About Defense Tech

Defense Tech examines the intersection of technology and defense from every angle and provides analysis on what’s ahead.

Tip Us Off

Tip for Defense Tech?


It’s Confidential!

Archive for September, 2007

The Sunday Paper

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

Time V22 cover.jpg

This week’s cover article in Time magazine is about the V-22. The title of the article — “A Flying Shame” — gives you a pretty good indication of writer Mark Thompson’s thesis.

I was contacted by Thompson in late August. During our half hour conversation I offered pretty much the same thoughts I put out here some months ago regarding the Osprey’s warfighting potential, including my belief that the airplane really could “change everything” in terms of how the Marine Corps fights.

Well, Thompson left out the part where I indicated my support and hopes for VMM-263’s success and resultantly I am presented as a “critic.”

Serves me right, I guess. I dealt with this type of reporter for three years in support of the program and was often frustrated by what they left out of the final product. That’s what I get for attempting a complete thought with a reporter who’s reverse engineering a story. I should have used my “risk communications” training during this conversation.

As I’ve written here before, Godspeed to the “Thunder Chickens” and all who work in support of the V-22 around the fleet. I hope to be proved wrong with my (now well circulated) concerns, including the mishap rate. In fact, I’m planning on it.

Here’s a video of Colonel “Bluto” Walters, USMC — former CO of VMX-22 — addressing Thompson’s points on Fox News.

As always, we’ll be keeping DT readers up on what’s happening — both good and bad — with this crucial first deployment.

– Ward

Why We Fight: Friday Follies Edition

Friday, September 28th, 2007

In this week’s edition of the Friday Follies, here’s why we at DT are confident of victory in Afghanistan. With professionals like these, no one else stands a chance.

Have a great weekend…

– Christian

Army Sees Budget Crunch Looming

Friday, September 28th, 2007


From a story we posted on Military​.com this morning…

It’s like calling the auto parts store and ordering a new battery that you’re not sure you can pay for two months from now.

That’s the situation in which the Army finds itself given the funding delays imposed by Congress for the 2008 fiscal year that begins Monday.

Army Secretary Pete Geren said Sept. 27 he’s frustrated that Congress is continuing to dither on approving the money he needs to run the service, with some reports indicating lawmakers might not be able to approve a defense budget until January.

Instead, lawmakers plan to use a budgeting tool called a “continuing resolution” that will fund the overall government, including the Pentagon, at 2007 levels for only 45 days. That ambiguity hurts the Army’s ability to purchase needed equipment, such as vehicle repair parts.

“If we were to find ourselves in a situation where we had multiple 45-day [continuing resolutions], we can’t run an organization like the Army with that kind of predictability,” Geren told a group of defense reports at a breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve got to be able to plan months out and years out,” he added.

The Senate has yet to agree to a Pentagon authorization bill or its version of the DoD appropriations bill. That could happen by mid-October but the House and Senate version have to be reconciled then agreed to before the cash can start flowing.

The clock is ticking, though, with the House set to recess for the year in late October and the Senate scheduled to recess in mid-November.

Geren explained that the funding uncertainty makes it nearly impossible to plan for upgrades and other initiatives that need some lead time. For example, it’s difficult to commit to payments for new Bradley Fighting Vehicle transmissions if the Army is uncertain whether it will have the funds to pay for them a couple months down the road.

“To have uncertainty hanging over the head of an organization that ‘will the next tranche of money come 45 days from now, 60 days from now?’ That’s hard to plan, it’s hard to invest,” Geren explained.

With the Army spending about $18 billion per month just to run the service, the lack of funding stability makes life hard for Army planners to pay the bills.

“If we do find ourselves in a 45-day type of a funding approach, that will make things hard for the Army that will make things expensive for the Army,” Geren said. “Much of our support force requires longer-term investments that you can’t turn on and turn off.”

– Christian

Are the French Looking to Sling Lead for NATO?

Friday, September 28th, 2007


France is expected to soon rejoin NATO’s military command after a 40-year absence. The French government withdrew from the NATO military structure in 1966 (although remaining a member of NATO’s political-policy structure). France’s new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has placed strong emphasis on France’s relationship with the United States. And, he recently declared that he would soon undertake “very strong” initiatives on European defense and give France “its full place” in NATO.

Subsequently, Defense Minister Herve Morin said that he was “convinced that European defense will make no progress unless France changes its political behavior
within NATO.”

Then-general Dwight D. Eisenhower established NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) as the principal command of NATO’s military forces in Paris in early 1951. The headquarters remained in the Paris area until in February 1966, when French President Charles de Gaulle stated that the changed world order had “stripped NATO of its justification” for military integration and that France was therefore justified in re-asserting its sovereignty over French territory. Consequently, all allied forces within France’s borders would have to come under
French control by April 1969.

Soon afterward, France stated that it was withdrawing from the NATO military structure and that the NATO Headquarters, the NATO Defence College, and SHAPE and its subordinate headquarters must leave French territory by April 1967. (NATO Headquarters was based in Paris, in the Palais de l’OTAN, currently occupied by the Universit Paris-Dauphine.)

Subsequently, NATO’s military headquarters were relocated to Casteau, north of the Belgian city of Mons.

Despite having withdrawn from the NATO military structure, French naval forces conducted bilateral exercises with other NATO navies, including the U.S. Navy. And, certain U.S.-French weapon agreements were undertaken, especially for upgrading American-built tanker aircraft and ship-launched missiles. The French joined other NATO forces in the Bosnia conflict as well as the 1991 assault on Iraq to free Kuwait, which Iraqi forces had taken over the previous summer.

Although the previous French government was not supportive of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the French did send forces to Afghanistan. However, earlier this year France withdrew its 200-strong special forces from Afghanistan; those ground troops were participating in the U.S anti-terror operation code-named Enduring Freedom. The then-Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said, “There is a general reorganization of our [troops].” However, the 1,100 French troops engaged in the separate, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force remain in Afghanistan.

U.S. forces have also worked with French forces in Djibouti in northeast Africa. (Djibouti is a small, impoverished republic just north of the Horn of Africa on the strait of Bab el-Mandeb. It is bordered by Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea, an area of great political and economic turmoil.)

The United States has used the French military-air base in Djibouti for several combat and support operations in the region. Indeed, the case can be made thatdespite its public stance?the French have been most helpful to several U.S. military activities.

– Norman Polmar

AF Brass Bristle at Drone Decision

Thursday, September 27th, 2007


The Pentagon’s number two official tried to throw cold water on this cat fight, but it seems that the fur is still flying.

On Sept. 13, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England forwarded a memorandum to the service chiefs and top Pentagon officials rejecting a recommendation that the Air Force be the central authority for high and medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles.

Air Force brass figured since they do most of the flying these days, the atmosphere — and most everything in it — should be their domain.

But over the last several years the Army has expanded its use of UAVs — particularly medium altitude ones — and they were dead-set against letting their sister service tear control of those assets out of their hands.

What England did was to shift oversight responsibility to the Pentagon, convening a task force that will examine UAV issues and map out a coherent strategy for all the services to develop drone needs, missions and systems, so resources aren’t wasted and there’s better coordination.

But that doesn’t sit well with some top Air Force commanders who see this as more of the same.

“A committee has often been described as a cul-de-sac down which good ideas are lured and then quietly strangled,” said Gen. Ronald Keys, commander of Air Combat Command, during a panel discussion with top Air Force generals in Washington.

“My thought is let’s put somebody in charge of this, let’s hold him accountable, and let’s see if he can’t sort this out,” he said.

The Air Force’s top general was more diplomatic in his criticism, arguing that England’s decision is still new and a lot could come of the task force developing the UAV roadmap.

“There has to be a better way to do this,” said Air Force chief, Gen. Michael “Buzz” Moseley. “I’m not unhappy with the steps that [England] has made in these first steps. There are more steps to go.“

Moseley pointed to the need for an overall concept of operations, standardization in how to communicate and guide UAVs, a coherent way to manage all the drones flying around the battlefield and what will be needed to protect drones from an increasing air defense threat.

“This is a recognition of the environment that we have identified as Airmen because this battlespace is something we are very familiar with,” Moseley added.

Drones have become an increasingly important part of military operations over the last decade. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have highlighted the need for pinpoint surveillance of enemy activity, given the rugged terrain and inner-city warrens insurgents covet.

The explosion of unmanned systems has led to the recent debate over control of the drone fleet, a matter of particular worry to the Air Force which is concerned that the growing swarms of UAVs could endanger their manned and unmanned planes.

On the other hand, Army officials are reluctant to cede control of their drones for fear they won’t be distributed overhead where they’re needed most by commanders in combat.

“Now we’re in a situation where the Army and the Air Force are essentially competing for production of UAVs. And that’s not good,” Keys said.


The Body Armor Debate Hits PBS

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

A quick head’s up here. My friend Paul Solman, the economics correspondent for PBS’s News Hour show, just broadcast his package on the body armor procurement controversy.

While he doesn’t mention Defense Tech by name, he did afford us a screen shot and pulled documents from my previous work on the story with Marine Corps Times newspaper.

Follow this LINK to watch the program.

– Christian

Anti-Piracy Missions for Global Hawk

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

The commander of U.S. Air Force assets in the Pacific said Tuesday hed like to see high-altitude, long-endurance surveillance drones like the RQ-4 Global Hawk perform non-military missions to protect commerce in the region.

Gen. Paul Hester told a gathering at the Air and Space conference in Washington hes been in discussions with regional commanders and Pacific Rim governments over the last two years to see how the Air Force could patrol economic choke points, such as the Strait of Malacca, using Global Hawk and other drones.

Theres a much broader array of things that we can do with ISR platforms, both RQ-1 Predators and Global Hawks, Hester said. Where does ISR play into the performance of all of us and our desire for peace and security in the Pacific to secure [and] guarantee the economies of those countries better throughout the Pacific? And how do we protect those lines of communication both air and sea lines of communication? Almost half of the worlds oil passes through the Malaccan Straits every day.

Hester said hes been talking to regional governments to see if drones could extend their ranges by stopping off at friendly bases something he called gas-and-go operations.

Is there a way that we can use in a consortium-style operation … in a way that we can share information? he wondered.

In the end, though, Hester has a pretty good point. Its what former Marine Commandant Mike Hagee called Phase Zero operations. Those all-seeing eyes could keep potentially bad situations from getting totally out of hand.

I call it the left end of the low end of operations where we provide those eyes, ears and information for decision makers both military and political then we have the ability to solve problems early as opposed to waiting until later when weve got our guns drawn and were pointing them at each other, Hester said.

The Global Hawk is scheduled to deploy to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam in 2009 to replace the U-2 missions over the Korean peninsula. Hester said hes planning a test-run of his economic security theory with a single Global Hawk next year to see what the Global Hawk can bring us.


Israeli Commandos in the Mix

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007


Well, the story of the Israeli incursion into Syria is beginning to get some granularity. It now appears that Israeli commandos may have been involved as well. What a totally gutsy move. And, if true, it also shows that Israel took the target seriously enough to send in ground forces.

Our friends at Stratfor passed this along to us synthesizing the latest information threads:

Another leak appeared via the Sunday Times, this time with enough granularity to consider it a genuine leak. According to that report, the operation was carried out by Israeli commandos supported by Israeli aircraft, under the direct management of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. It had been planned since June, just after Barak took office, and had been approved by the United States after some hesitation. The target was in fact nuclear “material” provided by North Korea, according to that leak.

All of this makes perfect sense, save one thing. Why the secrecy? If the Syrians have nuclear facilities, the Israelis should be delighted to make it public. Frankly, so should the United States, since the Bush administration has always argued that nuclear proliferation to rogue states, including Syria, is one of the key problems in the world. The Syrians should be spinning the story like crazy as well, denying the nuclear program but screaming about unprovoked Israeli-U.S. aggression. The silence from one or two parties makes sense. The silence from all parties makes little sense.

Looked at differently, Israel and the United States both have gone out of their way to draw attention to the fact that a highly significant military operation took place in Northern Syria, and compounded the attention by making no attempt to provide a plausible cover story. They have done everything possible to draw attention to the affair without revealing what the affair was about. Israel and the United States have a lot of ways to minimize the importance of the operation. By the way they have handled it, however, each has chosen to maximize its importance.

Whoever they are keeping the secret from, it is not the Syrians. They know precisely what was attacked and why. The secret is not being kept from the Iranians either. The Syrians talk to them all the time. It is hard to imagine any government of importance and involvement that has not been briefed by someone. And by now, the public perception has been shaped as well. So, why the dramatic secrecy designed to draw everyone’s attention to the secret and the leaks that seem to explain it?

Let us assume that the Sunday Times report is correct. According to the Times, Barak focused on the material as soon as he became defense minister in June. That would mean the material had reached Syria prior to that date. Obviously, the material was not a bomb, or Israel would not have waited until September to act. So it was, at most, some precursor nuclear material or equipment.

However, an intervening event occurred this summer that should be factored in here. North Korea publicly shifted its position on its nuclear program, agreeing to abandon it and allow inspections of its facilities. It also was asked to provide information on the countries it sold any nuclear technology to, though North Korea has publicly denied any proliferation. This was, in the context of the six-party negotiations surrounding North Korea, a major breakthrough.

Any agreement with North Korea is, by definition, unstable. North Korea many times has backed off of agreements that seemed cast in stone. In particular, North Korea wants to be seen as a significant power and treated with all due respect. It does not intend to be treated as an outlaw nation subject to interrogation and accusations. Its self-image is an important part of its domestic strategy and, internally, it can position its shift in its nuclear stance as North Korea making a strategic deal with other major powers. If North Korea is pressed publicly, its willingness to implement its agreements can very quickly erode. That is not something the United States and other powers want to see happen.

Whether the Israelis found out about the material through their own intelligence sources or North Korea provided a list of recipients of nuclear technology to the United States is unclear. The Israelis have made every effort to make it appear that they knew about this independently. They also have tried to make it appear that they notified the United States, rather than the other way around. But whether the intelligence came from North Korea or was obtained independently, Washington wants to be very careful in its handling of Pyongyang right now.

– Christian

San Fran Again

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Marines-Corps Seal Plaque M.jpgFirst USS Iowa. Then high school ROTC. Then the Blue Angels. Now the US Marine Corp. How much more dis’in can the US Military take from the city and ‘burbs by the bay?
A new advertising campaign by the Marine Corp has a their Silent Drill Team (an absolutely amazing display of precision and discipline) being filmed at various places around the US. You can see the products here.
When they wanted to film, on September 11 no less, on California Street in downtown San Francisco, the group was denied a permit to film. While initial inquiries by the press to Stefanie Coyote, the executive director of the San Francisco Film Commission, received the “unavailable to comment” response, Coyote later said to KGO-TV that “traffic control was the issue.“
“Traffic control”.
So what did the Marines do? They went to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for the final segment of its “America’s Marines” TV commercial then proceeded to New York City and filmed at Times Square where, apparently, traffic is less of an issue that in San Fran.
Yet another slap in the face of the US Military by a shrill anti-military area or a prudent exercising of civil traffic control by sage city elders?
You decide.
–Pinch Paisley

Bombs vs. Bayonets? USAF Picks Bombs

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007


The Air Force may have adopted a doctrine on irregular warfare — combating insurgents and guerrillas while trying to win the hearts and minds of a local population — but it’s not about to abandon the advantages of airpower and sophisticated weaponry in the name of “fighting fair.”

Maj. Gen. Allen Peck, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Development and Education Center, made that pretty clear today at the Air & Space Conference sponsored by the Air Force Association in Washington, D.C.

Peck — noting that the Air Force’s irregular warfare doctrine stipulates that military actions must come second to influencing the population you’re trying to win over — heard that an earlier speaker said that just using airpower, even on a legitimate target, gives the enemy a propaganda opportunity.

The argument made by the earlier speaker is that enemy troops will claim the Air Force attacks them from the air but will not come face to face to fight them.

It was obviously not a question Peck usually gets. Or, perhaps, one hed ever heard.

“We should eschew capabilities that the enemy doesn’t have and just drive up and put a bayonet in his chest because that’s the only capability they have?” Peck asked. “We’re using weapons from the air, and that’s cheating? And we’re doing it at night and we have precision weapons and they don’t? I don’t even know how to respond to that.”

The fact is, Peck said, “I don’t want a fair fight.”

The Air Force drew up an irregular warfare doctrine that was approved by Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley on Aug. 24. A key part of the doctrine is that while combating and defeating the enemy, you don’t things to turn the civilian population against you.

Legitimacy and influence are critical, according to the doctrine, and “the battle of arms” must work in harmony with “the battle for influence,” but not become more important.

Still, its warfare. And somebody has to decide when a particular action is necessary — even if it may be viewed negatively by the population.

If the target is a mosque, for example, “chances are something like that, the approval level is going to be pretty high,” Peck said, with the person making that call likely being the one who will have to publicly justify it later.

– Bryant Jordan