31 August 2013

The End of the CMP?

An executive order - likely to be ruled unconstitutional after the damage is done - may well kill the 110 year old Civilian Marksmanship Program.

The White House announced on Thursday that it intends to “ban almost all re-imports of military surplus firearms to private entities” through executive order, which would effectively shut down the 110-year-old Civilian Marksmanship Program.

In a Fact Sheet published on Whitehouse.gov today referencing the upcoming executive order the ban on importing military weapons is designed to “keep military-grade firearms off our streets.” Exceptions for import may be allowed for museums.

The CMP tightly controls the distribution of obsolete military weapons. The program was created by the U.S. Congress as part of the 1903 War Department Appropriations Act with the purpose of allowing civilians to hone their marksmanship skills, should they later be called into military service.

By: Brant

29 August 2013

Bullets! - HOOP-EX

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

A HOOP-EX is the same as a LEAP-EX, just not as high. Oftentimes, the rehearsals for LEAP-EXs turn into HOOP-EXs.

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

28 August 2013

Gametalk - Realism

With regards to wargaming, define "realism".

By: Brant

Blunt Talk from Senior Leaders

It was supposed to be a non-attributed talk about strategic Landpower but the attributable quotes are quite telling.

“I don’t believe in non-attribution,” said Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, the director of force management and development at SOCOM and a co-host of the conference. “Anything I say I stand behind,” he said. “You can quote me.”

The veteran special operator was well worth quoting. For example, when one participant said the strategic landpower effort was created in large part to institutionalize a decade of improvements since 9/11, such as better interservice cooperation and new skills in working with local populations, Sacolick — who was present at the creation of the concept — bluntly said, that’s wrong.

“It wasn’t built on 10 years of kumbayah on the battlefield; it was built on 10 years of frustration [and] not working together properly,” Sacolick said. “It wasn’t 10 years of wonderful success. It was 10 years of abject failure that we don’t want to repeat.”

“There is too much self-congratulatory talk,” agreed RAND scholar Linda Robinson, who also gave me permission to quote her by name. “Looking at everything that has happened over the last decade until now, we are not good enough at ‘shape and influence’” — the military terms for getting people, groups, and governments to do what we want without having to shoot at them first.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, said Sacolick, “most of our successes on both those fronts came not from shooting people but from talking to them…. living with people and talking to them in their native language.” That said, he added bluntly, soft-speaking won’t be taken seriously unless you have the proverbial big stick to back it up. “What makes my guys effective in Afghanistan is not their diplomatic skills, quite frankly,” he said. “It’s the threat of force.”

By: Brant

27 August 2013

Progressive or Tiered - It's the Same Damned Thing

And it means our entire Army won't be ready fight when it's time.

“We’re looking at having certain number of brigades at a higher level of readiness,” Gen. John Campbell told me last week. “Many of our units will go down much lower.”

“Some people would call that tiered readiness, where we said we never were going to go again,” the Vice-Chief went on, referring to the Cold War practice where units not in West Germany or South Korea sometimes never received their full allotment of troops, equipment, and training dollars. “I’d call it progressive readiness.”

A preliminary plan may be ready for public discussion within weeks, Campbell said. “We’re working through that now,” he said, as the service builds its 2015-2019 budget plan, the Program Objective Memorandum.

Campbell’s remarks suggest new willingness on the Army leadership’s part to shift it position on readiness, one that’s been urged by many thinktanks.

“While Army leaders have avoided cutting readiness to every extent possible, it is no longer feasible under current budget plans – even before sequestration moves into year two,” argues Mackenzie Eaglen, one of the think tank experts who recommended cutting readiness levels to guarantee the military’s ability to develop and buy new weapons.

“There is already a readiness shortfall this year that is being funded through war spending and additional untold readiness gaps based on all the services receiving fewer resources than expected when Congress finally passed a defense appropriations bill for 2013,” she said.

So is this really a new condition? Or just putting a label on something that's been happening all along?

By: Brant

Medal of Honor awarded to Army SSG Ty Carter

Another hero earning America's highest honor.

Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter received the Medal of Honor during a ceremony Monday at the White House, marking the first time since the Vietnam War that two living service members have earned the nation’s highest award for valor for actions in the same battle.

Carter is the second soldier to receive the Medal of Honor for actions during the Oct. 3, 2009, battle at Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan.

Former Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha, who did not attend Monday’s ceremony because of a previous commitment to attend a benefit event for homeless veterans in California, received the Medal of Honor Feb. 11.

go read the rest.

By: Brant

Sound Off! Non-wargames!

If forced to choose between them, would you rather play...

tabletop pen-and-paper RPG?

console-based first-person shooter?

Sound off below!

By: Brant

26 August 2013

GrogHeads.com Calls for Research

From the other site I work with, GrogHeads.com

GrogHeads Staff, 26 August 2013

Hobby games and gamers - especially in the strategy gaming and wargaming world - have rarely been the subjects of much serious published research inquiry. And yet, some of us know from personal experience that such research is, in fact, being conducted in graduate schools and academic institutions all over. Distinct from marketing analyses in that they are not focused on improving commercial performance, these studies are frequently conceptualized and executed by members of the broader gaming community who are seeking to fuse their love for the hobby with an academic persuit in the social sciences or humanities. Although there are a few academic outlets for such research - the journal Simulation & Gaming springs to mind - not every paper was written with the intention of journal or conference submission. Nevertheless, the research is still interesting and useful, and for GrogHeads everywhere it is certainly relevant. Papers shared may inspire better research by later investigators, and the ideas discussed may help designers and developers craft better games. Here at GrogHeads, we're kicking off a new monthly series on Research and Gaming. The first of these papers was published in early August, and we plan to follow with one each month. And we'd like you to submit your research to us. We're not a peer-reviewed journal, but we do have some academics on our staff and among our "Friends of GrogHeads" network that include PhD's in history, political science, and business, as well as other grad degrees in social sciences and the humanities. So if you've got something interesting that you want to share, here's your chance. Email us your papers at research-at-grogheads-dot-com . Make sure you include all of your citations and footnotes in the document, and attach any graphics as separate files. We will also need a short bio from you about who you are and how people can contact you. One great way for people to contact you is to create an account in our forums, so that you can join any discussions of feedback that go on there. We even have an area dedicated to references and research. A few caveats, of course:
  • Don't send us something you're hoping to see presented at a conference, or in a peer-reviewed journal
  • Don't send us something you expect to try to claim on a CV when you're hunting for a future academic job
  • Don't send us blatant marketing, political, or religious tracts
  • Don't expect detailed, in-depth critiques of your work from our advisory team, but do expect a lot of questions from our audience, many of whom do not have a great academic background, and for whom there will need to be some gentler discussion of the finer points of how your research got to where it is.
So please send us your tired, huddled research projects yearning to breathe free, and let's share them with the wider gaming audience. Who knows what great insights they may spawn for someone else to build on, what feedback you'll get to improve your own work. Either way, it'll be in the public and being discussed, which sure beats languishing on a digital shelf somewhere, next to the Ark of the Covenant.

The idea here is not to start some guerilla journal, but rather to give folks an outlet for cool papers they write but are never going to publish or disseminate beyond their classroom.

By: Brant

25 August 2013

Some Common Sense From the American Public?

Looks like the US public is not interested in diving into Syria.

Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria's civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria's government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed, a Reuters/Ipsos poll says.

About 60 percent of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, while just 9 percent thought President Barack Obama should act.

But I have to wonder if this is a true appreciation of the total lack of strategic interest, or just deployment fatigue.

By: Brant


I mean, if you're going to be a stalker, and work for the NSA, you're going to be one hell of a stalker.

The “LOVEINT” examples constitute most episodes of willful misconduct by NSA employees, officials said.

In the wake of revelations last week that NSA had violated privacy rules on nearly 3,000 occasions in a one-year period, NSA Chief Compliance Officer John DeLong emphasized in a conference call with reporters last week that those errors were unintentional. He did say that there have been “a couple” of willful violations in the past decade. He said he didn’t have the exact figures at the moment.

NSA said in a statement Friday that there have been “very rare” instances of willful violations of any kind in the past decade, and none have violated key surveillance laws. “NSA has zero tolerance for willful violations of the agency’s authorities” and responds “as appropriate.”

The LOVEINT violations involved overseas communications, officials said, such as spying on a partner or spouse. In each instance, the employee was punished either with an administrative action or termination.

And hey, if you're going to start violating even more 4th Amendment rights, why not have a Senator defending you.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said the NSA told her committee about a set of “isolated cases” that have occurred about once a year for the last 10 years, where NSA personnel have violated NSA procedures.

She said “in most instances” the violations didn’t involve an American’s personal information. She added that she’s seen no evidence that any of the violations involved the use of NSA’s domestic surveillance infrastructure, which is governed by a law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

By: Brant

24 August 2013

UN Intervention Brigade Fires First Shots in Anger

The UN's "intervention brigade" is shooting at rebels threatening Goma.

A special U.N. brigade formed to neutralise armed groups in Congo has taken its first military action, firing artillery at rebels menacing the border city of Goma, U.N. and Congolese military officers said on Friday.

The force of Tanzanian, South African and Malawian soldiers was backing the Congolese army against M23 fighters, whose brief occupation of the city last year damaged the image of the U.N. mission in Congo and led the Security Council to create the brigade.

The United Nations pledged in July to prevent the rebels from getting back within range of the city of about a million people on the Rwandan border.

But M23 this week entered a security zone ringing Goma that was established by the new, robustly-mandated Intervention Brigade earlier this month.

At least three people were killed on Thursday when shells landed on the city.

"Of course we responded with artillery as we cannot accept any threat to the population. That's why we retaliated," U.N. Lieutenant-Colonel Felix Basse told Reuters by telephone from Goma referring to Thursday's fighting.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

Is the US Preparing for Action in Syria?

It looks like there's some prep going on for possible US action in Syria as the President weighs his options.

U.S. naval forces are moving closer to Syria as President Barack Obama considers military options for responding to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad government. The president emphasized that a quick intervention in the Syrian civil war was problematic, given the international considerations that should precede a military strike.

The White House said the president would meet Saturday with his national security team to consider possible next steps by the United States. Officials say once the facts are clear, Obama will make a decision about how to proceed.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to discuss any specific force movements while saying that Obama had asked the Pentagon to prepare military options for Syria. U.S. defense officials told The Associated Press that the Navy had sent a fourth warship armed with ballistic missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea but without immediate orders for any missile launch into Syria.

U.S. Navy ships are capable of a variety of military action, including launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, as they did against Libya in 2011 as part of an international action that led to the overthrow of the Libyan government.

"The Defense Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for contingencies, and that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options — whatever options the president might choose," Hagel told reporters traveling with him to Asia.

I hope - I really, really hope - that before any action is taken, that there's a definitive answer to the question "tell me how this ends." And I don't mean a random cruise missile strike here or there. How does the Syrian Civil War end, and what role does the US play in it, and what does the US get out of it? Because, quite frankly, if we don't get anything out of it, there's no reason to go in there.

By: Brant

23 August 2013

Time to Intervene in Syria? To What Effect?

The drumbeat is beginning to pound for intervention in Syria.

Following reports of a large-scale chemical weapons strike, pressure is mounting on the United States and its Western allies to act to halt the violence in Syria.

But, with politicians and public alike loathe to get sucked into another drawn out land war in the Middle East, what military options remain on the table?

And so far it's been GEN Dempsey as the voice of reason.

Effectively ruling out U.S. cruise missile attacks and other options that wouldn't require U.S. troops on the ground, Gen. Martin Dempsey said in a letter to a congressman that the military is clearly capable of taking out Syrian President Bashar Assad's air force and shifting the balance of the Arab country's 2½-year war back toward the armed opposition.

But he said such an approach would plunge the United States deep into another war in the Arab world and offer no strategy for peace in a nation plagued by ethnic rivalries.

"Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides," Dempsey said in the letter Aug. 19 to Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. "It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not."

The reality is that you cannot effect change on the ground without putting troops on the ground. Kosovo, Libya, and 10+ years of no-fly zones over Iraq have taught us that lesson. Are we prepared to put troops on the ground in Syria? Hard to believe we would.

By: Brant

22 August 2013

Bullets! - Gigs

-- quick and dirty words of wisdom collected over the years --

If you say "I'll take the gig for (fill in inspectable item)..." and then follow it up with "... Someone and I did (this much of it) but we didn't do (the rest of it)" then all you've done is rope someone else into what you ciaimed was "your" gig. If you take responsibility, take it all. Otherwise, just say "I told this person to do it and they didn't."

your thoughts always welcome in the comments below!

By: Brant

21 August 2013

GameTalk - Low-Tech Sci-Fi

How far "backwards" should sci-fi games represent the low-tech?  A caveman with a spear can kill a power-armor grunt with the right hit, but do you need to account for them in the game?  If so, how?

By: Brant

Gas Attack in Syria?

Seems there might have been an overnight gas attack in Syria against the rebels.

Syrian activists accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of launching a nerve gas attack that killed at least 213 people on Wednesday, in what would, if confirmed, be by far the worst reported use of poison gas in the two-year-old civil war.

Reuters was not able to verify the accounts independently and they were denied by Syrian state television, which said they were disseminated deliberately to distract a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts which arrived three days ago.

The U.N. team is in Syria investigating allegations that both rebels and army forces used poison gas in the past, one of the main disputes in international diplomacy over Syria.

Activists said rockets with chemical agents hit the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar before dawn.

Given that chemical weapons may be the 'trigger' that the international community needs to finally intervene in a major way, is there a chance that the rebels could've done this? It seems pretty far out there, but is it, really?

By: Brant

20 August 2013

Sound Off! Better Lessons for the Future

Should the US military learn more of their lessons for the future from

The Vietnam War?

Gulf War II (Iraq 03-08)

Sound off below!

By: Brant

19 August 2013

Is Egypt Paralleling the Weimar Republic?

I'll leave it to guys like Rex and Volko to dig through the nitty-gritty of how accurate the comparisons are, but Reilly's article contrasting Egypt’s military to the inaction of the Weimar Reichswehr in 1933 is at least quite thought-provoking. To me, one of the keys in the 'rush out of totalitarianism is nicely encapsulated below. Essentially, when political opposition is outlawed, it is the religious opposition that becomes the organized, structured, and mobilizable when political competition becomes acceptable.

Bernard Lewis predicted this mess when he said that the rush to early elections after the fall of Mubarak would lead, as did similar events in the Weimar Republic, to the ascension of the most dangerous elements society – meaning victory for the Muslim Brotherhood. In an interview with David Horowitz in the Jerusalem Post (February 25, 2011), Lewis cautioned that the discourse in Egypt is still “religiously defined” and that “the language of Western democracy is for the most part newly translated and not intelligible to the great masses.” How many Egyptians, for instance, actually believe that Copts and Muslims, men and women, believers and nonbelievers, are equal—to say nothing of Jews and Muslims? Pressing for elections now, he warned, could lead to catastrophe, as only religious parties are well enough organized to take advantage of them. (Lewis preferred first to see the development of local self-governing institutions.) Therefore, he said, “I don’t see elections, Western-style, as the answer to the problem. I see it rather as a dangerous aggravation of a problem. The Western-style election…has no relevance at all to the situation in most Middle Eastern countries. It can only lead to one direction, as it did in [Weimar] Germany, for example.” He was right. True to form, once in power, the Muslim brotherhood and Morsi went methodically about trying to monopolize power. Morsi assigned himself powers that a Pharaoh would have envied.

By: Brant

The Extended History of HTS - From "Success" to... what, exactly?

Newsweek's got an interesting history of the Human Terrain System program. An excerpt from the opening:

Known as AF1, Tracy’s group was the first Human Terrain Team to deploy in the field—and it quickly made an impact. In one community, Tracy pointed out that the Haqqani network, an anti-American group of insurgents, was gaining strength because an uncommonly large number of Afghan widows depended on their sons for support. With few jobs available, many young men were forced to join the insurgency to earn money. On the advice of the Human Terrain Team, soldiers started a job-training program that put the widows to work and cut the insurgents’ supply of recruits. The Human Terrain Team even convinced the Army to refurbish a mosque on the American base—a project that was credited with cutting insurgent rocket attacks.

Not all of Tracy’s insights led to perfect results, but on the whole the experiment appeared to be a major success. Tracy was “taking the population and dissecting it,” an officer who worked with her told The Christian Science Monitor; she was giving soldiers “data points” that helped them resolve local disputes and identify problems before they turned violent. Col. Martin Schweitzer, the commander of the brigade with which Tracy had deployed, would become one of the Human Terrain System’s biggest supporters. He believed that Tracy and her team had made U.S. soldiers and Afghans safer while speeding the work of connecting Afghans to their government. When Schweitzer had arrived in Khost, only 19 of 86 districts supported the U.S.-backed Afghan government. By the end of his deployment, he estimated that 72 of them did. He credited Tracy and her team with reducing his unit’s combat operations in the province by 60 percent to 70 percent.

By: Brant

Brit-Spain Snit of Gibraltar Spices Up With Warships

Claiming "scheduled exercises," the British navy arrived in Gibraltar and puts a convenient force in place in case Spanish fishing fleets get a little frisky.

British warships arrived in Gibraltar on Monday for scheduled exercises amid tensions with Spain over fishing around the British Mediterranean enclave.

Although British, Spanish and Gibraltarian authorities have said the navy's arrival at the British overseas territory is long-scheduled, some in Spain see it as provocative.

At about 0800 GMT the frigate HMS Westminster sailed into the port of Gibraltar flanked by two smaller ships.

It was followed an hour later by the auxiliary ship Lyme Bay, part of a task force of four warships and five other vessels that left Portsmouth and Plymouth about a week ago for exercises in the Mediterranean and the Gulf with various allies.

Gibraltar's creation of an artificial reef with concrete blocks, which Spanish fishermen say blocks their access to certain waters, has prompted Spain to toughen its border checks, leading to long queues for workers and tourists entering Gibraltar.

Spain claims the territory, population just 30,000, which it ceded to Britain by treaty 300 years ago.

By: Brant

18 August 2013

Bright Star Canceled Over Egyptian Non-Coup

Still won't call it coup... but in canceling the Bright Star exercises, the administration is treating it like one, except to cut off aid and stop spending money on the military there.

“While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” Obama said in a brief statement from his Martha's Vineyard vacation spot.

"As a result, this morning, we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise, which was scheduled for next month," the president said, warning that the U.S. response may not stop there.

"Going forward, I’ve asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship," Obama said.

By: Brant

17 August 2013

Navy Names Next Littoral Combat Ship USS Indianapolis

The Navy has announce the next LCS will be named the "Indianapolis"

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today that the next Freedom-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) will be named USS Indianapolis.

USS Indianapolis, designated LCS 17, will be the fourth ship to bear the name.  A previous Indianapolis, USS Indianapolis (CA 35) is best known for its role in World War II, where it operated from Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific escorting convoys and attacking enemy submarines.

Indianapolis’ service ended when it was sunk by a Japanese torpedo minutes after midnight July 30, 1945. Only 317 of the 1,196 sailors serving aboard the ship survived after five days afloat in the Pacific Ocean. Indianapolis earned 10 battle stars for the ship’s distinguished World War II service.

“I chose to name this ship Indianapolis because of the legacy this name holds,” Mabus said. “When people hear Indianapolis, they will be reminded of the incredible bravery and sense of duty with which our men and women in uniform serve.”

LCSs are designed to defeat littoral threats, and provide access and dominance in coastal waters. A fast, agile surface combatant, LCS provides war fighting capabilities and operational flexibility to execute focused missions close to the shore, such as mine warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare.

Indianapolis will be built with modular design incorporating mission packages that can be changed out quickly as combat needs demand. These mission packages are supported by detachments that deploy manned and unmanned vehicles, and sensors in support of mine, undersea and surface warfare missions.

Construction of LCS 17 is contingent upon Congressional authorization and appropriation of fiscal year 2014 funding. The ship will be 388 feet long, have a waterline beam length of 58 feet and make speeds in excess of 40 knots. The construction will be led by a Lockheed Martin industry team in Marinette, Wis.

For more news from secretary of the Navy, visit http://www.navy.mil/SECNAV.

By: Brant

15 August 2013

A Cheaper, Stronger US Army

The National Interest has an interesting thought piece on how to build a cheaper, stronger Army. An excerpt:

It seems counterintuitive to suggest that the U.S. could produce a smaller force while increasing its fighting strength. Yet for the reasons outlined in this article that is precisely what we argue. In order to facilitate the most effective and efficient Department of Defense, we contend it is beneficial to first revise the National Military Strategy. This revision will more effectively support the president’s overall National Security Strategy. Reorienting the DoD into a set of forces that are actually joint in execution will strengthen the American military and thus enhance overall national security.

In support of the president’s four strategic objectives, we recommend a complimentary four-point military strategy:

· defend the American homeland, vital national interests, and friendly nations;

· maintain open access to the global lines of communication in the domains of air, land, sea, space and cyber;

· prevent any state, or combinations of states (or nonstate actors) from dominating by force of arms the European-Asian land mass or allied nations;

· support peaceful relations between nations and foster greater understanding among international militaries

By: Brant

DOD Announces Same-Sex Spouse Benefits

DADT is barely repealed, but not that states are recognizing same-sex couples, the DoD is extending same-sex spouse benefits

Today, the Department of Defense announced its plan to extend benefits to same-sex spouses of uniformed service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.

After a review of the department’s benefit policies following the Supreme Court’s ruling that Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, and in consultation with the Department of Justice and other executive branch agencies, the Defense Department will make spousal and family benefits available no later than Sept. 3, 2013, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as service member-sponsors provide a valid marriage certificate.

The Department of Defense remains committed to ensuring that all men and women who serve in the U.S. military, and their families, are treated fairly and equally as the law directs.

Entitlements such as TRICARE enrollment, basic allowance for housing (BAH) and family separation allowance are retroactive to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision. Any claims to entitlements before that date will not be granted. For those members married after June 26, 2013, entitlements begin at the date of marriage.

We recognize that same-sex military couples who are not stationed in a jurisdiction that permits same-sex marriage would have to travel to another jurisdiction to marry. That is why the department will implement policies to allow military personnel in such a relationship non-chargeable leave for the purpose of travelling to a jurisdiction where such a marriage may occur. This will provide accelerated access to the full range of benefits offered to married military couples throughout the department, and help level the playing field between opposite-sex and same-sex couples seeking to be married.

For civilian benefits administered government-wide to federal employees, the Department of Defense will follow the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor’s guidance to ensure that the same benefits currently available to heterosexual spouses are also available to legally married same-sex spouses.

Be prepared for same-sex couples in military housing, among other things.

By: Brant

5,000-year-old board game pieces found

Over in Turkey, archaeologists have dug up a set of game tokens from 5000 years ago.

Intricately carved tokens from a nearly 5,000-year old board game have been unearthed in southeast Turkey, reports Discovery News. The 49 found pieces may be the oldest gaming tokens ever recovered, and they should help to back the current theory that board games originated in the Middle East over five millennia ago. "Some [tokens] depict pigs, dogs, and pyramids, others feature round and bullet shapes," Haluk Sağlamtimur, a researcher with Ege University who helped to uncover the tokens, tells Discovery. The researchers also found dice and circular tokens among the pieces, which were painted in colors including black, blue, green, red, and white.

The tokens were found at Başur Höyük, a burial plot in Turkey. In the past, similar pieces have been found in both Syria and Iraq, but not as part of a set. "They were found as isolated, single objects," Sağlamtimur tells Discovery. "Our gaming pieces were found all together in the same cluster. It's a unique finding, a rather complete set of a chess-like game. We are puzzling over its strategy."

The researchers don't have the game's rules figured out just yet, but they hypothesize that it was in some way based around the number four. According to Discovery, the game pieces were found at the plots alongside thousands of beads, painted pottery, a bronze spearhead, and other artifacts. Archaeologists have previously unearthed other board games from around the same time period, including a 60-piece backgammon set, Senet, and the Royal Game of Ur. Even if the researchers can't recreate the new game just yet, Discovery notes that their finding could represent the period's most elaborate game pieces ever found.

No word on whether there were nearby cave drawing arguing for the preference of abstract symbols over 'realistic' carved figures.

By: Brant

A Clear Mis-allocation of Available Resources?

Hmmmm... a Gulf II war story from over on CSW
I had my own run-in with the "keep it under the table" forces of darkness... I was assigned as liaison for the amphibious forces at 5th Fleet HQ in Bahrain in the lead-up to the invasion. About a week before the attack there was a huge kerflufle about wanting to get humanitarian relief supplies into southern Iraq as soon as possible after the border was crossed, but in such a way that the MSRs going north out of Kuwait wouldn't be impacted. The obvious solution was to bring them in by sea, but there was concern about the Shatt-al-Arab being mined and the facilities at the port of Basra being damaged (both by Iraqi sabotage and Coalition bombing). A rushed scheme to clear the water way was concocted, but Brown&Root were adamant that it would take them a minimum of four months to restore the port to operational condition. At this point, after consulting with the various commands I was representing, I proposed that we send a large SeaBee detachment from Kuwait (where their mission to offload the USMC pre-positioning ships and construct an elevated causeway to facilitate resupply cargo discharge was complete, so they were basically sitting idle) up to Basra to repair the port. The SeaBees had the expertise, the necessary construction gear and materials, had vehicles to transport themselves to the site, and had the weapons and training to provide their own security -- more importantly, the 0-6 in charge of the battalion was absolutely confident he could have the port open for business within two weeks and fully functional within a month. It sounded like a real win/win scenario to us. But after I floated the idea up the chain, and 5th Fleet gave a provisional green light to the plan, word came back from SecDef (not CENTCOM, not JCS -- SecDef) that the proposal was rejected and we were not to bring it up again. At my Admiral's request I sent an e-mail to the contact back at the five-sided-funny-farm asking what part of our concept they had issue with so we could submit a revised plan. That evening I took a secure phone call from some O-6 staffer with the SecDef's office telling me very coldly and clearly that I was to NEVER bring up the topic again and that if I did I'd be relieved and sent home (with the veiled implication that disiplinary action wouldn't be out of the question). We dutifully dropped the subject.
There's no independent verification of this, so take it for what it's worth, but it's an interesting indictment of how the occupation was run. By: Brant

14 August 2013

GameTalk - Maps?

Satellite maps, artistic designs, or sparse utilitarianism?

By: Brant

13 August 2013

Sound Off! WWII Movies

Better flick...

A Bridge Too Far?

The Longest Day?

and why do you prefer it?

Sound off below!

By: Brant

AFRICOM Taking a Hit?

Stripes Central talks about what might happen to AFRICOMif budget cuts start to take down the COCOMs.

That the Defense Department may be pondering a future without AFRICOM is no surprise to those who have followed the rocky history of the command, which has been a source of controversy since its inception in 2008.

It began with a backlash on the continent amid fears that establishing the command signaled a militarization of U.S. foreign policy in Africa. As part of an effort to assuage those fears, AFRICOM abandoned plans for a headquarters on the continent, in favor of staying put in Stuttgart, Germany.

But should AFRICOM be eliminated? Supporters argue that such a move would send the wrong signal to the African continent at a time when there is a host of security challenges, most notably the rise of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

Critics can counter that abolishing a headquarters doesn’t mean the end of U.S. military engagement in Africa. After all, the U.S. military was in Africa long before AFRICOM, which inherited from EUCOM many longstanding missions there.

Even after AFRICOM’s launch, EUCOM hasn’t left Africa behind. For example, it was EUCOM that functioned as the de facto force provider for Operation Odyssey Dawn, the initial phase of the 2011 bombardment campaign over Libya. EUCOM also provided key command-and-control support to AFRICOM as it struggled to find its footing in that mission — the command’s first fighting campaign.

AFRICOM, formed in recognition of the growing strategic significance of the resource-rich continent, came about at a time when the Pentagon was flush with cash. If responsibility for Africa were to return to EUCOM, it’s not clear how much money would be saved. EUCOM, also headquartered in Stuttgart, would likely need to be beefed up to continue the missions now being led by its sister command.

By: Brant

USAction! Take Charge!

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Moore shouts orders to his team during during Khaan Quest 2013 at Five Hills Training Area in Mongolia, Aug. 08, 2013. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Robert Bush

By: Brant

12 August 2013

Some Hard Truths Glossed Over in our Vocabulary

Dave Maxwell has a very thoughtful article about "Unconventional Warfare" and whether or not it's the exclusive purview of the SF guys (hint: he says "no"). But just as interesting is the way he frames UW. Here's the intro:

“US Army Special Forces is the only force in the Department of Defense organized, trained, equipped, educated, and optimized for the conduct of unconventional warfare.”

I have written those words many times in the past thirty plus years of my military service. With those words I have implied that the unconventional warfare mission belongs solely to US Army Special Forces (SF). I was wrong.

I began to realize this in 2009, when I participated in a working group established by the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School to re-examine the definition of unconventional warfare. The revised definition that resulted was a compromise that did not satisfy everyone in the Special Forces (SF) or wider Special Operations Forces (SOF) community. Nonetheless, the definition currently resides in Joint Publication 1-02 the Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms and is now the foundation for US military unconventional warfare doctrine: Unconventional warfare consists of “activities to enable a resistance or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow a government or occupying power through and with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.”

But here's where he goes 90% of the way in tying together the uncomfortable vocabulary that most of us hard core militarists inherently understand, but that the rest of the country is likely loath to admit

Due to the prevailing wisdom that SF owns the UW mission, many senior decision makers, policymakers and strategists both inside the Beltway and at the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCC) rarely consider the strategic option of conducting UW. Furthermore, as evidenced by our myopic view of terrorism, we do not fully comprehend that our enemies are, in fact, conducting unconventional warfare. As a result, we do not consider potential strategies to conduct “counter-unconventional warfare,” instead focusing solely on the means and methods of counterterrorism.
(our emphasis)

See, in admitting that AQ is conducting "unconventional warfare" we can easily hit the button on the Patented GrogNews Vocabulary Substitution Machine™ (not sold in stores) and swap out "UW" for "insurgency":

Due to the prevailing wisdom that SF owns the insurgency mission, many senior decision makers, policymakers and strategists both inside the Beltway and at the Geographic Combatant Commands (GCC) rarely consider the strategic option of conducting insurgencies. Furthermore, as evidenced by our myopic view of terrorism, we do not fully comprehend that our enemies are, in fact, conducting insurgencies. As a result, we do not consider potential strategies to conduct “counter-insurgency,” instead focusing solely on the means and methods of counterterrorism.

Hmmmm... we know we're conducting counter-insurgencies, right? We've been talking about it for 10 years now. We know that AQ is formenting insurgencies all over the world. But we have to be very careful about how we frame the UW-COIN vocabulary substitution. If we admit that AQ has been conducting worldwide UW, but then focus on their terror campaigns, what does it say about the US that we have a dedicated UW doctrine, when UW becomes a synonym for "terrorism"?

So we have a doctrine in the US for conducting UW (read: insurgency). We don't particularly want a doctrine for conducting UW (read: terrorism). And I'm OK with that.

What do you think? How would the US public react if it became explicitly clear that we had, and actively developed, trained, and disseminated doctrine about creating insurgencies in places where we don't like the government? Is it better that we obfuscate the capability behind the kabuki dance of shuffled vocabulary words? Or is this something that deserves a serious and sober conversation with the American public* that they might fully understand the broad spectrum of capabilities that we offer our government through the use of the military?

By: Brant

*note that I am fully aware of the general inability of the American public to make mature and thoughtful decisions regarding complex socio-geo-political issues like this

11 August 2013

82d Prepping for Syria?

This op-ed discusses the 82d's training missions for Syria as though they were an open fact, but the real meat of the article is the broader strategic discussion by GEN Dempsey about the dangers of overcommitment.

It is nighttime in mid-July in a forest somewhere in North Carolina, but the scene is far from the quiet idyll that we’d all expect. More than 4,000 paratroopers from Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division are in the heat of battle, an exercise designed to simulate a chemical weapons raid. Their imagined setting: Syria.

Maj. Gen. John Nicholson was frank: “As we look at the evolving situation – Syria and other places around the world – we’re preparing to deal with the reality of securing chemical weapons.”

This is the 82nd’s job. The country wouldn’t expect anything less, and North Carolina is fortunate to be home to such an elite and essential force. For strategic purposes, though, the real action would come a week later on Capitol Hill.

On July 19, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs (and a Duke alumnus), offered an unvarnished perspective to the Senate Armed Services’ Committee on intervening in Syria. “Some options may not be feasible in time or cost without compromising our security elsewhere,” he wrote. “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next.”

That’s about as close as you’ll come to hearing the top brass say, “We’ve seen this before, and it’s a bad idea.” Dempsey’s right.

Go read the rest.

By: Brant

09 August 2013

08 August 2013

Saudis Trying to Inject Selves into Syrian-Russian Relationship

Can the Saudis get the Russians to back off their support for Syria's Assad regime?

Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

The proposed deal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria's devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said.

Russia has supported Assad with arms and diplomatic cover throughout the war and any change in Moscow's stance would remove a major obstacle to action on Syria by the United Nations Security Council.

Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia said Prince Bandar offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons as well as ensuring that Gulf gas would not threaten Russia's position as a main gas supplier to Europe.

So I'm immediately going for a Civ V analogy here, where Arabia is offering Russia a big trade of GPT and Oil in exchange for withdrawing a pledge to protect the Damascus city-state. Not e perfect analogy, I know, but that's what came to mind.

By: Brant

07 August 2013

GameTalk - Combat Resolution

Buckets of dice?  Or CRTs?  Which one would you use when?

By: Brant

06 August 2013

Sound Off! Indirect Fire!

Mortars?  or Cannons?

and why?

Sound off below!

By: Brant

Philippine Navy Upgrading to Counter China

Taking possession of a former USCG cutter, the Philippine navy is upgrading their fleet.

The Philippines took possession of a former U.S. Coast Guard ship on Tuesday, part of its biggest military upgrade in decades, as a stronger economy allows it to raise spending to counter China's growing assertiveness in disputed waters.

The military build-up, which is heavily focused on maritime capability, is likely to add to tension over the South China Sea that has threatened to draw in the United States as it refocuses its military attention on Asia.

President Benigno Aquino and senior ministers watched as the frigate, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, sailed into the Philippines' Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base, after a two-month voyage from South Carolina, where its 88 Philippine crew trained for a year.

The 46-year-old Hamilton-class cutter, the second of its type the Philippines has received from its U.S. ally, will be used to patrol areas of the South China Sea near the Philippine coast that have become a major source of tension with Beijing.

By: Brant

05 August 2013

Canadian Defence "Reforms" Coming?

As reported by The Economist, policy in Canada is being more greatly constrained by budget reality and taking its toll on future readiness.

The Conservatives set out to reverse what they claimed was neglect of the armed forces, pouring money into troops and equipment. Defence spending had already started to rise again in the last few years of Liberal government; but in the first two years of a Conservative one it shot up to C$19.2 billion ($17.1 billion) in 2008-09 from C$15.7 billion in 2006-07. To existing orders for support vehicles, search-and-rescue helicopters and howitzers, the Conservatives added plans to buy F-35 fighter jets for the air force, support ships and Arctic patrol vessels for the navy, plus a polar icebreaker for the Coast Guard, and some transport helicopters. The opposition parties called the 2008 “Canada First” defence strategy more of a shopping list than a policy document.

The Conservatives have also worked to change the image of the Canadian armed forces from peacekeepers (a Liberal idea) to fighters. They celebrated military milestones. The government spent C$28m to mark the bicentenary of the War of 1812 between what was then a group of British colonies and the United States. Red Fridays, when Canadians wear red to support the troops, won political support. The image makeover was helped by the fact that Canadian forces were fighting in Afghanistan and were led by a charismatic and outspoken chief of the defence staff, General Rick Hillier.

Circumstances have changed. General Hillier has retired. Canada is no longer fighting in Afghanistan, although 950 trainers will remain until next year as part of the international effort to create an Afghan army. Money is tight. The federal budget slipped back into deficit in 2008-09 and the government’s determination to return to surplus before the next election in 2015 means even a favoured department like defence is not being spared. It lost just over C$2 billion in the first two rounds of government-wide spending cuts and looks likely to lose as much again as the 2015 deadline looms. The “Canada First” strategy is unaffordable and there are mutterings about a new decade of darkness.

By: Brant

02 August 2013

Wait, huh? Ghana has a Navy?!

And not only that - they're capturing pirates!

Ghana's navy has intercepted a ship and arrested its crew on suspicion of involvement in the hijacking of an oil products tanker off Gabon last month, Ghana's government said.

Pirate attacks in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea have almost doubled from last year, jacking up insurance costs for shipping companies. Experts say gangs based in the waters off Africa's top oil producer Nigeria are extending their reach.

Pirates seized the Maltese-flagged Cotton tanker with its 24-member crew on July 15 near Gabon's Port Gentil, in the first reported attack in that area for five years. The ship was released the following week.

Ghana's deputy Information Minister Felix Kwakye Ofosu said the vessel intercepted by Ghana's navy, the MT Mustard, was believed to have been used to siphon about 3,500 tonnes of fuel from the Cotton.

It later sailed into Ghanaian waters, first docking at the eastern port of Tema before heading for an offshore oil facility off the town of Saltpond.

"The vessel was intercepted off the coast of Saltpond and the crew arrested by the Ghana Navy," Ofosu said in a statement released late on Thursday.

By: Brant

01 August 2013

Conveniently-Scheduled Joint US-SA Exercises?

Do you think the joint exercises in South Africa right now were timed at all to coincide with Zimbabwe's elections? Maybe having a broad spectrum of US capabilities a 2-hour flight away has helped keep possible violence in check in Mugabeland?
Approximately 700 U.S. and 3,000 South African Defense Force service members gathered [in Port Elizabeth, Republic of South Africa] for the opening ceremony of Exercise Shared Accord 13, July 24. This is the second exercise of its type between these two countries and is the result of bilateral discussions that originated in 2009, and were approved in 2010. "This particular exercise is aimed at specifically providing collective training for the United States and the South African National Defense Force while building interoperability and mutual understanding between the two armed forces," said South African Maj. Gen. Ephraim Phako, deputy chief of Joint Operations.
So what exactly did we deploy out there?
Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, will be making-up the bulk of U.S. forces involved in the exercise. They will be joined by service members with 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Special Forces Group, 2nd Marine Division, 4th Marine Division, District of Columbia Army National Guard, Rhode Island Air National Guard, New York Army National Guard, 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Medical Command and 1172nd Movement Control Team.
Let's face it, the outcome of the 'election' was never in doubt, but the potential violence surrounding it always could've been worse. After all, last time there was an "election" the Mugabians weren't so thrilled about it.
Mr Mugabe was quoted by the Herald newspaper as saying the veterans had asked approval to take up arms but he had dissuaded them. They said Zimbabwe was won 'by the barrel of the gun' and should not be surrendered by a vote, he said.

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