30 March 2013

Weekend Humor: Lip-Synching in Afghanistan

We all know a lot of guy in Afghanistan are getting a little loopy in their downtime, thanks to ubiquitous video cameras and a little creativity. But splicing together your footage with the original that you're recreating? Watch and see.

My big question: where were they shooting that mortar?

By: Brant

27 March 2013

Just How Crazy Are the Norks?

Is Kim Jong Mini really nuts, or is his continual war-drumming just trying to show off for dad's old cronies running the military?

Reclusive North Korea is to cut the last channel of communications with the South because war could break out at "any moment", it said on Wednesday, days after warning the United States and South Korea of nuclear attack.
The move is the latest in a series of bellicose threats from North Korea in response to new U.N. sanctions imposed after its third nuclear test in February and to "hostile" military drills under way joining the United States and South Korea.
The North has already stopped responding to calls on the hotline to the U.S. military that supervises the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the Red Cross line that has been used by the governments of both sides.
"Under the situation where a war may break out at any moment, there is no need to keep north-south military communications which were laid between the militaries of both sides," the North's KCNA news agency quoted a military spokesman as saying.
"There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between the DPRK and the U.S. and between the north and the south."
Despite the shrill rhetoric, few believe North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), will risk starting a full-out war.

Anyone, anyone?

By: Brant

25 March 2013

DoD Releases a New Strategy Doc for Supporting Civil Authorities at Home

The DoD has released their Strategy for Homeland Defense and Defense Support for Civil Authorities

DOD Releases Strategy for Homeland Defense and Defense Support for Civil Authorities
The Department of Defense announced today the release of the Strategy for Homeland Defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities. This policyestablishes DoD’s priorities in the areas of homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities through 2020, consistent with the president’s National Security Strategy and the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. It links with other DoD and national strategic documents related to missile defense, space, cyberspace, counterterrorism, and the Western Hemisphere. The strategy identifies two priority missions for the department in the homeland: defend U.S. territory from direct attack by state and non-state actors; and provide assistance to domestic civil authorities in the event of natural or manmade disasters, potentially in response to a very significant or catastrophic event.

The strategy emphasizes cost-effective policy mechanisms and innovative approaches to defend the homeland against direct attacks and to provide timely responses to routine and catastrophic events on U.S. territory. It stresses the continuation of DoD capabilities to defend against conventional and emerging threats in the air and maritime domains, while expanding cooperation with federal, state, and local partners to defeat asymmetric threats – including, for example, homegrown violent extremists who may seek to use improvised explosive devices. Additionally, it addresses DoD preparations for responding to man-made and natural disasters.

“The Department of Defense’s contributions to the defense of our nation have evolved over the past decade and account for new threats and challenges. Lessons learned from events like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and collaboration with our interagency partners and State Governors have framed our current approach to DoD civil support activities,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs Todd Rosenblum. “This strategy emphasizes strengthening our partnerships with federal agencies like the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, with state and local governments, with the private sector, and with our Canadian and Mexican neighbors – not only for more comprehensive approaches to complex security challenges in the homeland, but also to create efficiencies through collaboration and joint action,”

For further information about this strategy, please access http://www.defense.gov/news/Homelanddefensestrategy.pdf

One of these days, I need to actually read my way into this and see if there's anything in there that would raise some eyebrows.

By: Brant

21 March 2013

Upon Further Review: South Korea Hacked From China?

While not ruling out the Norks, the South Koreans have traced the source of the attack to a Chinese IP address.

Investigators have traced a coordinated cyberattack that paralyzed tens of thousands of computers at six South Korean banks and media companies to a Chinese Internet Protocol address, authorities in Seoul said Thursday.
IP addresses, which are unique to each computer connected to the Internet, can easily be manipulated by hackers operating anywhere in the world, and the investigation into who was actually behind Wednesday's attack and whether they were in China could take weeks. Suspicion for the simultaneous shutdown is still focused on North Korea, which has threatened Seoul and Washington in recent days over U.N. sanctions imposed for its Feb. 12 nuclear test and is accused of waging similar cyberattacks over the past four years.
The cyberattack did not affect the government or military, and there were no immediate reports that customers' bank records were compromised. But it disabled scores of cash machines across the country, disrupting commerce in this tech-savvy, Internet-dependent country, and renewed questions about South Korea's Internet security and vulnerability to hackers.
If the attack was in fact carried out by North Korea, the purpose would seem to be to send a tacit message — and a warning — to South Korea that Pyongyang is capable of breaching its computer networks.

By: Brant

20 March 2013

Nork Cyberattack on South Korea?

Are the Norks making an offensive move?

Computer networks at major South Korean banks and top TV broadcasters crashed en masse Wednesday, paralyzing bank machines across the country and prompting speculation of a cyberattack by North Korea.
Screens went blank at 2 p.m. (0500 GMT), with reports of skulls popping up on some computer screens, the state-run Korea Information Security Agency said — a strong indication that hackers planted a malicious code in South Korean systems. Some computers came back online more than 2 ½ hours later.
Police and South Korean officials couldn't immediately determine the cause. But experts said a cyberattack orchestrated by Pyongyang was likely to blame. The rivals have exchanged threats following U.N. sanctions meant to punish North Korea over its nuclear test last month.
The shutdown appeared to be more of an inconvenience than a source of panic. There were no immediate reports that bank customers' records were compromised. It also didn't affect government agencies or networks essential to the country's infrastructure, such as power plants or transportation systems.

Is this the Norks next great crusade?

By: Brant

19 March 2013

We Fight Your Counter-Insurgency Better

h/t to SWJ, FPRI has an interesting article about The Rise of the “BASF” Doctrine

In a world of irregular—and regular—threats and in a nation confronting fiscal austerity and seemingly showing an increased aversion to the large commitments of troops to the ambiguities of large-scale counterinsurgency campaigns after a decade of such wars how is a great power to advance and secure its interests under such circumstances? One approach that has been floated more and more recently is the light footprint model—or indirect approach—for dealing with irregular threats and challengers. To boil this down into two sentences, much like the famous slogan of the chemical company BASF,* such an approach would be: We don’t fight your insurgency or terrorists for you. We help you counter your insurgency or terrorists better.**

There's an included checklist from another article about what constitutes "success" in these light-footprint interventions. Worth the read.

By: Brant

18 March 2013

Royal Navy Cuts Too Deep?

Researchers in the UK are saying that the Royal Navy is now 'too small' to protect Britain.

His warning was backed by retired naval officer Commander John Muxworthy of the UK National Defence Association who said that during the Falklands War in 1982 Britain had access to about 60 frigates and destroyers.

He said: "Now we have got 19. You have to use the rule of three with ships - one fighting, one training and one recovering"
"Just divide 19 by three to see how many we have got available for operations. People will fall about laughing if you claim we have enough.
"The Royal Navy has been emaciated. It is no longer a fleet. It is a flotilla."
"Britain is disarming when many countries around the world are rearming. The consequence is that we will lose lives, lose operational capabilities and we will be a shadow of our former selves.
"Yet as an island nation 90 per cent of everything that comes and goes from here goes by sea. "


By: Brant

13 March 2013

The Idiot Running Off At The Mouth

HuffPo published an absolute idiot piece about the supposedly lavish lifestyles of the military funded by taxpayer dollars. It opens thus...
For more than a decade, Congress and the Pentagon have lavished money on the nation's 1.3 million active-duty troops and their families. Salaries and benefits soared far above civilian compensation, military bases and housing were refurbished, support services like day care, family counseling and on-base college courses were expanded.

Now comes the reckoning. These personnel costs, necessary and warranted for those bearing the burden of war, are threatening to wreck the military, squeezing the accounts meant to fix or replace gear worn from a decade of war, for research and development, and for new missions in, say, Africa.

So stubbornly are personnel costs rising that at the current rate of increase, they would consume the entire defense budget by the year 2039, leaving well-paid troops standing around with their tanks, ships and airplanes rusting and out of gas.
... and gets worse from there.
There have been many intelligent rejoinders across the web, but one of my favorites is this gem from a retired serviceman, that includes the following:
But just out of curiosity … who exactly do you think is overpaid? Generalities are fun, but whose “lavish” pay would you like slashed? The 20-year-old Ohioan struggling to understand Pashto while he orchestrates installation of a water filtration system in a village that has resisted improvement since before Alexander the Great? Maybe the 32-year-old Californian responsible for guiding a 50,000-pound aircraft moving at the speed of sound to a precise point in time and space where she will deliver a Volkswagen-sized munition to a point on the Earth no bigger than a hopscotch court … knowing she will kill her own teammates or allow the enemy to kill them if she gets it wrong, even by a little? Or maybe the 40-year-old Floridian whose success is defined by whether his ability to train, motivate, inspire, and focus the 500 people in his charge will be enough to keep them alive in a war where neither the enemy nor the objective are understood and the source of the next attack is never known? You’re not talking about “personnel” my friend … you’re talking about “people.” Individuals with talents, capabilities, and courage that scare the living hell out of enemies. They are a bargain at twice the current rate, fiscal pressures be damned.

But while we’re on the point. People don’t typically make Master Sergeant in the Army in 8 years and they certainly don’t make Brigadier General in 16 years. But if they did, why would the pay you decry be so unreasonable? We’re talking about educated, capable, fit, ingenious men and women capable of taking life one minute, saving it the next, then opening a homeless shelter before sundown. I’ve been known to bash a general or two in my time, but the vast majority of them could step into any boardroom in America and, before the first coffee mug hit the table, instantly distill the winners and losers in the room, mentally devise a strategy for the next six months of corporate operations, and spend the next hour memorizing the names of the children and pets of everyone in the room. These people you construe as fat cats are not “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” as the old trope goes. They are extraordinary people making amazing things look easy. The real question is whether a country so manifestly confused on the cost of foreign activism deserves them.

HuffPo can afford to be wrong, because other than looking like idiots, they have no real consequences. However, their idiocy is read by a significant population that has no frame of reference to know any better, and therefore assumes that the author has done his fact-checking and is speaking the truth. Unfortunately, the article is riddled with significant inaccuracies (I don't think we've had a 16-year-TIS BG since WWII, and probably all the way back to the Civil War; certainly not with today's time-in-grade requirements) and half-truths (BAH doesn't necessarily cover the cost of off-post housing, which is hardly lavish in most military communities) that readers are left with an outright wrong impression of life in the military.

It's too bad, too, because there's probably some legitimate issues to debate here. But this guy is wrong on too many things to constructively contribute to it.

By: Brant

11 March 2013

Women in Combat - Research in Action

Small Wars Journal has an interesting research article on women in combat with insurgent groups that looks at statistics involving women on the front lines.

The abstract...
While the decision to lift the combat exclusion and allow women in combat roles in the U.S. military has provoked considerable debate, women are already present and active in armed rebel groups around the world. Using data collected on 72 rebel groups active in the post-Cold War era, I show that women are acting as combatants in approximately one-third of present-day armed insurgencies. Using examples from selected cases, I discuss what lessons the U.S. armed forces might draw from the experience of women combatants in rebel groups, including the organizational pressures that may result from combat exclusion, the impacts of female advancement on organizations, and the potential strategic benefits of female combatants.

Go read the rest - it's pretty interesting.

By: Brant

09 March 2013

What's More Important: Jobs in Kansas or Lives on the Battlefield?

For the third time, Kansas-based Beechcraft has lost the LAS contract. For the third time, the Kansas Congressional delegation insists their plane was better. If it actually was better, you'd think that just by mistake they might've won 1 or 2 of the previous competitions, huh?

So the Light Air Support contract has been a rolling, multi-year disaster, a microcosm of everything that's wrong with the military acquisitions system: meddling by politicians, incompetence by bureaucrats, and legal wrangling by the contractors. (Sierra Nevada filed suit itself at one point). Meanwhile US troops and their Afghan allies are without a lightweight, low-altitude air support plane that commanders first said was necessary in August 2009. Even without any further delay, the first planes -- whichever plane is chosen -- won't arrive in Afghanistan until after most US forces have withdrawn.

"I certainly don't want to delay this" any further, Pompeo told AOL Defense. "I am not asking for the Air Force to select the Beechcraft product. I would never do a such a thing. I'm asking them to run a fair and competitive bid process.... The Air Force, ultimately, by making the decision to completely start over, admitted that their first process was flawed."

This is just like the USAF tanker contract, which Northrup won multiple times, but kept getting derailed by Boeing protests. What's more important: battlefield performance, or jobs at home?

By: Brant

06 March 2013

The Cost of Iraq

How much did we spend, and what did we get for it?

Shortly after the March 2003 invasion, Congress set up a $2.4 billion fund to help ease the sting of war for Iraqis. It aimed to rebuild Iraq's water and electricity systems; provide food, health care and governance for its people; and take care of those who were forced from their homes in the fighting. Fewer than six months later, President George W. Bush asked for $20 billion more to further stabilize Iraq and help turn it into an ally that could gain economic independence and reap global investments.
To date, the U.S. has spent more than $60 billion in reconstruction grants to help Iraq get back on its feet after the country that has been broken by more than two decades of war, sanctions and dictatorship. That works out to about $15 million a day.
And yet Iraq's government is rife with corruption and infighting. Baghdad's streets are still cowed by near-daily deadly bombings. A quarter of the country's 31 million population lives in poverty, and few have reliable electricity and clean water.
Overall, including all military and diplomatic costs and other aid, the U.S. has spent at least $767 billion since the American-led invasion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. National Priorities Project, a U.S. research group that analyzes federal data, estimated the cost at $811 billion, noting that some funds are still being spent on ongoing projects.

By: Brant

Foreign Policy Wargaming and Undergraduate Students

There an interesting article at Foreign Policy about using a political wargame to explore Iranian nuclear disarmament with college students.

In government, war games and "table top exercises" (for example: this one, this one, and this one) that simulate national security crises have been used for decades to test hypotheses, galvanize attention, understand bureaucratic myopia, see how strategic logic plays out, and hone perceptions of foreign adversaries and allies. The results are often illuminating and terrifying. In 1983, a war game against the Soviet Union called Proud Prophet used actual top secret U.S. war-fighting plans and secretly had Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John W. Vessey, Jr. and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger play themselves. "The result," recounts Paul Bracken, "was a catastrophe that made all the wars of the past five hundred years pale in comparison. A half billion human beings were killed in the initial exchanges and at least that many more would have died from radiation and starvation."

But what if you don't have gray hair, top secret war plans, positions of power, or 20 years of experience in the Beltway? What can undergraduates get out of simulations? I put these questions to my current class, some faculty colleagues, and former students who participated in simulations I conducted at UCLA from 1999-2011. Here are the top three things I found:

Go to the article if you want to see those three things >>

By: Brant

05 March 2013

Rebels Fighting Rebels in South Sudan

The country formed of rebellion, South Sudan, is fighting its own offensive against Yau Yau rebels.

South Sudan's army launched a military offensive against insurgents loyal to rebel leader David Yau Yau in the eastern Jonglei state, killing 28 militants, authorities said on Tuesday.
Yau Yau raised a rebellion last year, with support from his Murle ethnic group, after losing local elections in 2010.
Revenge killings between Murle and Lou Nuer tribesmen and a heavy-handed government disarmament campaign meant that peace talks between Juba's government and Yau Yau never got off the ground.
"The operation has started," army spokesman Philip Aguer told Reuters. "The community leaders had been given time to make an agreement to get Yau Yau to return but those attempts have failed."
Since winning independence from Sudan in July 2011, South Sudan has been struggling to assert law and order across vast swathes of territory bristling with weapons after the 1983-2005 civil war with Khartoum.
South Sudan's army has clashed repeatedly with rebels in Jonglei, where Total holds a vast oil concession.
Aguer said 28 rebels were killed on Monday in clashes around Kongkong, several kilometres (miles) east of the town of Pibor.

By: Brant

02 March 2013

Full List of USAREUR Changes Projected Through 2016

For anyone who grew up in Europe in the Cold War, the remnants of the force there and the changes coming to effectively end it are really depressing.

In addition to the previously announced inactivation of V Corps Headquarters and the 170th and 172nd Infantry Brigades, the disposition of 2,500 enabling forces are provided as follows:

In 2012:
170th Infantry Brigade, Smith Barracks, Baumholder, Germany – Inactivated
167th Medical Detachment (Optometry), Grafenwoehr, Germany – Inactivated

In 2013:
535th Engineer Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany – Inactivates
12th Chemical Company, Conn Barracks, Schweinfurt, Germany – Inactivates
V Corps Headquarters, Clay Kaserne, Wiesbaden, Germany – Inactivates
172nd Infantry Brigade, Grafenwoehr, Germany – Inactivates
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 391st Combat Service Support Battalion, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany – Inactivates
B Detachment, 106th Finance Company, Katterbach Kaserne, Ansbach, Germany – Inactivates
42nd Engineer Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany – Returns to the United States.
99th Movement Control Team, Aviano Air Base, Italy – Returns to the United States.

In 2014:
Headquarters, 18th Engineer Brigade, Conn Barracks, Schweinfurt, Germany – Inactivates
243 Engineer Detachment, Conn Barracks, Schweinfurt, Germany – Inactivates
54th Engineer Battalion, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany – Inactivates
370th Engineer Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany – Inactivates
7th Signal Brigade, Ledward Barracks, Schweinfurt, Germany – Inactivates
72nd Signal Battalion, Ledward Barracks, Schweinfurt, Germany – Inactivates
Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 95th Military Police Battalion, Sembach Kaserne, Kaiserslautern – Inactivates
630th Military Police Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany – Inactivates
464th Military Police Platoon, Camp Ederle, Italy – Inactivates
511th Military Police Platoon, Livorno, Italy – Inactivates
541st Engineer Company, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany – Returns to the United States.

In 2015:
230th Military Police Company, Sembach Barracks, Kaiserslautern, Germany – Inactivates
3rd Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment (Airfield Operations Battalion), Storck Barracks, Illesheim, Germany – Returns to the United States.

In 2016:
69th Signal Battalion, Grafenwoehr, Germany – Inactivates
525th Military Police Detachment (Military Working Dogs), Baumholder, Germany -- Returns to the United States.
1st Battalion, 214th General Support Aviation Regiment structure is reduced at Clay Kaserne, Wiesbaden, by 190 soldier spaces and at Landstuhl Heliport by 50 soldier spaces.

By: Brant

Reassigning Soldiers in Europe

There's a ton of movement going on in Europe with the restationing of units related to the 173rd BCT(A). And if you follow the link, you'll see a metric monkeyload of other moves coming over the next 3 years.

Key actions announced Friday by the Pentagon include the relocations of the 173rd ABCT’s headquarters, and the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, from Caserma Ederle, Vicenza, Italy to the newly refurbished Del Din facility, also in Vicenza.

Two Germany-based units, the 173rd Special Troops Battalion and the 173rd Support Battalion will move from Bamberg, to the Del Din facility

The 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment in Schweinfurt, Germany, and the 4th Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment in Bamberg will move to Grafenwoehr.

The later moves will facilitate the closure of U.S. installations in Bamberg and Schweinfurt.

The 1st Battalion, 503d Infantry Regiment of the 173rd ABCT will remain at Caserma Ederle.

By: Brant

01 March 2013

Navy to Christen First Mobile Landing Platform

Saturday will see the launch of the USN's first "Mobile Landing Platform".

The Navy will christen the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) Montford Point March 2, during a 10 a.m. PST ceremony in San Diego, Calif.

The Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. Alexis “Jackie” Bolden, the wife of current NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will serve as the ship’s sponsor.

USNS Montford Point (T-MLP 1) is named for the approximately 20,000 African-American Marine Corps recruits who trained at the North Carolina facility from 1942 to 1949. Their exceptional service prompted President Truman to sign an executive order in 1948 disallowing segregation in the Marine Corps. These 20,000 Marines were recently recognized with our nation’s highest civilian honor for distinguished achievement, the Congressional Gold Medal.

“I chose to name the department’s new MLP Montford Point as a way to give some long-overdue recognition to these proud Americans who gave so much in the defense of our nation,” said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. “The courage shown by these Marines helped forge the Corps into the most formidable expeditionary force in the world.”

The MLP is a highly flexible platform that will provide capability for large-scale logistics movements such as the transfer of vehicles and equipment from sea to shore. It will significantly reduce dependency on foreign ports and provide support in the absence of any port, making an MLP especially useful during disaster response and for supporting Marines once they are ashore.

The ship will leverage float-on/float-off technology, allowing Montford Point to partially submerge, facilitating easy movement of cargo and craft. Additionally, the ship’s size allows for 25,000 square feet of vehicle and equipment stowage space and 380,000 gallons of JP-5 fuel storage.

With this set of capabilities, the ship is able to easily transfer personnel and vehicles from other vessels such as the large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ships (LMSRs) onto landing craft air cushioned (LCAC) vehicles and transport them ashore. The platform with its open, reconfigurable mission deck will serve as an important flexible and transformational asset to the Navy as it can be reconfigured to support a wide variety of future operations.

MLPs will have a maximum speed of 15 knots and range of 9,500 nautical miles. At 785 feet long, MLPs displace more than 80,000 tons when fully loaded. MLPs will operate with a crew of 34 Military Sealift Command personnel.

MLP 1 was constructed by General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co., (NASSCO) in San Diego, Calif. Owned and operated by Military Sealift Command, Montford Point will be the first ship in its class. The ship is expected to be delivered to the Navy in fiscal 2013 and be operational in fiscal 2015.

By: Brant

Expelling US SOF From Afghan Provinces?

It'll be interesting to see how Karzai's expulsion of US SOF from Wardak jives with the coming SOFA.

THE decision by Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, on February 24th to expel American special forces from the province of Wardak, south-west of the capital, Kabul, has thrown the NATO coalition into confusion. It has also turned attention to these elite but shadowy American units. The government has given the forces two weeks to leave the province, accusing them of complicity in murders and disappearances.

The order was announced at a hastily convened press conference, and the crimes were blamed especially on Afghan irregulars who had been recruited to work alongside the Americans. Mr Karzai, however, has made it clear that he holds America responsible. The government says residents of the province have long complained of the irregulars’ abuses and that it is taking action only after the NATO coalition failed to do so.

A joint commission of senior Afghan and NATO staff has been appointed to travel to Wardak (see map) to investigate. NATO officials say they do not want to dismiss Afghan concerns, but they also stress that a review has already confirmed that “no coalition forces have been involved in the alleged misconduct”.

Mr Karzai’s expulsion of the special forces throws into question a principal element of the coalition’s strategy. These units increasingly play the lead role in fighting the Taliban, as other forces are shifted into training and advising Afghan troops ahead of the full withdrawal of American combat forces by the end of 2014. Both NATO and Afghan commanders credit raids by American special forces for weakening the Taliban.

Special forces are also training tens of thousands of civilians for the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a village-based defence force which has become a central part of the effort to shore up security in rural areas. However many American troops remain in Afghanistan for training after 2014, local commanders are expected to want plenty of special forces alongside them.

Both the raids by special forces and the recruiting of militiamen at the local level have always sat uneasily with Mr Karzai. It was only after much arm-twisting that he was persuaded to accept the idea of the ALP at all. As the deadline nears for the Afghan government to assume all responsibility for the country’s security, the president has wanted to be seen exerting Afghan sovereignty and clearly laying down what NATO can and cannot do in the provinces.

By: Brant