Category Archives: Defense

FOXNEWS: West Point report describes Islamic State threat as crisis 4 years in the making

A new report from the West Point counterterrorism center challenges the notion that the Islamic State only recently became a major terror threat, describing the network’s gains in Iraq as a crisis four years in the making.

Meanwhile, Fox News has learned that top aides to President Obama expect the threat from the organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL, to outlast Obama’s time in office.

The details underscore the challenge facing the U.S. government and its allies as the president and military advisers weigh how — and where — to confront the Islamist militant forces.

“ISIL did not suddenly become effective in early June 2014: it had been steadily strengthening and actively shaping the future operating environment for four years,” the report from the West Point center said.

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Sure, 4 years in the making, but the choice, if anyone was thinking about it to make a choice, I think was just which four years.

I’m not sure it wasn’t inevitable, no matter who was President; just a matter of sooner or later. The only solution is to raise our game to a level of ruthlessness that our modern sensibilities will not countenance. We don’t have to go full Mongol and kill them all. We don’t even have to go biblical and kill all the men and take the women and children as our own. But we do have to decide that Total War can be an imperative, that we must engage in it.

As for our sensibilities, the—well “reasons” gives too much credit for thinking it through, but I don’t know a better word—the reasons that we lack the mettle to be ruthless is our cultural sensitivity.  If there is a population out there that is so near the edge, that they can be radicalized by how we fight the war, then by all means, push them past that edge and let them die on our pikes as they charge. Let them become enraged by our actions. Enraged opponents may be fierce, but emotional people make mistakes that we should be happy to seek out and exploit.

And we have to remain unemotional doing it.  We can neither afford to love it or hate it and warriors that find themselves doing either must be sidelined.  We have to be cold and dispassionate about the business even while being energetic and passionate in executing it.

We have to shake off the traditional American lack of fervor in the fourth phase of warfare, which is pursuit.  We must pursue—hunt them down and kill them where we find them with whatever means we have available for doing it.

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VA Culture–Gamesmanship and Oversight

In the VAs gaming culture, it seems clear that the “secret wait lists” were the result of decisions to expand VAs mandates, the resultant exacerbation of the backlog, and next resulting mandate to address the backlog. Employees faced with a mountain of work, high expectations, and poor management and oversight all converged to present the appearance of progress–possibly additionally motivated by the allure of monetary bonuses for making progress–without regard to the real world consequences.

Institutions are always ‘sociopathic’, that is, lacking in empathy. There is a process to be followed. Empathy in institutions only arises at the person-to-person level. That appears to me to have been incentivized out of the VA culture.

Texas, Pennsylvania, Arkansas to lose a BCT each.

An infantry brigade is about 3400 troops, currently. That said, we are not loosing 3400 troops–while some manpower will be lost, the actual cut here is in organizational structure. For example, an Infantry Brigade these days is composed of 6 battalions. By cutting a Brigade, they allow the Guard to create some number, fewer than or equal 6 battalions, elsewhere. That’s the Army 2020 plan–every brigade will get a new Infantry battalion, but they don’t want to change the overall number of troops in the Guard, so–cut three brigades and you can create up to 18 new battalions across the rest of the organization. (There are 20 Guard Infantry Brigade Combat Teams, if they cut 3, and stand up 17 battalions in each of the remaining, then they also cut overall end strength by one battalion, or about 500.) This also puts an IBCT at about 3900 troops.

Part of what’s going on though is deep cuts in defense spending. The Big Army wants to cut some amount of Guard and Reserve force structure in order to preserve Active Duty force structure. There’s a debate about how much–Governors and Congresscritters don’t like Guard cuts in particular. And the overhead per troop in the Guard (or Reserves) is about 1/3 what it is active duty. (So you could actually save all the money you need to by reducing the Active Component and increasing the Reserve Components and end up with the same size or even larger force overall–but Big Army doesn’t like to talk about that.)

It gets more convoluted with Guard troops, too. Those are State resources. So if Oklahoma lost the 45th Infantry BCT. That IS a 3400 troop loss to Oklahoma, because those freed up battalions would go to other states–say KS, LA, MO, WI, and IA each, get plussed up by one Infantry battalion. With the Army Reserve, those are federal resources and it all comes out in the wash, as it does in the Active Component.

The plan, as I understand it now, is to disband three National Guard IBCTs. One in Pennsylvania (2/28th IBCT), one in Arkansas (39th IBCT), and one in Texas (unsure–either the 56th or the 72nd IBCT). The PA unit choice is a bit cagey. It won’t impact Pennsylvania alone, as it’s units are not all located in that state; one Infantry battalions is in New York, it’s Cavalry Squadron is in Ohio.

But Arkansas and Texas appear to take the full hit. Texas is home to four brigade sized units (2 IBCTS, a Battlefield Surveillance Brigade and a Combat Aviation Brigade, and could reasonably be expected to absorb the hit, especially with one of the battalions staying in the state. Arkansas, on the other hand, is reduced to fewer than 4,000 troops statewide from just over 7,000.

And we still haven’t really addressed what the Army wants to do to meet budget restraints. Looking just at end strength, Big Army wants to cut 20,000 troops from the National Guard (after other cuts have gone into effect already). The same budgetary effect could be achieved by cutting ~6,500 active troops. This is like cutting 5 Guard brigades instead of 2 Active ones.

Even if you aren’t convinced by the numbers, the next consideration with the Guard is where these cuts will come from–which states? The Active Component has a formula for deciding which units are to be deactivated which takes into account lineage and history, combat time, and prestige. None of that is considered with Guard units. They threw us a bone in 1968 with the deactivation of many Divisional headquarters, by transferring lineage, honors and identity to one of the succeeding Brigades in that process. That’s why there is, today, a 45th Infantry Brigade (and, 30th, 27th, 39th, 41st…). The decisions as to where to cut could be extremely painful depending on how that decision is made.

Related> Paging Dr. Abrams: Why we need a commission on the structure of the Army.

The Peter and Paul Principle

So last week I saw this story about Guard brigades being pulled from Sinai and Horn of Africa deployments and being replaced with Active Duty units. That raised some flags for me and I was planning to write about it then.

The article says that Big Army says that this does not mean that there is a new shift away from our “new” role developed over the last eleven years as an operational reserve.

An Army Times report this week quotes Gen. John Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, as saying concerns that the service does not view the Guard as an operational force are “absolutely ridiculous.”

But others think the writing may be on the wall now that the Army has called the move a cost-cutting effort.

I think, and thought last week, that that characterization as a “cost-cutting move” is inaccurate, if not disingenuous. What it is, really, is cost preservation.

There’s a new article out this week, that, to my mind, confirms that idea and it’s not just the Army either. Sinai deployments have been a Guard mission for a long time. Now the Active Army wants it. And now, also, the Active Air Force wants the Guard’s traditional firefighting mission. And not unusually, the Air Force is both more and less subtle than the Army in this. Rather than poach the mission outright, they just want to take away the authority.

“The purpose of this memorandum is to get your approval to place [U.S. Air Force Reserve] and [Air National Guard] personnel in Title 10 . . . duty status for the conduct of aerial fire suppression operations using DoD C-130 aircraft equipped with the U.S. Forest Service-owned Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) when requested by the National Interagency Fire Center on behalf of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).”

The memo, which is not dated, says this action “will establish a clear line of command authority from the Secretary of Defense to a Supported Combatant Commander for the conduct of this Federal mission.”

NGAUS sums up the objections well:

In a blog posting, Mary Catherine Ott, the NGAUS legislative affairs manager for air and cyber programs, calls this a “mission grab” and says moving the MAFFS mission from Title 32 to Title 10 status “will create a risk in an already established and very successful response framework.”

She points out that the move would remove the mission from the control of governors, who would have a better awareness than the Pentagon of any wildfire situation in their states. It also adds to Guard concerns of more “mission grabs” by the active component using the justification of “clear lines of authority,” Ott says.

It also kicks proper coordination of local authorities such as civilian law enforcement and fire rescue services in the head, creating an environment that either usurps control of them by necessity, or excludes them, whether by neglect, lack of communication channels, or as a correction for not just acquiescing to federal domination.

And the unstated reason for all of this is the budget. The Active components would rather that the Guard get shorted in resources than they, and believe that the way to accomplish that is to show that they have so many more duty cycles than the Guard. If they’d do an honest analysis, they’d find a partnership would better serve the Services (as a whole) and definitely the country, far better than playing against their own team.

Sequestration Fabrication

Capture1A lot of words have been wasted about what the consequences of Sequestration will be.  Especially on the Defense half.  I’ve got 6 headlines presented here.  Only this first one is probably true.  The rest are fever dreams; the result of natural (natural in the sense of how our budget process has been designed to work, not in the sense of healthy and good) tendencies of agencies to maximize resources, avoid shortages, and, well, generally NOT be good stewards at any point in the process.

Capture2This one has a kernel of truth.  Just as with the private sector, some stablity is necessary in order to plan and until they know what the future acually holds (or at least is likely to hold) they can’t plan effectively.  Sort of.  Because in this case, they’ve muddied the waters themsleves with all the dire “sky is falling” predictions, further down the list.  How knows how much of this stuff they beleive themselves?

 

Capture4This one is interesting, if only because Military.com, the source of this screencap, has another story, here, that says that the force structure changes are going to go ahead despite sequestration.  Keep going down this page for more inconsistency.

 

 

 

Capture3Helicopters will fall out of the skies.  Aviation accidnets are tied to parts and maintenace budgets, but allow me to poitn out that this is an area that leadership has control over.  They can scale back demand, or provide the money for supply, either way, to prevent this happening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capture5

Gotta love this one.  800,000 DoD Civilians will be furloghed if Sequestration goes through.  First, its calculated to make it look as bad as possible–furloughs in this case are a reduction from 5 to 4 days a week, and yes that’s a big impact on all those people, it’s a lot different than 800,000 lay offs, which is the mental assocation that they want the general public to make.

 

 

Capture6This claim is one of the most spurious of the bunch.  Threatning to cut the Army by 200,000 troops (while adding 48 battalions and 48 new Engineer companies?  really?) in the three components, if nothing else is a failure of imagination.  Because of the difference in the cost of maintaining a Reserve Component soldier, compared one from the Active Component, force structure could be moved from AC to RC to save money.  In fact, the force could be grown doing this for the same or less money.  I understand the arguments against it.  But the point is that we are deliberately being shown the darkest view of the situation.

 

 

I haven’t seen them yet, but I expect the next wave of stories will be about how Sequestration could impact the VA and military health care.

Strangely, the best information in the reality of Sequestration comes from Lawrence Kolb at the Center for American Progress, through the Huffington Post.  The money part:

Sequestration would mean that the Pentagon would have to absorb $600 billion in reductions over the FY 2013-2021 period compared to projected levels. Adding in the $400 billion in reductions it is already planning to make would bring the total to about $1 trillion over the next decade.

But the letter does not mention that the baseline defense budget was projected to grow by 26 percent from $554 billion in FY 2012 to $696 billion in FY 2021, and that total (non-war) spending would be $6.2 trillion over this period. A $1-trillion reduction would mean spending “only” $5.2 trillion but would still result in a defense budget increase of almost 20 percent.  In other words, there are no reductions.  Defense would still grow, but not as fast. Moreover, sequestration will return defense spending in real terms to its FY 2007 level, the next to last year of the Bush administration, when no one was complaining about devastating levels of spending.

Nor does the letter contain any acknowledgement that over the past decade, the baseline budget has more than doubled and that total defense spending, even in the real terms, is higher than at any time since World War II.

There’s more.  That’s why I provided the link.

Speaker Pelosi annoys me yet again….

sent here:

I saw a clip of your appearance on ABC’s This Week and it made me angry. Why do you and others in the Democratic leadership continue to try to smear our military with Abu Graib? How many convictions must be made before you’ll accept that the actions there were not sanctioned by the government? You owe our men and women in the Army an apology for continuously insinuating that they condone immoral and illegal acts.

I mean really, the third in line for the presidency should know better.

Hating Defense

SEN Kennedy has added an amendment to the 2008 Defense Authoirization, passed by the Senate on Monday. The amendment lowers the threshold of proof relating to hate crimes and expands the meaning of such crimes to include those relating to homosexuals, transsexuals, or the disabled.

Under current federal law, hate crimes apply to acts of violence against individuals on the basis of race, religion, color or national origin. Federal prosecutors have jurisdiction only if the victim is engaged in a specific federally protected activity such as voting.

The bill would extend the hate crimes category to include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability and give federal authorities greater leeway to participate in hate crime investigations. It would approve $10 million over the next two years to help local law enforcement officials cover the cost of hate crime prosecutions. Federal investigators could step in if local authorities were unwilling or unable to act.

The President has taken the view that this is a a poison pill and may become the first President in US history to veto a defense authorization over this amendment.

And of course, hate crime has what to do with defense spending?