commander warns of wider war in Middle East", Stars and Stripes, January 20, 2014.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

UAE Presidential Guard to Receive Training from USMC

According to recent news reports, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will receive training in operations and logistics from the United States Marine Corps and contractors. The Presidential Guard of the UAE will be the beneficiary of this training. The proposed contract would provide training for counterterrorism, counterpiracy, national defense, and critical infrastructure protection. The UAE has been a steady partner of the U.S. in Afghanistan. Read more in "US Congress Notified to Approve $150 Million UAE Training", Defense News, January 9, 2014.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Attack on Tricare Prime

The Congressional Budget Office has released a report saying that the Pentagon could save nearly $90 billion over the next ten years if it pushed working-age military retirees out of Tricare Prime. The reduction in benefits would prompt veterans to seek alternative medical plans and force veterans to use fewer medical services because of the increase in cost sharing. Hopefully the CBO report will be ignored and the veterans won't get short-changed once again. That would allow the Pentagon to buy more expensive weapons systems. Read more in "CBO: Bar younger retirees from Tricare Prime, save $90 billion", Military Times, January 17, 2014.

USSOCOM Invests in Fixed-wing Aircraft

The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is spending lots of money to upgrade its fleet of special operations aircraft. Most of the money will be spent to upgrade the C-130 fleet that performs multiple tasks (refuel, transport, cargo, gunship, etc.) and the U-28 PC-12 transport aircraft. One of the C-130 variants is the AC-130 gunship which sports sensors, a 30 mm gun, standoff precision-guided munitions, and more. Other aircraft to see some money put to their programs include the CV-22 Osprey and MH-60 helicopters. Read more in "U.S. SOCOM Increases Investment in Weaponized Fixed-Wing Aircraft", National Defense, January 17, 2014.

Visual Media Reasoning Program (DARPA)

A software program to extract information from digital photos and videos is being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The program, dubbed Visual Media Reasoning Program, will allow intelligence analysts to gather information quickly in an automated fashion. The visual search reasoning filters can scan thousands of images in seconds - looking at weapons, facial recognition, vehicles, graphics, and logos. Terrorist organizations and other adversaries have used media to hide messages and documents as a means of communication and this software will help detect those messages and documents. Read more in "Visual Media Reasoning Program Gleans Intel from Cyberspace", American Forces Press Service, January 10, 2014.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Social Network Analysis and Intelligence

Social Network Analysis or SNA has proven itself as a useful tool for analysts working in the intelligence field. There are a number of computer programs such as GIS, Palantir, and others that assist in the analyzing of large amounts of data that aid in connecting the dots of an organization or social network. Learn more about SNA in a recent online article entitled "The Potential of Social Network Analysis in Intelligence", OODA Loop, January 10, 2014.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Stryker Vehicles to Get V-Hull Upgrade

The U.S. Army Stryker vehicles will be going through a significant upgrade over the next few years (funding permitting of course). Most of the Strykers are currently flat-bottomed which makes them at risk to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and mines emplaced on the roads. Some of the Stryker vehicles have been retrofitted to have V-shaped hulls which deflect a lot of the blast up and out. The new design is called the heavily armored "double V-hull" or DVH configuration. There currently are nine Stryker brigades in the Army; two of them already have the new configuration. Read more in "US Plans Radical Upgrade of Stryker Brigades", Defense News, January 12, 2014. (photo to left by Chief Petty Officer Bill Mesta, CJSOTF-A, August 30, 2012.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

U.S. to Train Libya Soldiers in 2014

The commander of AFRICOM has stated that the U.S. military will begin training Libyan soldiers in 2014. The 24-week training program will shore up security in the country in the aftermath of the 2011 demise of Moammar Gadhafi. The government army of Libya is weak and decentralized. There are numerous militias that control different regions of the country and of the major cities making security and governance problematic. Learn more in "US to Start Training Libyan Soldiers at Midyear", AP, January 9, 2014.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Piracy at Lowest Levels in 6 Years

The International Marine Bureau (IMB) revealed that piracy at sea has reached its lowest levels in six years. The biggest reason for the worldwide drop is the decrease in piracy off the coast of Somalia. There have been a number of factors for the reduction of piracy off Somalia's shores to include a stronger Somalia central government, private armed security guards on merchant ships, security measures and equipment on ships transiting the region, and naval warships patrolling the waters near Somalia. Read more in "Somali Pirate Clampdown Caused Drop in Global Piracy", Maritime-Executive, January 15, 2014.

Breach of Faith - Congress Reneges on Veteran Promises

In the passing of the omnibus spending bill in mid-January Congress has let it be known that it does not care for the veterans of this country who have fought its wars. In the bill is a measure that reduces the annual Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) raise for military retirees to 1% below the annual cost of living. The reduction of the retirement benefit will save the government about $6 billion. They certainly wasted no time in finding the money to extend unemployment benefits for another three months (approximately $6.5 billion). So essentially Congress took promised benefits from those who earned it in combat zones and gave the savings to those "chronically unemployed" who "can't find work". Read more in "COLA fixes miss the mark", Army Times, January 14, 2014.

Byblos - Speech Recognition Program for Military

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on a project to help military members in processing information in other languages. The speech recognition system has a state of the art trainable, large vocabulary, and speaker-independent capability. The program is suitable for audio and video broadcasts in foreign languages and will help analysts sort through the large volume of information available. Learn more about this speech recognition system in "DARPA Experts Break Language Barriers With Technology", American Forces Press Service, January 9, 2014.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Military Pay COLA Reduction - Where Are Our Generals On This Pay Cut?

By now everyone should be aware that Congress has done a huge disservice to the small fraction of the military veterans who actually qualify to receive a pension based on service of  between 20-40 years to the nation. Congress decided to reduce the Cost of Living Increase (COLA) for military retirees by 1% each year. So if the cost of living increase was 1.5% in 2014 then the military retiree would receive a .5% COLA increase. Not a very good "Thank you" for serving the past 20 years or more while long-term conflicts raged in Iraq and Afghanistan. A very small portion - only 1% of the population - of Americans ever serve in the military and a small fraction of them ever qualify for retirement; so the lobbying power of the military retiree is not that strong.

One wonders where the voice of the military generals and admirals are (both active duty and retired). A previous post on this blog discusses the silence of the generals. There seems to be more to the story. A recent USA Today article (January 8, 2014) reveals that any three- and four-star admirals and generals get a boost in their retirement pay. Instead of the 50% or more of the active duty pay these high-ranking officers will actually make more money in retirement than they did on active duty. Read the complete story here in "Pensions continue to grow for military brass".

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Personnel Recovery Upgrades for Military

The Pentagon is purchasing some new equipment to help in the rescue of military personnel behind enemy lines. Two new contracts, one for the Navy and one for the Air Force, will provide new individual signaling equipment for rescue and aid Personnel Recovery organizations in the rescue planning and execution. The Navy is buying "Man Overboard Indicators" from a firm called BriarTek - which are miniature radios that transmit a water-activated alarm when a sailor falls off a ship. The Air Force is upgrading its "Combat Survivor Evader Locator (CSEL)" with a contract with Boeing. When activated by the Isolated Person (IP) the CSEL handheld radio transmits the GPS location and identification. The Army also issues and trains selected personnel in the use of the CSEL. Learn more about these two projects in "Pentagon Boost Ability to Rescue Men Overboard or Behind Enemy Lines", Time Swampland, January 9, 2014. (photo by SSgt Eric Harris, Nov 17, 2012).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Pullups, Marines, Men, Women, and Hand-to-Hand Combat

Photo from USMC.mil
It appears that the Marine Corps has discovered something that a high-school football coach and/or biology teacher could have told them if asked. Men and women are built different. Because they are built different they perform physical tasks to different levels of ability. This ability to perform physical tasks translates into how much weight they can carry or lift (a rucksack, wounded Marine, or mortar plate), how fast they can run (when dodging bullets dressed in kevlar and body armor and carrying a machine gun), how many pullups they can do (physical fitness test), and how successful they would be in hand-to-hand combat with a determined enemy who wants to kill them (pick any war in the past or the future).

In November 2012 the Marines sent out a message saying that effective January 1, 2014 there will be a new minimum standard for Marine females (see ALMARS 046/12, 271120ZNov12). The new standard for Marine females is now a minimum of 3 pullups (for 40 points) to pass and a maximum of 8 to get 100 points. For men the minimum is 3 (for 15 points) and the max is 20 (for 100 points). The establishment of the same minimum standard for men and women is a weak attempt to show that the standards are the same. Recent news shows that men passed the 3 pullup minimum with ease while over half of the women failed the physical fitness event. Just 1% of men failed the 3 pullup minimum.

In 2013 the Marines published a website (see below) to help unit commanders and females adapt to the new training requirement. The website provides training information to help females transition from the Flexed Arm Hang (FAH) to the manly pullup.

The initial results have not been good. The new physical fitness test (less than one month old) for women has now been put on hold (hard to use a test where over half of the women fail). For the time being the Marines will return to the 'flexed-arm hang'.

This speaks volumes about the validity of the Obama administration to force the military to integrate women into armor, artillery, infantry and special operations units. Men and women are built different and perform physical events to different standards. Belonging to a combat unit means the physical demands are greater. Common sense should prevail over social experimentation. Where are our hard-core Marine generals when we need them? One could expect Army generals to "roll over" on this issue; but the Marines? Are the Marine generals too concerned with their next promotion being approved by Congress that they cannot express the truth?

Read more in:

Marine Corps Female Physical Fitness Test - Pullup Training Website

"Female marines can't do three pullups, shows some military tasks are for men", The Washington Times, January 9, 2014.

"Flexed-arm hang out, pullups in", DVIDS, December 13, 2012.

"Bye bye flex arm hang", DVIDS, December 3, 2012.

"Order issued changing physical fitness rules for female Marines", ABC 10 News, November 28, 2012.

Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test Standards. Wikipedia.
USMC Physical Fitness Test

How Does State Dept Designate Foreign Terrorist Organizations?

The U.S. Department of State has two main authorities for terrorism designations of groups and individuals. These two designations are "Foreign Terrorist Organizations" and "Specially Designated Global Terrorists". There are several differences between the two groups and how the designation process takes place; as well as the consequences of the designation. To learn more about the terrorist organization designation process see "Terrorism Designations FAQ", U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet, January 10, 2014.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Battlefield Effectiveness Enhanced by Digital Targeting Technology

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing a new battlefield targeting system to enhance the effectiveness of the military aircrews, combat controllers, and others to employ guided weapons. DARPA's Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) program has a digital air-to-ground coordination capability that improves shared situational awareness. Learn more in "Digital Targeting Technology Increases Battlefield Awareness", American Forces Press Service, January 10, 2014.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

U.S. Military Advisers Now in Somalia

The United States has deployed a small cell of military advisers to Somalia - reportedly at some point in the fall of 2013. The advisor cell is based in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and advise and assist African troops fighting the al-Shabab militia (an Islamist group tied to al-Qaeda). In January 2013 the United States recognized the new federal government of Somalia and since that time has stepped up various forms of aid to that country. Over the years the United States has conducted clandestine special operations missions and drone activities on a limited basis - along with the activities that the Central Intelligence Agency probably has been conducting as well. Learn more in "U.S. has deployed military advisers to Somalia, officials say", The Washington Post, January 10, 2014.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Military Officers: Profession of Arms or Masters of Bureaucracy?

An interesting article was posted on the Tom Ricks blog on Foreign Policy. The article entitled "The decay of the profession of arms" is penned by MAJ Mathew Cavanaugh - an Army instructor at West Point. He points out that we (condensing his long article) have more bureaucrats than intellectual officers in the Army. He raises a valid point. He cites two reasons for the lack of intellectual depth and a tendency to bureaucracy - a "lack of effort" on the part of individual officers and a collective "fear of disloyalty" if challenges are made to the system. I found myself in agreement with most of his article.

I did pause in his suggestion (or is it the suggestion of LTC Fernando Lugan)  that West Point become the " . . . epicenter of the Army's intellectual renaissance . . .". After serving 40 years in the military and being exposed to the product of West Point I really have my doubts of this recommendation. Perhaps Leavenworth is the better location for this type of intellectual endeavor.

However, more illuminating are the many comments by other readers at the bottom (end) of his article. Comments by others I found myself in strong agreement with or very puzzled by:

Strong Agreement. 

- Intellectual center should be Leavenworth; not West Point.
- 'bob.stone': His comments were educational and provide clarity on officer education. But I didn't like his comments on the bureaucracy and "if you don't like it . . ." ". . get out . . .". Is "bob" part of the problem?
- The comment by "Majrod" on "chickafication" is precious.
- One comment said that the new Foreign Policy site "sucks". Absolutely  - I find it loud, difficult to navigate and not lending the right 'atmosphere' to an intellectual forum.


- I read the "Joint Adaptive Expeditionary Warfare . . . " phrase twice and understood it (after the second reading!).
- West Point as the center for "Profession of Arms'? I think not. One example comes to mind. A very bright and competent young infantry officer that I know very well attended West Point. He has an engineering degree and studied Portuguese at West Point. In his first four years of duty he did two years in Afghanistan (platoon leader and company XO). He may never serve in a combat zone again the rest of his career or could find himself embroiled in three more wars. I think he would have been better served (as well as the men he commanded) if he received a degree in Military Studies (not engineering) and studied Pasthu or Dari (not Portuguese). Just saying.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Resurgent AQI in Iraq

Iraq is steadily going downhill. The problems between the Shia and Sunni populations are increasingly getting worse. Al Qaeda Iraq (AQI) has steadily gotten stronger and continues to gain support from the Sunni population of Iraq. The violence is almost as bad as it was in the 2008-2009 period of the Iraq War. Read more in "2013 - The Year We Lost Iraq?", Lawfare, January 5, 2014.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Generals Silent on Veterans Pay Cut

Where are our military leaders? Congress, in their latest affront to the veterans, have decided that they will save $8 billion in the budget by reducing veterans pensions. The savings will come by adjusting the cost of living increases received by veterans every year by 1%. This translates into about a $80,000 reduction in retirement for an enlisted member over his entire retirement period. Congress is asking the one percent of the country who served to give up a large amount of their personal financial security. So we now know (if we didn't already) that Congress doesn't care about the men and women who served in the Iraq and Afghan Wars over the past twelve years.

But what about our high-ranking military generals and admirals? Where are their public remarks of outrage and dismay on this issue? They (even the retired ones) are strangely silent. It would appear that the generals and admirals are more concerned about expensive tanks, airplanes, and ships than the Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors. Read more on this in the "Silence of the Generals", John Q. Public, December 15, 2013.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Congress Raids Military Pensions for Budget Compromise

Congress has reached a budget compromise however they are dipping into the pensions of veterans who have fought this nation's wars over the past twelve years. Led by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray Congress has stripped away promised retirement benefits from our warriors so they can continue to fund expensive weapons systems and maintain the social safety net for non-contributing members of society. Less than one-percent serve in the military and even less ever qualify for a pension so the voting block and influence of the veterans is very small. That makes veterans benefits an easy target. Read more in "An Unholy Alliance is Forcing Veterans to Pay for 12 Years of War", Business Insider, January 3, 2014.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Imminent Danger Pay Rules Changed by Pentagon

The Pentagon has announced changes to the rules for receipt of "Imminent Danger Pay". The new rules will go into effect on June 1, 2014. This is a result of an in-depth assessment by the combatant commands and in coordination with the Joint Staff and military services. Imminent Danger Pay is provided to military service personnel who are exposed to the threat of physical harm due to civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism or wartime conditions. Some of the locations that no longer will receive danger pay include East Timor, Haiti, Liberia, Oman, Rwanda, Tajikistan, UAE, Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro, and Uzbekistan. Countries that will continue to receive danger pay include Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, and Egypt. You can read more details in "Pentagon Announces Upcoming Changes to Imminent Danger Pay", American Forces Press Service, January 3, 2014.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

DoD's Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap (FY2013-2038), December 2013

The Department of Defense has issued a publication entitled Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap. It is an Adobe Acrobat PDF (FY2013-2038) released in December 2013. The purpose of the "Roadmap" is to articulate a vision and strategy for the continued development, production, test, training, operation, and sustainment of unmanned systems technology across DoD. Drawing on the lessons learned in Iraq and also in the utility of drones in Afghanistan the DoD has mapped out the future for unmanned systems in land, air, and sea environments. The document is quite detailed and is about 150 pages long. You can access the document at the DoD link that follows. www.defense.gov/pubs/DOD-USRM-2013.pdf

Friday, January 3, 2014

SOCOM's Iron Man Suit

The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) located in Tampa, Florida is developing an Iron Man Suit that will provide its Soldiers some revolutionary capabilities in protection, performance and improved situational awareness. The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit or TALOS will provide special operators with lighter, more efficient full-body ballistics protection and super-human strength. Situational awareness will be improved with the addition of antennas and computer components embedded into the suit providing user-friendly and real-time battlefield information. Sensors will regulate heating and cooling functions. The man-suit will probably not allow the special operator to fly! Learn more in "Socom Leads Development of 'Iron Man' suit", American Forces Press Service, December 31, 2013. Learn more about the USSOCOM TALOS or Iron Man Suit.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Love Affair with Drones

A recent article published on the History News Network entitled America's Love Affair with "Technowar" dated December 30, 2103 examines the reasons that President Obama continues to use drones as a weapon to target terrorist and insurgent networks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other places around the world. The use of drones have been criticized by many as immoral, inaccurate, and illegal. Supporters, however, point to the damage done to terrorist networks around the world and state that the drone attacks are necessary to keep terrorist groups and networks disrupted.