30 April 2010

Late-Blooming Complaints With An Agenda

So there's an Army hospital that's under fire for their insignia.

A religious watchdog group says a cross and a motto on the emblem of an Army hospital in Colorado violate the constitutional requirement for separation of church and state and should be removed.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation asked the Army this week to change the emblem of Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson, outside Colorado Springs.

The emblem says “Pro deo et humanitate,’’ or “For God and humanity.’’

Fort Carson commanders will review the complaint, Lieutenant Colonel Steve Wollman said.

He said the emblem had been approved by the Army Institute of Heraldry and has been in use since 1969.

That's right, since 1969. And it's a problem now? No, it's the target of your personal crusade, and you're using excuses like "offending Islam" as a way to advance your personal beliefs.

By: Brant

Ivy League/Stanford Hypocrisy Over ROTC

So apparently there's a bunch of 'elite' universities including Harvard and Stanford, that are reconsidering their bans on ROTC. The bans were ostensibly over DADT, but some of them date back to Vietnam and were only continued with DADT as a crutch. Was it intellectual dishonesty masquerading as a great cause?

Administrators at Harvard, Brown, and other elite universities are softening their resistance to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps more than four decades after the military scholarship programs were driven from campus in the face of fierce antiwar sentiment.

Many professors, students, and administrators say the more welcoming climate is a result of growing support for the military since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But they contend it has become pronounced since February, when Pentagon leaders for the first time advocated overturning the law that bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the ranks.

Some college administrators consider the ban on gays in the military discriminatory and have cited it as a reason to keep full ROTC programs off campus long after the Vietnam War ignited the controversy.

“The declaration of military leaders regarding abolition of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy means the fig leaf that university administrators and professors have been hiding behind is about to be withdrawn,” said Army National Guard Captain Marc Lindemann, a Harvard Law School graduate who completed an analysis of the issue for the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.

Harvard, which has not fully recognized ROTC since the antiwar protests of the early 1970s, now allows the small number of its students who participate in the program at MIT to be commissioned as officers in Harvard Yard upon graduation. And in a highly symbolic show of support, the president of the university, Drew Gilpin Faust, has attended the ceremonies the past two years and is expected to attend again next month. Harvard also now allows cadets to include their ROTC affiliation in yearbooks.

“They have been far more receptive,” said retired Navy Captain Paul E. Mawn, a 1966 Navy ROTC graduate who runs the group Advocates for Harvard

ROTC, which he said has 2,300 members. Last year, he said, Harvard “even invited General David Petraeus,” the top US commander in the Middle East, to the commissioning ceremony.

At Brown University in Providence, where Army ROTC students must commute to Providence College for drills and military science classes, a top dean has pledged to do more to support students in ROTC, including finding ways to award them academic credit for their military courses.

Last month, the Faculty Senate at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., established a committee to study whether to overturn its ban.

Well, if Harvard and Stanford had a problem with the Defense Department, they sure didn't have a problem taking money from DARPA over the years. You know, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency...

Harvard's own website touts the money coming in from DARPA.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded a new multi-institution research initiative in Nano- and Micro-electro-mechanical Systems (NEMS/MEMS) in affiliation with Harvard’s programs in engineering and applied sciences. The three-year program has over $2M in total funding from DARPA and industry partners.

And Stanford professors put DARPA funding on their CVs

Changes, Consistency and Configurations in Heterogeneous, Distributed Systems. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), 1995-1998, total funding approx. $825,000. Principle Investigator.

An Integrated Information Management System. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), 1994-1997, total funding approx. $2,000,000. Co-Principle Investigator (with H. Garcia-Molina and J.D. Ullman).

So their principled about their objections to ROTC on intellectual grounds, right up until someone waves money in front of them.

"The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools." Thucydides

By: Brant

Taliban Torture in Pakistan

Was the video faked? Or was this girl actually flogged by the Taliban? And once the video was out, did it matter?

A year later, those men say the images from that day remain etched in their memories. The teenage militant wore white. The girl, a 17-year-old named Chand Bibi, stood behind a hastily made screen of sheets and shawls as she was flogged. She kept crying out, "Why? Why?"

But the rest of the world saw something quite different in a fuzzy, two-minute video shot by a lawyer that purported to show Chand Bibi's flogging.

That video, made famous in the age of YouTube and cellphone downloads, stunned the country and gave the world a disturbing view of the plight of Pakistanis trapped in Taliban-controlled regions such as the Swat Valley.
Did the video show another flogging, or was it even staged? And if so, does it matter?

Activists say it doesn't. The Taliban did flog Chand Bibi publicly, they point out, after the young woman and her fiance had been seen together in her house, which in the view of insurgents was a violation of Islamic law.

And whether her ordeal was the one shown on the notorious video or not, it awakened a nation that had underestimated the extent of the Taliban's reach.

"It was the catalyst," said Talat Farooq, executive editor of Criterion, a Pakistani current affairs magazine published in Islamabad. "When people spoke out about this, the tide turned and made it possible for the army to move into Swat."

In great detail, the man who says he took the video, Swat Valley lawyer Shaukat Saleem, described what he saw and how he recorded the event. Chand Bibi was stretched out on the ground face down, with men holding her down by her feet and arms, he said.

A Taliban commander in a turban and gray tunic knelt down and flogged the girl 30 times. Saleem says he secretly filmed the event using a cellphone he hid in his coat. To make an opening for the lens, he cut a hole into the coat's fabric.

"Whenever the lash came down, she would cry, ‘They are killing me! They are killing me!' " Saleem said in an interview in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. "Tears were coming to my eyes. My whole body was in shock, but I steadied myself because I wanted to capture this video at any cost."

Villagers in Kala Kalay say that, indeed, they saw Chand Bibi, as well as her fiance, flogged by the Taliban. But that is where the accounts diverge. Villagers say they have never heard of Saleem, and believe the video probably was of another flogging, either elsewhere in Pakistan or in Afghanistan.

By: Brant

Military Maps: WWI Training Posts of the US (Southeast US)

This nifty map was found on a genealogy site with some interesting archives. It was designed to help families track where their ancestors may have gone off to war, as WWI was one of the first times that many families had members officially recorded in federal records.

By: Brant

The War on PowerPoint

Following up hte recent NY Times article about the military starting to whoop up on PowerPoint we've now got articles coming out of the woodwork about why they ought to dump it altogether. The Atlantic has one about "why now?"...

McMaster's strategy brought a number of important changes to military doctrine, but one receiving a great deal of attention this week is his banning of Powerpoint. Military presentations and meetings tend to rely heavily on Powerpoint presentations--too heavily, say critics. The institutional reflection began in January with a much-circulated report. Are they right? Here's the war against Powerpoint.

Why It's a Concern
The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller reports on senior military leaders' "serious concerns that the program stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making. Not least, it ties up junior officers — referred to as PowerPoint Rangers — in the daily preparation of slides, be it for a Joint Staff meeting in Washington or for a platoon leader’s pre-mission combat briefing in a remote pocket of Afghanistan."

'Makes Us Stupid' Foreign Policy's Tom Ricks quotes Marine General James Mattis "The reason I didn't use PowerPoint is, I am convinced PowerPoint makes us stupid." Ricks adds, "I don't know if I'd go that far, but its absence of verbs does seem to me to emphasize aspirations without saying what actions we intend to take to realize them."

Powerpoint Against Powerpoints The Boston Globe cheekily presents their case against Powerpoint as, you guessed it, a Powerpoint presentation:
• Radically simplifies decision-making.
• Erodes etiquette. Endless litany of eye-glazing slides in darkened room promotes antisocial behavior — i.e., texting, napping during meetings.
• "i hate powerpoint’" —> 1,040,000 Google hits
• Creates illusion of progress. When in doubt, add more slides!

Shows Military's Reliance on Windows Spencer Ackerman muses, "Whatever the merits of PowerPoint, the baseline reason why officers use it — and use it and use it and use it — is because the military as a whole uses some version of Windows as its operating system. ... This fundamental dependence is true at the highest levels of command down to the crummiest MWR tent at the most ad-hoc combat outpost."

Didn't Begin With Powerpoint Liberal blogger John Cole remembers, "in my day, it was all about what we called 'cheese charts.' The great big easels (military issue, of course), with pads of paper the size of Montana sitting on them, with bullet point after bullet point. All they’ve done now is gone high-tech."

Our Powerpoint Political Discourse Moderate Voice's Jason Arvak shakes his head. "'PowerPoint culture' — the reduction of everything to standardized bullet points — is increasingly the strategic culture of American politics more generally. One need only look at the pathetic state of political discourse to see the hallmarks of a PowerPoint presentation. Propose health care reform? Here comes the 'socialism' bullet point. No definition, specification, or discussion needed, mind you. The bullet point invokes the mental script and the non-debate pretty much proceeds on autopilot from there, replete with predictable graphical transitions to the next slide."

GCN asks whether or not this is a hopeless battle.

Kudos to military leaders for fighting the good fight, but is this a winnable war? It’s not as if the coma-inducing effects of slideshows haven’t been known for years. Back in January 2000, Peter Norvig created his classic send-up of PowerPoint, putting the Gettysburg Address into a stultifying set of bullet points. A 2003 New Yorker cartoon depicts the devil conferring with one of his minions: “I need someone well-versed in the art of torture — do you know PowerPoint?” A few years ago, a military forum posted “The Ballad of the PowerPoint Ranger,” a tribute to the downtrodden grunts who spend their time making slides for the brass. Graphic design guru Edward Tufte, now working for the Obama administration, has railed against PowerPoint for years.

And even back in 2004, we were asking how we got to this point...

It's not precisely clear how PowerPoint evolved from an office novelty into one of the world's most widely used software programs. About 300 million people worldwide use it to create more than 30 million bullet-point-laden slide presentations every day.


In December 2001, President Bush received a PowerPoint briefing from Gen. Tommy Franks on options for invading Iraq. A year later, political adviser Karl Rove gave Bush bulleted PowerPoint slides to show which leadership qualities to emphasize in his reelection campaign.

In February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell used PowerPoint slides showing satellite photos of suspected Iraqi weapons facilities to convince the U.N. General Assembly that Iraq was a world threat. A month earlier, engineers had given PowerPoint summaries to NASA executives about damage to the doomed space shuttle Columbia from a piece of foam that struck its wing during liftoff. And in the early days of the Bush administration, counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke wrote his plan to "roll up" the al Qaeda terrorist network using, what else, PowerPoint.

These are some of the program's sexiest implementations. But PowerPoint is ubiquitous throughout the federal bureaucracy, trotted out even for mundane conference speeches or working group meetings. In many of those gatherings, it's almost expected.

It's common, however, to find people who don't know how to use the presentation maker. Microsoft advertises that PowerPoint will "improve the way you create, present and collaborate on presentations." But more often, clear-thinking, articulate people who use PowerPoint are transformed into muddied, monotonous speakers who shoehorn their thoughts into bullet points and anesthetize audiences with their slide shows.

A growing body of research suggests that, far from illuminating people's thoughts, PowerPoint actually obscures them. And now a debate is brewing across government as PowerPoint critics and adherents ask, "Is this any way for us to communicate?" Considering the momentous deliberations in which PowerPoint is employed, it's not such a bad question.

By: Brant

29 April 2010

Did Pakistani Taliban Chief Survive Drone Strike?

Looks like he might've wriggled off the hook. Shit.

Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud is now believed to have survived a U.S. missile strike earlier this year, but has lost clout within the militant network, a senior intelligence official said Thursday.

The revelation contradicts initial confidence among U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials that the brash militant leader had been killed in a mid-January missile attack in the Waziristan stretch of the northwest tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

The Taliban consistently denied Mehsud was killed, but declined to offer evidence he was alive, saying it would compromise his safety.

The latest independent investigations and reports from multiple sources in the field led Pakistani intelligence to conclude Mehsud had indeed survived, though with some slight injuries, the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the topic's sensitivity.

But Mehsud's power has lessened, and other Taliban commanders, such as Waliur Rehman, are now overshadowing him, the official said.

By: Brant

Tools of War: Knives

{A very short edition}

In modern militaries, knives are more of a tool than a weapon.

That said, they never run out of ammo and, in the case of bayonets, can be attached to your rifle in case things get stupid-bad.

Though I carry a CRKT M16-14SF with me everywhere I go, I'm not going to recommend it, or any other for that matter, over any other knife. There are so many different models and types out there, that my only advice is to find a quality knife that you like and that fits your needs.

Because that 550 cord won't cut itself....

By: Steve

Cutting Into the Pentagon Budget to Cut Out Waste

Congress is going to target "waste and inefficiency"... but probably not any earmarks in their districts. Never mind that one of the most wasteful inefficiencies is the process of having capital programs spread across 38 states to ensure the maximum number of Congressional votes for them.

Among the provisions, it requires the Pentagon to set up standards to measure performance and hold everyone accountable, takes steps to make sure units get what they need when equipment is purchased and requires that the Pentagon's financial management system is subject to audits.

It also sets up a system of rewards to motivate good performance by the procurement workforce, improves training for that workforce and increases its size. Efforts would be made to expand the industrial base so that more small businesses can participate and prospective contractors and major subcontractors must show that they do not have serious tax debts.

The Pentagon has long been infamous for its $600 hammers and $300 toilet seats, and Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., who for the past year has headed a panel with Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, working on recommendations for the acquisition bill, said such abuses are still common.

He cited one example of the Air Force paying $13,000 for a refrigeration unit on a plane, and then paying $32,000 for the same unit two years later. He recounted that the Pentagon paid $201 million to truck petroleum products from Kuwait to Iraq even before a contract was signed, and that it can take nearly seven years to go from a proposal to buy information technology to actual use of the technology, by which time it is often obsolete.

The House on Wednesday also passed a measure requiring federal agencies to move more aggressively to stop improper payments to contractors - such as when they pay twice for the same service or pay for a service they never receive - and retrieve money that should never have been paid.

By: Brant

Military Helping Clean Up BP's Mess in Gulf of Mexico

The military has offered to help BP cover their butts and get their oil spill cleaned up.

BP Plc on Thursday welcomed an offer from the U.S. Defense Department to help contain a massive growing oil slick from a deadly rig explosion that threatens the shoreline of four Gulf states.
BP and the Coast Guard have already mounted what the London-based company calls the largest oil spill containment operation in history, involving dozens of ships and aircraft.
But they are struggling to control the slick from the leaking well 5,000 feet under the sea off Louisiana's coast, which the Coast Guard said late on Wednesday was spilling five times more oil than previously estimated.
President Barack Obama has been briefed on the spill, which could cause serious environmental damage to coastal wildlife refuges, beaches and estuaries in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
"We'll take help from anyone, I mean we welcome the offer from the Department of Defense, we're working with the experts across the industry," Doug Suttles, chief operating officer of BP's exploration and production unit, said.

By: Brant

Are Military Chaplains Being Muzzled Over DADT?

Are they really being muzzled?

A group of retired military chaplains and lawyers gathered at the conservative Family Research Council on Wednesday to speak out against repealing the military policy on homosexuality, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), and suggested that current chaplains were being kept from doing the same.
Arthur Schultz, a former Army chaplain who now is legal counsel to the National Conference of Evangelical Chaplain Endorsers, told reporters that servicemen overseas have been told not to speak in support of DADT.
“One of the chaplains . . . spoke to me, who recently came back from overseas from a major command, and he said that the word is out to chaplains: don’t speak about this and particularly, don’t raise issues about why you can’t support it,” Shultz told reporters. “And so that’s the unofficial, ‘official’ language to say, ‘Keep your mouth shut, or else.’
“(The chaplain) implied or he told me that it was made clear that it would be damaging to anybody who raised his head above the parapet, so to speak.”
Under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which was created by the Clinton administration, the military will not ask directly about a service member’s sexual orientation. But if that orientation is made public, it is grounds for dismassal from the service.

Or are the being treated like every other servicemember and being instructed to keep their opinions about policy to themselves?

By: Brant

Careful Escalation of US Forces in Pakistan

The US military footprint in Pakistan is expanding. But still no official combat troops... yet...

The scheduled arrival of 50 additional U.S. military personnel to Pakistan in June, accompanying four new F-16 fighter jets, will increase the official number of American boots on the ground there by 25 percent. It is enough to make the Pakistani government shudder with trepidation.

Exaggerated tales of U.S. soldiers and spies flooding the country are regular front-page fare in Pakistan, and cause for strident political criticism of Western intervention that sometimes erupts into violence. Pakistan's military and intelligence services remain highly suspicious about the motives and methods of their U.S. counterparts, a wariness mirrored in American attitudes toward Pakistan.

But a strategic decision by both sides to improve counterterrorism cooperation, along with the personnel requirements of increased U.S. aid, have led in recent months to a small but significant expansion in the U.S. presence in Pakistan.

There are currently about 200 U.S. military involved in security assistance in Pakistan, including a Special Operations training and advisory contingent, initially set at 80 troops, that has twice been enlarged since last year and now totals up to 140 troops in two Pakistani locations, according to senior U.S. military officials. The Pakistani government prohibits U.S. combat forces.

The CIA has sent additional intelligence-gathering operatives and technicians in recent months. Plans are underway to establish a joint military intelligence processing center. After an initial period of tension, Pakistani officers are using cross-border intelligence compiled at two joint coordination centers on the Afghan side of the frontier.

By: Brant

Escalation in Korea?

In a non-surprise, anonymous US officials are saying that the Norks sunk the Cheonan.

A North Korean torpedo attack was the most likely cause for the sinking of a South Korean warship last month, according to a U.S. military official.

The United States believes the ship was sunk by the blast of an underwater explosion, but that the explosive device itself did not come in contact with the hull of the South Korean ship, the official said. This is the same conclusion expressed by South Korean military officials.

The U.S. Navy has an investigative team assisting the South Koreans.

The U.S. official declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter and due to the fact neither South Korea or the United States has publicly discussed any potential response.

Reuters runs through the scenarios if military tensions escalate between the Koreas. And forget any of those pesky military implications - make sure you note that they focus on the economic consequences.


Market players do not see the South as planning a revenge strike on the North, but do expect it to increase its military presence near the sea border where its ship went down. They worry that Seoul could then be more likely to attack North Korean vessels nearing the border, instead of issuing warnings first, as it has done before, leading to firefights that spook markets.

When news first broke of a possible North Korean link shortly after the Cheonan sank in late March, shares on Wall Street fell, the won dropped and the price to insure South Korean sovereign debt rose to 83 basis points from 78 basis, increasing the cost to insure $10 million in debt by $5,000 to $83,000.


The South's main military ally in the United States and the North's biggest backer in China both see it in regional and global interests to prevent an escalating conflict and will pressure Seoul and Pyongyang to keep their tempers and armies under control. The two global powers may not be able to prevent brief, live-fire exchanges between the rival Koreas who station more than 1 million troops near their border.


But North Korea may still resort to saber-rattling that often includes short-range missile tests and threats to attack its capitalist neighbor as it tries to win concessions from global powers to decrease the threat it poses to the economically vibrant region. Markets are long used to this and do not expect such moves to have any impact on trading.


A step seen as a larger provocation would come from Pyongyang test-firing its ballistic missiles that are designed to hit all of the South, most of Japan and U.S. military bases in Guam.

They have already been deployed and the North is trying to improve their range and accuracy. If the North demonstrates improved missile technology, it increases the long-term risks to the region, and market jitters might ripple beyond South Korea to affect sentiment on Japanese stocks and the yen.

But unless markets thought there was a chance leader Kim Jong-il was moving closer to firing these missiles in anger, any sell-off would be modest and quickly reversed.


North Korea has tested nuclear devices twice. A third test would put it closer to having a working nuclear bomb, but it would also deplete its meager supply of fissile material, which is thought to be enough for six to eight bombs.

Because a third nuclear test would not significantly alter market perceptions of risks, any negative impact on asset prices would again be relatively small and short-term.

Experts say even if North Korea develops a bomb, it has no practical means to deliver it because its Soviet-era bombers would be no match for U.S., Japanese and South Korean air forces in the region. They add the North is several years away from developing the technology needed to miniaturize a nuclear weapon to mount on a missile and question whether it will ever be able to master the difficult process. So for the moment this is not a scenario that much worries markets.

By: Brant

UK In Action: 20-Mike-Mike At Night

The port 20mm Close Range Gambo cannon onboard HMS Cornwall opens up during a night firing exercise in the Gulf of Aden.

Image: UK MoD

By: Widow 6-7

The Today Show Completely Lacking Clue About Missile Subs

So I'm sitting here watching The Today Show, and Ann Curry lets loose with this nugget about ballistic missile subs:

"While the main mission is stealth deterrence, if called, they have the capacity to launch a nuclear attack."

What the f^*k do you think "stealth deterrence" is?! Bumping off whales? Checking to make sure Guam is anchored to the seabed floor? Stealth deterrence *is* the capacity to launch a nuclear attack, from a place the enemy cannot pre-empt.

Can we try for some precision in our wording, please?

By: Brant

Surprise Resignations in Myanmar Ahead of Elections

Looks like the Army is shuffling the national leadership ahead of the upcoming elections.

Myanmar's prime minister is among several senior military leaders who have stepped down to run in national elections this year.

Prime Minister Lt. Gen. Thein Sein will run as a civilian in Myanmar's first elections in 20 years. Although a date for polling hasn't been set, October is thought to be the month.

There has been no official announcement about the resignations, numbering more than 20 and including many mid-ranking officers, in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper that acts as the mouthpiece of the junta.

But unnamed military sources have confirmed the resignations, a report by the India-based expatriate news agency Mizzima said.

The list of resignations includes Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Maj. Gen. Htay Oo, Rail Transport Minister Maj. Gen. Aung Min, Commerce Minister Brig. Gen. Tin Naing Thein and Deputy Home Minister Brig. Gen. Phone Swe.

More resignations are likely in the coming weeks, the military source told the Mizzima agency.

Yeah, they still won't be free elections, but I suppose it's some form of progress...

By: Brant

Maybe No Iranians in Latin America After All?

Contradicting earlier reports that the IRGC was training in Venezuela, the head of USSOUTHCOM says he's seen no evidence of it.

The head of U.S. Southern Command, General Douglas Fraser, said Iran was bolstering its relations with Venezuela.

“We see a growing Iranian engagement with Venezuela,” Fraser told reporters.

Iran has a “diplomatic, commercial presence” but “I haven’t seen any evidence of a military presence,” he stated.

There was no indication that Iran had sent arms to Venezuela, he added.

By: Brant

28 April 2010

US Military Used Against US Population?

There's a few nutjobs who are convinced that NORTHCOM is the coming NWO police force here in the US. It's always comforting when someone like BlackFive is there to skewer them.

In case you were wondering what this "NORTHCOM Response Force" is, here's the article from 18 months ago...

The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.

Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.

Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.

It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.

But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.

“Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future,” said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. “Now, the plan is to assign a force every year.”

The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they’ll be able to go to school, spend time with their families and train for their new homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency mission in the war zones.

Stop-loss will not be in effect, so soldiers will be able to leave the Army or move to new assignments during the mission, and the operational tempo will be variable.

Don’t look for any extra time off, though. The at-home mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.

The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.

In the meantime, they’ll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.

They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.

Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.

The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

The package is for use only in war-zone operations, not for any domestic purpose.

“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”

The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.

“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my knees in seconds.”

The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced “sea-smurf”).

By: Brant

Israeli Forces Clearing West Bank of Illegal... Israelis

The IDF is trying to clear out illegal West Bank settlements and are demolishing structures in the process.

Israeli security forces demolished a handful of illegal structures in West Bank settlements Tuesday, including a wooden bunker that hard-line Jewish activists had defiantly named after President Barack Obama.

Israeli forces also clashed with Palestinian protesters opposed to construction of Israel's West Bank separation barrier. In one incident, paramilitary border police wrestled a teenage boy to the ground, then fired pepper spray directly into his face to subdue him. The youth, screaming in pain, was then arrested.

Nine structures in Jewish settlements were removed, including a wooden bunker north of Jerusalem known as "Obama's Shack," Israeli military officials said. Young settlers threw burning tires at security forces in another location, and two people were arrested.

By: Brant

Japanese Navy Establishing Base in Africa

With China's navy expanding their capabilities and their operations, it's interesting that the Japanese are now establishing an overseas base in Djibouti for their naval task force.

Japanese navy commander Keizo Kitagawa recently spoke with Agence France-Presse and disclosed that his nation was opening its first overseas military base - at any rate since the Second World War - in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

Kitagawa is assigned to the Plans and Policy Section of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, as his nation's navy is called, and is in charge of the deployment.

AFP quoted the Japanese officer as stressing the unprecedented nature of the development: "This will be the only Japanese base outside our country and the first in Africa."

The military installation is to cost $40 million and is expected to accommodate Japanese troops early next year.

View Larger Map

All this is coming at a time when Somali pirates are being spotted over 1000 miles away from their coastline, which blows the air out of their claims that they're just 'protecting the coastline from illegal fishing/shipping'.

Somalia's pirates are far from defeated. On Apr. 18, they pulled off one of the most ambitious captures yet, seizing three Thai fishing trawlers far out into the Indian Ocean. The vessels had 77 crewmen on board and were 1,200 miles away from the Somali coast — making the hijacking the farthest off-shore heist ever conducted by Somali pirates as well as the largest in terms of numbers of hostages taken. Three days later, just four suspected Somali pirates armed with AK-47s and a rocket-propelled grenade managed to seize a Panamanian-listed bulk carrier 200 miles out from the Gulf of Aden corridor still patrolled by convoys of international warships.

By: Brant

MARSOC In Need of Interior Decorators (?!)

No really, there's a solicitation out there for someone to decorate MARSOC HQ.

MARSOC occupied a new headquarters building in November of 2009. The interior offices of the Command Deck, and the entry foyer of the Intelligence Battalion building, currently have no decorative improvements. This effort seeks to provide contractor support for design services, production of framed museum quality artwork, equipment, and personnel to facilitate the improvement of the respective office spaces to create a professionally appealing environment for the visitors and Marines of MARSOC.

I guess if you were an interior decorator, you're probably not macho enough for MARSOC, eh?

By: Brant

Thailand Coming Apart? Troops Open Fire Edition...

Looks like Thai troops have gone all Kent State on the Red Shirt Protestors. "You want a red shirt?! We'll give you a red shirt!"

photo from MSNBC

Thai security forces and anti-government protesters clashed Wednesday on the outskirts of Bangkok, with troops firing both over and then directly into a crowd of Red Shirts to keep them from expanding their demonstrations. At least 16 protesters were wounded and one soldier was killed.

It was not immediately clear if the troops were shooting live ammunition or rubber bullets in the confrontation along a major road connecting Bangkok with its northern suburbs that security forces had blocked with razor wire.

There were conflicting reports about the shooting of the Thai soldier. Thai sources told NBC that the incident was likely a friendly fire accident.

By: Brant

Pentagon Investigating AfPak News "Intel" Unit

We've covered this a few other places...
GrogNews: Covert? Or Rogue? StratCom/OSINT website masking hit squad?
GrogNews: Investigating the Rogue Hit Squad
GrogNews: Investigating A Parallel "Intel Agency" and How It Was Buried In Clever Contracting

And now it looks like the investigation is really kicking into gear.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a closer look at a military outfit accused of using contractors to help track down militants in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The Pentagon has already launched a criminal investigation into a Defense Department employee, who, instead of providing U.S. commanders details on Afghanistan's social and tribal landscape, is accused of running an off-the-books spy operation.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Gates ordered an additional review to see whether the unit may have broken Pentagon rules and regulations on intelligence gathering.

"Short of criminality, did they break the rules with regards to our policy on this issue?" Morrell said. "Was there inappropriate intelligence gathering being done under the auspices of this information operations contract?"

The allegations, first detailed in a New York Times report last month, centered on Michael Furlong, who the newspaper said hired contractors from private security companies that employed former CIA and Special Forces operatives.

The contractors gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps and then sent that material to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, unnamed officials told the paper.

By: Brant

Somali Soldiers Taking Their AKs and Going Home

IN disputes over paychecks, the Somali army is seeing a rise in desertions, including a significant number fighting for the other side. I guess the Islamonutjobs are paying them, eh?

Hundreds of Somali soldiers trained with millions of U.S. tax dollars have deserted because they are not being paid their $100 monthly wage, and some have even joined the al-Qaida-linked militants they are supposed to be fighting, The Associated Press has learned.

The desertions raise fears that a new U.S.-backed effort beginning next month to build up Somalia's army may only increase the ranks of the insurgency.

Somalia's besieged U.N.-backed government holds only a few blocks of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, while Islamic insurgents control the rest of the city and most of the country. That turmoil — and the lawless East African nation's proximity to Yemen, where al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is based — has fed fears that Somalia could be used to launch attacks on the West.

In an effort to rebuild the tattered Somali military, the United States spent $6.8 million supporting training programs for nearly 1,000 soldiers in neighboring Djibouti last year and about 1,100 soldiers in Uganda last year and earlier this year, the State Department and Western diplomats told the AP. The troops were supposed to earn $100 a month, but about half of those trained in Djibouti deserted because they were not paid, Somali army Col. Ahmed Aden Dhayow said.

"Some gave up the army and returned to their ordinary life and others joined the rebels," he said.

Somalia's state minister for defense, Yusuf Mohamed Siyad, confirmed some trainees had joined the al-Shabab militants, but he declined to specify the number of deserters.

The development highlights a key problem facing efforts to rebuild the bankrupt nation's army — guaranteeing funding for soldiers' salaries, not just their training.

By: Brant

Surge In Afghanistan? Send Out the NGOs!

Looks like the UN is bailing on Kandahar so they don't get caught in the crossfire.

Reflecting the sharply deteriorating security situation in Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest metropolis, the United Nations on Monday pulled foreign staff out of the city and instructed hundreds of local employees not to come to work.
The move came on the same day as a series of explosions in the city killed two civilians.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces have set their sights on Kandahar with the aim of driving the Taliban out of the city this summer. Kandahar, home to about 1 million people, is the country's southern hub and the insurgency's spiritual home.

Most of the 30,000 arriving American troop reinforcements are being deployed in the south, and many will take part in the offensive, which is already in its early stages. Troops are trying to clear insurgents from districts surrounding the city, and have been hunting mid-level Taliban field commanders.

Taliban fighters, in turn, have ratcheted up attacks around the city, assassinating government officials and employees of international organizations. Last week, the city's respected deputy mayor was gunned down as he prayed in a mosque.

U.N. officials described the pullout of foreign staffers as a temporary measure and said the move would be under ongoing review.

Officials refused to say how many international employees had been recalled to the relative safety of the capital, Kabul. The stay-at-home order to local staff affects more than 200 people, said spokesman Dan McNorton, adding that it wasn't clear how long the provision would last.

And Reuters has a great overview with a Q&A


The Kandahar operation is the central objective of U.S. and NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal's campaign plan to turn the tide in the war this year using 30,000 reinforcements pledged by President Barack Obama in December.

It will be by far the biggest offensive of the war so far, directly involving more than 23,000 ground troops, including about 8,500 Americans, 3,000 Canadians and 12,000 Afghan soldiers and police.

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, describes the offensive as "the cornerstone of our surge effort and the key to shifting the momentum", which Washington hopes will eventually push the Taliban to agree to peace talks. Kandahar was the spiritual home of the Taliban movement when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001, and has huge symbolic importance in the country. It forms the heartland of the Pashtuns -- Afghanistan's largest ethnic group and traditional rulers -- and is also the home town of President Hamid Karzai.

In an assessment of the war last year, McChrystal described Kandahar as the Taliban's main geographical objective.

Militants control much of the city of 500,000 people, as well as many rural regions around it, making it the part of the country where the greatest concentration of people now live outside government control.

McChrystal's counter-insurgency strategy depends on securing population centres to allow the government to extend its reach, open areas to access for trade and development projects, and win over the support of the people.


A mainly Canadian force of about 3,000 troops has operated in Kandahar province for four years, taking high casualties but lacking the manpower to secure such a large city and its outskirts. Taliban influence has grown rapidly during that time, and militants are now stronger in the province than at any time since they were driven from power in 2001.

Over the past year more than 5,000 extra U.S. ground troops have arrived in the province and have begun securing rural districts that control routes leading into the city, although swathes of those agricultural areas are still in militant hands.

Inside the city itself there is very little presence of Western forces. Many of the city's teeming residential districts are almost entirely out of bounds for Afghan police, especially at night.


NATO commanders say initial "shaping operations" are already under way, including efforts to reach out to residents, military operations to clear areas in the rural outskirts, and special forces raids to capture and kill Taliban leaders.

The main "clearing phase" in urban areas will begin around the start of June, with the arrival of an additional U.S. Army Brigade Combat Team of about 3,500 troops that will spearhead the military campaign in urban areas alongside Afghan police.


U.S. and NATO commanders have tried to play down the military aspects of the upcoming operation, insisting the emphasis is on political reforms. Nevertheless, the operation will still be the biggest ground offensive in nearly nine years of war.

The 8,000 NATO troops already in Kandahar province will mostly remain in rural areas, guarding routes into the city, while the additional 3,500-strong U.S. army brigade pushes into urban districts in the company of 6,700 Afghan police.

Unlike the last big offensive, which began with a massive airborne assault in neighbouring Helmand province in February, NATO commanders stress that the Kandahar operation will not have an abrupt start but will unfold gradually.

They hope negotiations on the ground will allow troops to advance into urban sectors of Kandahar with minimal fighting, although they say they also expect a certain amount of combat in the city if militants choose to resist.

In the rural districts, commanders predict an increased level of combat as fighters either flee the city or attempt to reinforce it. NATO units in the rural areas will also launch operations to clear villages now under insurgent control.

NATO commanders would like to see the clearing operations finished by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in August, and be followed by steps to improve governance and provide services to the population.

The Taliban have vowed to fight against the advancing NATO troops, and have already begun a campaign of bomb attacks, commando raids and assassinations in recent weeks.


NATO officials constantly reinforce the message that the military phase of the operation is only the first step, and the true aim is to bring credible government to areas now under Taliban control.

They say the Taliban have won support from Pashtun tribes in Kandahar who feel they have been shut out of provincial power by rival clans, including Karzai's own family.

The main goal of the political reform plan is to make the provincial government more inclusive, so that tribes and groups who sought protection from the Taliban in the past feel more secure and cast their lot with the government.

The most powerful person in Kandahar is now the head of the provincial council, President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, a businessman who has long denied persistent reports of links to southern Afghanistan's drugs trade.

U.S. officials say they would like to see his influence reduced as provincial government is reformed, but they do not expect him to be removed.

By: Brant

Apaches, Lies and Videotape over at Kings of War

There's a great read about the infamous WikiLeaks BS video over from our UK cousins. Read about it at Apaches, Lies and Videotape @ Kings of War

By: Brant

BUB: The Pride of India's Military

Here's a quick dash through India's current forces...

Looks like the home-made tank might be better than the Russian one that they've contracted for a crapload of...

The Indian Army was recently compelled to conduct a field test between the domestically designed (and largely rejected) Arjun tank, and the Russian T-90 (now considered the army's primary tank). Fourteen of each tank were used, and the results were classified. But journalists had no trouble getting unofficial reports that the Arjun managed to best the T-90 in tests of mobility, endurance and gunnery. This was unusual because, until now, the Arjun was considered an expensive and embarrassing failure.

Development of the Arjun began in the 1980s, and until four years ago, the army had received only five of them, for evaluation purposes. The evaluation did not go well. Originally, the Arjun was to have replaced thousands of Russian tanks, but after so many delays, the army only reluctantly accepted 128 Arjuns (equipping the 140th Armored Brigade). If the new test reports are to be believed, there will be renewed pressure on the army to buy more Arjuns. This pits the Defense Ministry weapons development and procurement bureaucrats against the generals.

All this assumes that the Arjun has really fixed all the problems it was having with its electronics. In this case, it was the fire control system. But Arjun has also had problems with its engine, and that fact that its size and weight prevents it from being used with current tank transporters.

Meanwhile, last year, an Indian factory delivered the first ten (of a thousand) T-90 tanks to the Indian Army. The Russian designed armored vehicles are being built in India under license. Many of the components are Indian made, and some of the electronics are imported from Western suppliers. The Indian made T-90s cost about $3 million each. India has already bought 700 Russian made T-90 tanks, at a cost of $3.5 million each.


The Navy, meanwhile, is showing off the INS Shivalik, due to be commissioned this week.

INS Shivalik, the stealthiest Indian warship, so far, will be commissioned by the Indian Navy on April 29.
The indigenously built multi-role frigate is the first of the 3-ship Project-17 frigates constructed at the Mumbai-based Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL) and conceptualised by the Directorate General of Naval Design.

The Shivalik class frigate is a modified version of the Russian Project 1135.6 Talwar (Krivak III) class frigates.

The construction of the frigate began in the year 2000 and the keel was laid on 11 July, 2001. It was launched on 18 April 2003.

The 143-metre-long warship, with 6,000-tonne displacement, has a versatile control system and external control system with signature management and radar cross section reduction features. The total length of the ship is 143 meters while its breadth is 17 meters and has a maximum speed of 30 knots.


Not to be left out, the Indian air force is upgunning 40 of their fighter jets with BrahMos missiles.

BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, which is a joint venture of India and Russia, will be fitted on the Indian Air Force's 40 Su-30MKIs fighter aircraft. CEO and MD of BrahMos Aerospace Dr AS Pillai said: "The inclusion of BrahMos cruise missile will make the aircraft unique in firepower."
Dr Pillai was speaking to a Russian news agency at the Defence Services Asia-2010 exhibition here.
He also added that the first trials of the air-launched version were set for 2011 and the first test-flight with the missile on-board is scheduled for 2012.

By: Brant

Iranian Cheerleading, and Naval Gazing

Iran says military drill in Persian Gulf "successful"

'Cuz, y'know, they were really going to come out and say "Damn we're a bunch of idiots on the water who don't know which way is up"...

The Iranians are claiming "success" in their Persian Gulf drills.

Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said that the military exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz was successful, the official IRNA news agency reported on Monday.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) successfully conducted the military exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, Vahidi said in the southern city of Bandar Abbas on Sunday.

The war game reached all its pre-determined goals, he was quoted as saying.

"We also tested laser smart weapons. They hit their targets with 100 percent of accuracy," he was quoted by the IRNA as saying.

The minister said that the military drill carried the message of peace and friendship to all regional states, the report said.

Love that last line. Just love it. "Here's some peace and friendship with a missile, motherf&$^ers!"

By: Brant

Ukrainian Food Fight Over Russian Naval Base (literally!)

Following Putin's statement that they have no desire for overseas bases, and the Belarus statement that the Russians ought to pay for the ones they already have, comes word that the Ukrainian parliament disintegrated into a food fight in protest over the extension of the lease of the Russian naval base on the Black Sea. Y'know - one of those bases that Putin says the Russians don't want. Unless they do.

Opposition lawmakers hurled eggs and smoke bombs inside Ukraine's parliament Tuesday as the chamber approved an agreement allowing the Russian Navy to extend its stay in a Ukrainian port until 2042.

Thousands of opposition demonstrators rallied outside the parliament building as deputies from newly elected President Viktor Yanukovich's coalition approved a 25-year extension to the Russian Black Sea Fleet's base in Crimea.

The chamber of the parliament filled with smoke as smoke bombs were released and Speaker Volodymyr Litvyn took shelter under his umbrella as eggs rained down on him.

Russian Black Sea Fleet at Wikipedia

Is this the fleet?

View Larger Map

By: Brant

27 April 2010

Chavez Ranting... Again... (Yeah, we know, it's not 'news')

Hugo Chavez is accusing the US of conducting electronic warfare against the uber-peaceful and completely free peoples of Venezuela, who have absolutely no aggressive tendencies or malice against anyone foreign, or domestic, and just want to be left alone to live and smile in their Bolivarian workers' paradise.

A day after saying he hopes to eventually cool tensions with Colombia, President Hugo Chavez charged that his neighbor recently allowed a U.S. military plane to carry out "electronic warfare" operations against Venezuela.

Chavez told a crowd of soldiers Monday that his intelligence services detected the American aircraft that he said took off from a Colombian base and flew along the border between the two South American nations, which have seen long tense relations worsen in recent months.

Without giving details, he said Venezuela's military intelligence intercepted a conversation between the pilot and air traffic controllers in the northern Colombian city of Barranquilla. The aircraft conducted espionage operations, he said.

"Through our strategic intelligence, we detected an RC-12 airplane belonging to the U.S. Air Force," Chavez said during a talk to an auditorium packed with military officers, rank-and-file soldiers and cadets.

"It was a plane specialized for electronic war, and it was carrying out electronic war operations," he added.

In case you're wondering, an RC-12 looks like this:

By: Brant

Afghan War as Political Football in the UK

The election is causing all sorts of angst about the mission in Afghanistan between the candidates.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth accused the Conservatives on Monday of undermining public support for forces in Afghanistan by making false accusations that troops are not properly equipped.

With the Labour party behind in opinion polls 10 days before an election, Ainsworth also attacked the Liberal Democrats, saying their plans for updating Britain's nuclear-armed submarine fleet were disingenuous.

The Conservatives and Lib Dems have repeatedly accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown of failing to give Britain's 9,500 troops in Afghanistan enough helicopters and armoured vehicles to protect them from lethal roadside bombs.

"I've found it disappointing that the Conservatives have gone beyond the legitimate activity of an opposition of criticising the government's record on providing equipment," Ainsworth said in a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, a defence think-tank.

"They have misled the public about equipment improvements on a number of occasions. They would have the public believe that our troops are not properly resourced.

"In doing so they are both painting a false picture and they are also undermining public support for the mission," he said.

To be fair, it's not like complaints about the kit just appeared on the campaign trail. They've been going on for 5 years now.

By: Brant

Latest Theory on SKorean Ship Sunk "by Norks"

No, we didn't make up this headline... It actually appeared in a British newspaper. And not one of those newspapers... an actual reputable one.

South Korean ship sunk by crack squad of 'human torpedoes'
A South Korean warship was destroyed by an elite North Korean suicide squad of 'human torpedoes' on the express orders of the regime's leader, Kim Jong-il, according to military intelligence reports.

h/t - Danger Room

By: Brant

Noriega out of US jail; extradited to France

The former Panamanian strongman and CIA informant is now facing jail time in France, where he was convicted in absentia a few years ago.

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega arrived in Paris from the United States on Tuesday after being extradited to France, where he has been convicted on money laundering charges.

Noriega, 76, a former army general, arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport shortly before 8.a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET) after being taken from his jail cell and put on board an Air France flight from Miami.

The one-time CIA informant was convicted in absentia in France of laundering cocaine profits through French banks and using the money to buy three luxury apartments. However, he can seek a new trial in France.

Noriega was captured in Panama in January 1990, two weeks after U.S. troops invaded the country in the largest American military intervention at the time since the Vietnam War.

By: Brant

BUB: Quick Look At US Military News

The DoD announced today that they are sending 116 CAV to Iraq... this Fall?!

The Department of Defense announced today a replacement unit mobilized to deploy as part of the force rotation in support of Operation New Dawn. Approximately 2,700 soldiers from the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team headquartered in Boise, Idaho, with elements in Montana and Oregon, will deploy in the fall of 2010.

Now pre-mob training normally takes a year, so this is pretty quick on the trigger. It'll be interesting to see how this train-up goes, and the impact it has on families.

With concerns about over-medication of US troops returning from the war, the VA and the Army are looking into non-chemical ways to help soldiers cope.

The US Army's surgeon general on Monday expressed concern about "over-medication" of soldiers returning from combat, saying the military is closely tracking how drugs are prescribed to troops.
The top medical officer in the army, Lieutenant General Eric Schoomaker, said the increasing use of prescription drugs for soldiers recovering from combat duty in Iraq or Afghanistan reflected a wider trend in the country to treat pain primarily through medication.
But he told reporters: "I can tell you that we are concerned about over-medication."
The general said that "we're very concerned about the panoply of drugs that are being used and the numbers of drugs that are being used."
"We are monitoring it very, very closely," he said.
Prescription orders for psychiatric and pain medicines for troops have increased dramatically since 2001, according to a Military Times report in March, with one in six service members on some form of psychiatric drug.
About 15 percent of soldiers said they had abused prescription drugs in the past month, according to a Pentagon survey carried out in 2008 and released in December.
Lawmakers have urged the military to examine a possible link between a rise in suicides among troops and the use and abuse of prescription drugs.
Schoomaker said he had led a review looking at prescription drugs and his task force had promoted alternatives to pain killers, including "yoga, meditation, acupuncture, movement therapy, lots of other ways of approaching pain management."

If anyone out there has been successful at dealing with pain/PTSD/etc through any combination of yoga, meditation, acupuncture, movement therapy, or any other non-chemical means, please share...

Northrup Grumman can't wait to become part of the problem, and is moving their HQ the DC bubble. Yay.

Northrop Grumman has chosen Northern Virginia as the new home for its global headquarters, ending a heated competition among Virginia, Maryland and the District for the prestige of playing host to the defense contracting giant.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) announced the decision Monday night in a joint statement with Northrop, describing the selection as a victory for what he called his administration's commitment to promoting business development.

"To gain the corporate headquarters of one of the largest global security contractors in the world is a testament to the strong business climate that we are focused on continually improving," said McDonnell, who has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon at Northrop's Rosslyn offices to discuss the move.


It's fashionable to bag on PowerPoint, and we all love to do it. We've even already posted the image referenced at the start of this article. So why bring it up again? To point out that a bunch of the article is based on the remarks of speakers at the UNC Civil-Military Relations Conference we live-blogged a few weeks back. Aren't we cool?

“PowerPoint makes us stupid,” Gen. James N. Mattis of the Marine Corps, the Joint Forces commander, said this month at a military conference in North Carolina. (He spoke without PowerPoint.) Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who banned PowerPoint presentations when he led the successful effort to secure the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar in 2005, followed up at the same conference by likening PowerPoint to an internal threat.

“It’s dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control,” General McMaster said in a telephone interview afterward. “Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

In General McMaster’s view, PowerPoint’s worst offense is not a chart like the spaghetti graphic, which was first uncovered by NBC’s Richard Engel, but rigid lists of bullet points (in, say, a presentation on a conflict’s causes) that take no account of interconnected political, economic and ethnic forces. “If you divorce war from all of that, it becomes a targeting exercise,” General McMaster said.

Commanders say that behind all the PowerPoint jokes are serious concerns that the program stifles discussion, critical thinking and thoughtful decision-making. Not least, it ties up junior officers — referred to as PowerPoint Rangers — in the daily preparation of slides, be it for a Joint Staff meeting in Washington or for a platoon leader’s pre-mission combat briefing in a remote pocket of Afghanistan.

Last year when a military Web site, Company Command, asked an Army platoon leader in Iraq, Lt. Sam Nuxoll, how he spent most of his time, he responded, “Making PowerPoint slides.” When pressed, he said he was serious.

“I have to make a storyboard complete with digital pictures, diagrams and text summaries on just about anything that happens,” Lieutenant Nuxoll told the Web site. “Conduct a key leader engagement? Make a storyboard. Award a microgrant? Make a storyboard.”

Despite such tales, “death by PowerPoint,” the phrase used to described the numbing sensation that accompanies a 30-slide briefing, seems here to stay. The program, which first went on sale in 1987 and was acquired by Microsoft soon afterward, is deeply embedded in a military culture that has come to rely on PowerPoint’s hierarchical ordering of a confused world.

“There’s a lot of PowerPoint backlash, but I don’t see it going away anytime soon,” said Capt. Crispin Burke, an Army operations officer at Fort Drum, N.Y., who under the name Starbuck wrote an essay about PowerPoint on the Web site Small Wars Journal that cited Lieutenant Nuxoll’s comment.

In a daytime telephone conversation, he estimated that he spent an hour each day making PowerPoint slides. In an initial e-mail message responding to the request for an interview, he wrote, “I would be free tonight, but unfortunately, I work kind of late (sadly enough, making PPT slides).”


We welcome your thoughts on all these articles.

By: Brant

Paging Guardian!

We're missing our Guns'n'Gear fix!

By: Brant

Anniversary: Desert One

Yes, it's been 30 years since the ill-fated attempt to rescue the hostages in Iran. Mark Bowden has a fantastic article about it over at The Atlantic that is well worth the half hour it'll take you to read it.

Gulf of Oman, April 24, 1980, Dusk
Through the failing light a lone plane moved fast and low over dark waters toward the coast of Iran. It was a big four-propeller U.S. Air Force workhorse, a C-130 Hercules, painted in a mottled black-and-green camouflage that made it all but invisible against the black water and the night sky. It flew with no lights. Inside, in the eerie red glow of the plane’s blackout lamps, seventy-four men struggled to get comfortable in a cramped, unaccommodating space. Only the eleven men of the plane’s usual crew had assigned seats; the others sprawled on and around a Jeep, five motorcycles, two long sheets of heavy aluminum (to wedge under the plane’s tires if it became stuck in desert sand), and a bulky portable guidance system that would help the other planes and helicopters find their way to Desert One. Their rendezvous was a flat, empty spot in the Dasht-e-Kavir salt desert, fifty-eight miles from Tabas, the nearest town.

Just after dark, the Hercules moved in over the coast of Iran at 250 feet, well below Iranian radar, and began a gradual ascent to 5,000 feet. It was still flying dangerously low even at that altitude, because the land rose up abruptly in row after row of jagged ridges—the Zagros Mountains, which looked jet black in the gray-green tints of the pilots’ night-vision goggles. Its terrain-hugging radar was so sensitive that even though the plane was safely above the peaks, the highest ridges triggered the loud, disconcerting horn of its warning system. The co-pilot kept one finger over the override button, poised to silence it.

The decision had been made to fly into Iran on fixed-wing transports rather than helicopters, and since then Beckwith had added still more men to “Eagle Claw,” as the rescue mission was now code-named. Most notable among them were a group of soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment, out of Fort Benning, Georgia, who would block off both ends of the dirt road that angled through Desert One and man Redeye missile launchers to protect the force on the first night in the event it was discovered and attacked from the air. A separate thirteen-man Army Special Forces team would assault the foreign ministry to free the three diplomats being held there: Bruce Laingen, Victor Tomseth, and Mike Howland. Also on Beckwith’s lead plane was John Carney, an Air Force major from the team that had slipped into Iran weeks earlier to scout the desert landing strip and bury infrared lights to mark a runway. He would command a small Air Force combat-control team that would orchestrate the complex maneuvers at the impromptu airfield.

Some of these men sat on and around the Jeep. The mood was relaxed. If there was one trait these men shared, it was professional calm.

They had taken off at dusk from the tiny island of Masirah. An hour behind them would come five more C-130s—one of them carrying most of the remainder of Beckwith’s assault force, which now numbered 132 men; three serving as “bladder planes,” each one’s hold occupied by two gigantic rubber balloons filled with fuel; and a back-up fuel plane carrying the last Deltas and pieces of sophisticated telecommunications-monitoring equipment.

By: Brant

US Building Afghan Militias for Local Security... Then What?

WaPo has a good article about the SF community organizing local anti-Taliban militias, and the inevitable questions about second-order effects 5 years from now. An excerpt:

Taliban fighters used to swagger with impunity through this farming village, threatening to assassinate government collaborators. They seeded the main thoroughfare, a dirt road with moonlike craters, with land mines. They paid local men to attack U.S. and Afghan troops.

Then, beginning in late February, a small detachment of U.S. Special Forces soldiers organized nearly two dozen villagers into an armed Afghan-style neighborhood watch group.

These days, the bazaar is thriving. The schoolhouse has reopened. People in the area have become confident enough to report Taliban activity to the village defense force and the police. As a consequence, insurgent attacks have nearly ceased and U.S. soldiers have not hit a single roadside bomb in the area in two months, according to the detachment.

"Everyone feels safer now," said Nasarullah, one of two gray-bearded tribal elders in charge of the village force. "Nobody worries about getting killed anymore."

The rapid and profound changes have generated excitement among top U.S. military officials in Afghanistan, fueling hope that such groups could reverse insurgent gains by providing the population a degree of protection that the police, the Afghan army and even international military forces have been unable to deliver.

'What happens tomorrow?'
But plans to expand the program have been stymied by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who fears the teams could turn into offensive militias, the sorts of which wreaked havoc on the country in the 1990s and prompted the rise of the Taliban. "This is playing with fire," an Afghan government official said. "These groups may bring us security today, but what happens tomorrow?"

Citing Karzai's objections, Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, has blocked the release of money needed to broaden the initiative. He also has instructed State Department personnel in the country not to assist the effort until the Afghan government endorses it.

In addition to sharing Karzai's concerns about what would happen to the local defense forces once U.S. oversight ends, Eikenberry and other embassy officials worry that the program would weaken the central government in the eyes of the public and compete with efforts to build up the nation's army and police.

"At the end of the day, how sustainable would a program like this be?" said a State Department official based in Kabul, who like other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal disputes. "It runs counter to the goal of giving the state a monopoly of force."

The military's interest in local-defense initiatives is driven in large part by President Obama's July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing combat forces, which has increased pressure on commanders to demonstrate clear progress in their counterinsurgency mission this year.

Some military officials have expressed frustration that U.S. diplomats in Kabul have not done more to lobby Karzai and other Afghan officials to change their minds. Interior Minister Hanif Atmar, who had been supportive of the initiative earlier in the year, told participants at a U.S.-Afghan planning session this month that he no longer sanctions it, a reversal that military officials attribute to pressure from Karzai.

Atmar instead wants the United States to expand a different local-defense program, which is under the control of his ministry and has been implemented in one province in the east, but U.S. commanders think it will not be as effective as the approach undertaken in Afghanistan.

Go read the whole thing - it's a great article.

By: Brant

Was USAF Space Plane Mission A Fail?

There's word on the street that that the recent launch of the US space plane tanked after takeoff.

On the heels of the top-secret X37-B launch, the U.S. Air Force launched an even more secret experimental hypersonic glider able to travel more than 4,000 miles in 30 minutes from launch. The craft -- dubbed the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 -- was launched via a Minotaur 4-Lite rocket Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Air Force announced.

Conspiracy theorists have long reported on a secret project known as "Aurora" -- a hypersonic spy plane capable of speeds up to Mach 6 (3,700 mph). The Falcon seems to be the culmination of that project, but it's capable of much, much more, according to a fact sheet from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The sheet explains that once the vehicle accelerates into the upper atmosphere, it is designed to separate from its booster and glide across the Pacific at around 13,000 mph, or nearly Mach 20.

The test vehicle launched last week reached Mach 5 on launch, and was designed to crash and sink into the sea and sink near Kwajalein Atoll, 2,000 miles south-west of Hawaii, 30 minutes later and 4,000 miles from the launch site.

But in a statement released Friday night, DARPA said that while “the launch vehicle executed first-of-its-kind energy management maneuvers, clamshell payload fairing release and HTV-2 deployment,” all wasn't perfect with the superfast craft. “Approximately 9 minutes into the mission, telemetry assets experienced a loss of signal from the HTV-2. An engineering team is reviewing available data to understand this event.”

By: Brant

Women in Uniform: Judo!

A judo coaching session for girls in Kabul, Afghanistan, conducted by a female Flt Lt serving in the RAF. After seeing an article in "The World of Judo" magazine, about the state of judo in Afghanistan, a female Flt Lt decided she could help. As a former GB international, a qualified coach and the captain of the RAF ladies judo team she contacted the President of the Afghan Judo Federation, Zakaria Assadi, to ascertain what could be done. The result was a two-day training package in Kabul and the donation of 30 mats from the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) Judo Association and £2,000 worth of judo suits from Fighting Films, a UK-based martial arts equipment supplier. The Flt Lt is an RAF officer serving with the British detachment at Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan. The British presence leading NATO's International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in the region is tasked with stabilising life south of the capital Kabul as well as regenerating society within Kandahar and neighbouring Helmand Province.

By: Widow 6-7

26 April 2010

ODNI Reinforces Their Redundancy

In a recent press release (PDF) celebrating their 5th anniversary, the ODNI included this cute little nugget...

'...We are the only intelligence organization that wakes up every morning and thinks: 'How can we make this entire intelligence enterprise better? How can we combine the magnificent, individual agency skills into the very best intelligence team?'' Director Blair asked the audience.

Gee- wasn't that the point of the Director of Central Intelligence back in the first place? Oh yeah, right...

By: Brant

Belarus Leader (Unintentionally) Makes Putin Look Stupid

Remember last week, when Putin said the Russians don't want any bases outside their borders? Do you think he meant to say any more bases? 'Cuz it sure sounds to us like he's got bases in Belarus and the Ukraine, two places that (last time we checked) are no longer inside Russia. Unless Putin meant "outside the borders we once claimed while pretending to be a world power and keep Eastern Europe under out heel."

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Sunday berated ally Russia for not paying for its military bases deployed in his country and warned that he could snub the summit of a Moscow-dominated security pact next month.

Lukashenko, who has sought to improve ties with the West, bitterly hit out at Russia's gas-for-base deal with Ukraine.

"I want to congratulate my Ukrainian colleagues on this victory -- they have saved a few billion dollars by signing this deal," Lukashenko told reporters.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, bargaining with Moscow for cheaper gas, agreed last week to extend the lease of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea by 25 years beyond 2017, a move the opposition sees as Ukraine selling its sovereignty.

"If someone has forgotten it, Russia has two military bases on Belarussian land," Lukashenko said. "And Russia pays us zero roubles, zero kopecks and zero dollars for these bases."

"Besides Belarus, Russia has no one on its western flank."

He said one of the bases was part of Russia's national ballistic missile early warning system, while the other provided communications with Russian submarines in the Atlantic.

Russian officials say Moscow does not pay Minsk for the bases because Belarus gets Russian oil and gas at low prices, while Belarus says the lack of payment is due to a close military and political partnership between the two.

By: Brant

Prepping the Battlefield in Kandahar

The SpecOps community is moving into Kandahar in advance of the coming surge there.

The battle for Kandahar has become the make-or-break offensive of the eight-and-half-year war. The question is whether military force, softened with appeals to the local populace, can overcome a culture built on distrust of outsiders, including foreign forces and even neighboring tribes.

More than a dozen senior military and civilian officials directly involved in the Kandahar operation agreed to discuss the outlines of the offensive on the condition that they not be identified discussing a pending operation. But in general, the military under Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior American and allied commander, has been willing to talk about operations in advance to try to scare off insurgents and convince the local population that their government and its allies are moving to increase security.

Instead of the quick punch that opened the Marja offensive, the operation in Kandahar, a sprawling urban area, is designed to be a slowly rising tide of military action. That is why the opening salvos of the offensive are being carried out in the shadows by Special Operations forces.

“Large numbers of insurgent leadership based in and around Kandahar have been captured or killed,” said one senior American military officer directly involved in planning the Kandahar offensive. But, he acknowledged, “it’s still a contested battle space.”

Senior American and allied commanders say the goal is to have very little visible American presence inside Kandahar city itself, with that effort carried by Afghan Army and police units.

Stepped up bombings and attacks against foreign contractors, moderate religious leaders and public officials are viewed as proof that Taliban insurgents are trying to send a message to Afghan tribal leaders not to cooperate with the American offensive. Last Monday night, gunmen killed Azizullah Yarmal, the deputy mayor of Kandahar, as he prayed in a mosque in the city.

American and NATO officials are not eager to speak publicly about one of their biggest challenges: the effect of the continued presence of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Afghan president’s brother and head of the Kandahar provincial council, whose suspected links with drug dealers and insurgents have prompted some Western officials to say that corruption and governance problems have led locals to be more accepting of the Taliban.

By: Brant

USAF Space Plane is Kicking Butt, at...

... what, exactly? What will the new USAF space plane be used for in the future?

The clandestine nature of the shuttle’s mission may have added a new dimension to the global arms race – a space war of sorts. Some think that the vehicle’s launch might be a grassroots stage the U.S. military is taking to eventually attack its foes while in space.
In response to public skepticism about the launch, officials in Washington have failed to come up with an explanation.

The Pentagon denies any claims that the U.S. is developing a space arsenal. “I don’t know how this could be called weaponization of space,” said Gary Payton, the Air Force deputy under secretary for space programs. “We, the Air Force, have a suite of military missions in space, and this new vehicle could potentially help us do those missions better,” Payton said.

Brian Weeden, the technical adviser for the Secure World Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting the responsible use of space, agrees that the thought of this particular vehicle being used for combat is preposterous, but failed to deny that U.S. is seeking to develop efficient long range attack methods.

“The U.S. military is seeking to develop a conventional weapons capability known as Prompt Global Strike that can deliver munitions to anywhere on the Earth within an hour,” Weeden said.

Colonel Andre Lovett, a launch official and vice-commander of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, said the mission has at least some defense purposes.

“This launch helps ensure that our war-fighters will be provided the capabilities they need in the future,” said Lovett in a statement last Thursday.

If world leaders aren’t already outraged over the secretive nature of this military operation, they have every right to be; especially since President Barack Obama seems to be going out of his way to begin a global nuclear disarmament – a method, if proven entirely successful, will be an historic feat for U.S. foreign policy.

By: Brant

Monday Video: Learning to be Airborne (And Pretend You're Flying)

This week's video you don't want to end with a bang, since it might be you banging on the pavement from 1800ft.

By: Brant

Wounded Warrior Overseer Given the Boot

The Pentagon has 'fired' the official in charge of the Wounded Warrior program.

The Pentagon official in charge of the wounded warrior program said Sunday he has been forced to resign, as the military continues to struggle with how best to care for troops injured in combat.

Noel Koch said in an e-mail that he was asked to step down by Clifford Stanley, the undersecretary of defense for personnel. Koch had been serving as the deputy undersecretary of defense for wounded warrior care and transition policy.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert Gates had asked Stanley to do a full review of the Pentagon's personnel and readiness office. He said this is not the first nor the last change to take place.

"He was given wide latitude to make needed changes so that our men and women in uniform are better served," said Morrell. "What you're seeing is that the overhaul of that vitally important office is under way."

Koch said he believes the decision was unjust and that he resigned "under duress" after Stanley told him he had no confidence in him. The Pentagon had no comment.

"No explanation was given, although I pressed for one," he said. "No prior indication of dissatisfaction with the work of this office was cited."

Koch said the wounded warrior program has done good work during the past 11 months since his appointment to lead the new office.

Nearly nine years of war, in Afghanistan and Iraq, has physically, mentally and emotionally battered the military, sending thousands home with severe injuries and spawning spikes in suicides and post-traumatic stress issues.

By: Brant