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Archive for May, 2009

Marines vs Taliban

Friday, May 29th, 2009

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One of my Marine buddies from 2–5 sent this to me. I thought I’d share it.

A large group of Taliban fighters is moving down a ravine in the Korengal Valley, in southern Afghanistan, when they hear a hoarse voice call from behind a sand-dune in a mocking tone, “Yo, muj, did you know that one Marine Marine is better than ten of you smelly Talib?“

Insulted to the quick (though he did indeed smell), the Taliban commander sent ten of his best men over the rocky hill, whereupon a gunbattle broke out immediately. The gunbattle was short, but vicious, punctuated by screams of agony and fear in Dari and Pushtu. Then there was silence.

A moment later, there was a snicker, then the same voice called out, “Bad Muj! Didn’t you know one grunt is better than any hundred so-called Taliban fighters?“

Furious now, the Taliban commander sent his next best hundred men up and over the incline and instantly a terrible gunfight ensued. The sharp chatter of M-4 fire barked out in counterpoint to the dull clatter of the Kalashnikovs, interspersed with the detonations of grenades and screams of agony and fear in Pushtu and Dari. After a full five minutes of battle, silence reigned heavily across the valley.

A moment later that same mocking voice called out, though to be fair to the muj, the grunt was obviously breathing at least a little bit faster. The voice called out, “Bad Muj, silly muj, you have to know that one grunt is better than one thousand sheep-loving Taliban!”

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NorkNuke Raises Persian Threat

Friday, May 29th, 2009

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The director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Patrick OReilly, said during an otherwise pretty dull hearing before the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee that the threat to the United States has increased substantially with the recent launch by Iran of a small satellite and the launch last week of a mid-range ballistic missile.

That caught the ears of the professional congressional staffers at the Thursday hearing, who wondered what the implications might be, since they were not explored at the hearing.

Some possible answers came from the venerable RAND Corporation. It came out with a report about Iran and its relations with the US over the next decade. One of the key recommendations of the May 19 report, Dangerous But Not Omnipotent: Exploring the Reach and Limitations of Iranian Power in the Middle East, is that the US should back off de-escalate in the reports language on a bilateral basis and combine that with muscular multilateral efforts targeted at Iranian behaviors that are not acceptable to the international community, such as terrorism and its development of nuclear weapons. Key to this multilateral approach would be support from Russia and China, which the report concedes is questionable.

One of the most interesting policy recommendations concerns how the US should communicate its policy goals. We must issue unambiguous statements about US interests and intentions in the region, particularly regarding Iraq, the authors say, The messages must be simple and easily understood, and the United States must stick to them long enough for them to be taken seriously. Among those statements should be a pledge that the US will say it has no long term interest in occupying Iraq or establishing a permanent military presence in Iraq.

The 230-page report, was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force in order to accurately gauge the strategic challenges from Iran over the next decade. If the threat from Iran really has increased substantially, as the MDA director told the subcommittee, quickly finding answers and implementing alternatives to the policies that have failed to deter Iran from developing ICBMs and pursuing nuclear weapons for much of the last decade is imperative.

– Colin Clark

Talk of Collaboration

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

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What would happen if one day the computers stopped working? That is what we may face when we look at the growing threat posed by the sophisticated cyber attacks we are currently experiencing. A 2008 survey of security insiders (management, network engineers and administrators) in multiple infrastructure segments were questioned about the state of infrastructure cyber security in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. These professionals indicated that multiple segments were unprepared for cyber attacks. The segments specifically identified as unready were: water, utilities, oil and gas, telecommunications, transportation, emergency services, chemical and the shipping industry. For the purpose of this article critical infrastructure is defined as the facilities, services, installations, capabilities and key resources needed for the proper functioning of society. According to Executive Order 13010 signed by President Bill Clinton on July 15th, 1996, critical infrastructures includes the following.

Telecommunications

Electrical power systems

Gas and oil storage and transportation

Banking and finance

Transportation

Water supply systems

Emergency services (including medical, police, fire, and rescue)

Continuity of government

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inventory of our nations critical infrastructure includes 68,000 public water systems, 300,000 oil and natural gas production facilities, 4,000 off-shore platforms, 278,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, 361 seaports, 104 nuclear power plants, 80,000 dams and tens of thousands of other potentially critical targets across fourteen diverse critical infrastructure sectors.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has begun implementation of a number of mechanisms in an effort to improve information sharing with critical infrastructure owners and operators. These include:

Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN)

Executive Notification System (ENS)

Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council (CIPAC)

Homeland Infrastructure Threat and Risk Analysis Center (HITRAC)

National Infrastructure Coordinating Center (NICC)

Protected Critical Infrastructure Information (PCII)

The information sharing pertains to information flowing between the intelligence community and critical infrastructure owners and operators. Even though these programs are in place and they have made progress, there is more that needs to be done. The current threat environment requires solid, trusted relationships to ensure to successful information sharing and collaboration between the private sector and the government. That takes time.

– Kevin Coleman

Shipbuilding Program is a Mess

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

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The Navy’s shipbuilding program is a mess. That was the consensus of several highly qualified speakers at a recent Washington seminar sponsored by the Hudson Institute. And, it was agreed, the current Navy and congressional efforts will not rectify the situation.

The fiscal year 2010 program recently presented to Congress calls for $14.9 billion in shipbuilding funds for eight ships:

1 SSN attack submarine
1 DDG Arleigh Burke–class destroyer (a restart of that program)
3 LCS littoral combat ships
2 T-AKE replenishment ships
1 HSV high-speed vessel

With a planned average ship service life of 30 years, this building rate would sustain a fleet of 240 ships. This is less than the Navy’s current 283 ships and far short of the long-standing Navy “requirement” for 313 ships.

The distinguished speakers at the Hudson conference on 22 May made it clear that without a massive increase in shipbuilding funds a larger fleet was not achievable. Dr. Eric Labs, senior naval analyst at the Congressional Budget Office said that about $25 billion per year for new ships is needed to reach the Navy’s goal.

Now is the time for “hard choices,” Labs said. We “cannot fix problems with simple measures.”  He observed that the ship procurement dollars being discussed do not include a new class of ballistic missile defense cruisers, and “it is not unreasonable” for those ships — now designated CG(X) or, if nuclear propelled, CG(X)N, to cost $6 to $7 billion per ship.

Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, under whose direction the U.S. fleet had reached almost 600 ships in the 1980s, outlined a “new look” for the Navy (which will be discussed in a future commentary). With respect to shipbuilding problems, Lehman blamed the constant bureaucratic growth of the Defense Department, including the Naval Sea Systems Command, and the lack of “line decision makers” — people who have the authority and responsibility to make key decisions. Only then can the continual flow of changes be made in ship requirements and construction be halted.

Lehman called for “freezing” designs and making only “block” changes in new construction programs.

Congressman Joe Sestak, a retired vice admiral, believes that the Navy could carry out its missions with a 240– to 260-ship fleet if “we bought cyberspace.” Calling for the development of methods for tracking every surface ship — both military and commercial, an expansion of the Automated Identification System (AIS) now used for large merchant ships — and for the continuous location of submarines, he said that such information could reduce the U.S. Navy’s ship requirements. 

Still, “owning” cyberspace would be expensive. And, the only way to undertake such an achievement would be to remove “cyber war” operations from the service budgets and consolidate the effort under a Department of Defense executive, according to Sestak. 

A consensus of the presentations and the questions and comments from the audience included the following points:

The Navy’s flip-flops on the Zumwalt (DDG 1000) and Burke (DDG 51) programs have hurt the Navy’s image and credibility of its shipbuilding program.
The Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan, required by Congress, is unrealistic and of little value.
Poor management of the Navy’s shipbuilding efforts have resulted in ship delays and cost overruns
The Navy has failed to effectively “sell” itself as a key factor in America’s political-military effectiveness, in part because of the above factors
Ship numbers do count and the controversial littoral combat ship (LCS) is the Navy’s only hope for increasing fleet size.
The Navy’s leadership can fix the procurement mess, but must take bold and innovative action, including demanding firm fixed-price contracts and the use of second-tier shipyards and contractors to spark competition.

– Norman Polmar

Rangers Get Their SCARs

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Another SCAR sighting folks!

This time — and a nice confirmation of my sourcing on the first equipping units — its a pic of some Rangers who’d dropped by a NASCAR event this past weekend.

The Joes from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were honored at the Coca Cola 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC, among other services over the Memorial Day weekend.

Take a close look at this photo and check out what’s strapped over their shoulders…

…and I dig the guy who collapsed his SCAR’s stock…
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For the full-sized image click HERE

(Gouge: MP)

– Christian

Defense Tech and the Digital Nation

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

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Good morning folks. Sorry for the delayed post…playing catch up.

I wanted to let you know that I’ll be participating as a panelist on a Live Web chat with Frontline documentaries on a new project they’ve launched called “Digital Nation.”

This documentary looks at how digital technology has impacted our daily lives, including how it has changed the way the military does business. Today I’ll weigh in on that subject with Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, the commander of 8th Air Force, and Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo, director of USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies and creator of the military’s “virtual Iraq” PTSD treatment program.

I hope you’ll join us today at 11am EDT for the online chat over at Frontline’s Digital Nation project site.

– Christian

Memorial Day Message

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

In celebration of Monday’s holiday, I thought I’d pass along a message from the Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey.

Enjoy your weekend folks!

– Christian

Willy Pete in the ‘Stan

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

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Did anyone see this?

From US CENTCOM:

In response to claims that insurgents in Afghanistan are not using, nor have access to, white phosphorus (WP) munitions, ISAF RC-East conducted a summary database query, by which a total of 44 instances of reported enemy WP incidents were uncovered and declassified on 11 MAY 09. Thirty-eight of those occurred in RC-East and are released in this document. Our research also revealed six WP events that occurred in other ISAF regions; this list is available upon request from ISAF PAO press office at pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int.

Discussion: Three means of white phosphorus use and access by insurgents can be identified: 1) improvised explosive devices, 2) indirect fire attacks, and 3) ordnance caches or UXO. It is notable that the enemy has stockpiled and used white phosphorus in attacks since 2003 and as recently as the week prior to this release. It should also be noted that these instances have occurred in nearly every province in RC-East, which demonstrates the wide availability of white phosphorus to insurgents. Finally, it is important to note that insurgent stockpiles do not necessarily derive from old Soviet-era left-behind stocks; the white phosphorus munitions found in these 38 events have their origins in a wide range of countries. Also, the vast majority of white phosphorus rounds found in listed caches were determined to be in serviceable condition.

That’s weird, don’t you think? Why would insurgents use WP rounds? Aren’t they for very specific anti-personnel uses? You’d think the bad guys would use the highest explosive power for IEDs, particularly, rather than a quasi-chemical round like this. Or maybe it is a sort of “poor man’s” chemical weapon insofaras the effects. Not sure, any ideas?

Here’s more below the break:

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Schwartz Wish List: Boost F-35, Plan NGB

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz said increasing production rates for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and developing the next-generation bomber are at the top of his wish list of projects to fund if the service had more money.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on the Air Force’s $160.5 billion fiscal 2010 budget request May 19, Schwartz said service leaders felt they had enough tactical aircraft capability despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plans to halt F-22 Raptor procurement at 187 aircraft.

The Air Force chief said the service’s leadership believed it was a “prudent opportunity to accelerate the retirement of older aircraft.” The FY ’10 budget calls for retiring 250 F-15s, F-16s and A-10s, enabling the Air Force to redistribute more than $3.5 billion over the next six years to modernize combat air forces into a “smaller but more capable force,” Schwartz and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told lawmakers in joint written testimony.

Schwartz did say more money would make it easier and faster to upgrade remaining legacy aircraft and make modifications to the F-22 until the F-35 starts rolling off the line in large numbers.

Schwartz said the Air Force would like to see F-35 production boosted to at least 80 aircraft and perhaps as many as 110 per year before the F-16s start retiring in large numbers.

Committee members, including Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Rep. John McHugh (N.Y.), the senior Republican on the panel, worried about producing and flying an aircraft while it was still being tested.

Donley conceded budget constraints compelled the Air Force to make some difficult calls. If there was more money “we might have made some different choices,” Schwartz added. But both leaders insisted the Air Force was not short-changing itself.

The chief of staff said his wish list also included developing plans for the future long-range strike capability. “We need, through the QDR [Quadrennial Defense Review] and the NPR [Nuclear Posture Review] to get our secretary of defense comfortable with the parameters of what we propose for that platform.”

Read the rest of this story, see who’s calling for more laser power, see if it’s a drone or a toy and read the USAF wish list for 2010 from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military​.com.

– Christian

On Again, Off Again FCS

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

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It’s ramping up to a thundering fusilade…

The FCS lobby is loading up the bombs, feeding the ammo belts and launching the salvos.

While the Pentagon’s official position is that the FCS program will be radically restructured and the ground vehicle programs killed, Army and industry officials are acting as if “there’s nothing to see here.”

On Tuesday, FCS co-prime Boeing released a statement saying it had completed a “System of Systems Preliminary Design Review” and, guess what, it totally validated the FCS program and showed how much better the Army would be with the entire web of sensors, robots, ground vehicles and networks.

The SoS PDR is the most comprehensive review of the program to date. It validated that the designs for all FCS systems and subsystems, including the network, sensors, weapons and manned and unmanned vehicles, meet current requirements and will function as an integrated system of systems. The review proved that a family of networked systems will provide greater combat capabilities, including enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, across the full spectrum of conflict.

No way!? So all this talk about vulnerable vehicles, network bandwidth problems and schedule slips is baloney?

And our boy Greg Grant from DoD Buzz reports that Gen. George Casey, the Army’s chief of staff, had a momentary bout of honesty when he told the SASC this week that he didn’t ask for or want the FCS rejiggering but he’d been forced to back it.

Asked by SASC chair Senator Carl Levin whether he agreed with Defense Secretary Robert Gates decision to cancel the FCS vehicles, Casey said: I supported it; I did not agree with it. The fundamental point of disagreement, he said, was whether the vehicle design included sufficient protection against IEDs.

Oh, the boxes we get put in…

And yesterday the Pentagon announced a hastily-called together press conference for today where Army officials would help reporters understand the service’s modernization program for Brigade Combat Teams. One wonders what they would have said had not the presser been cancelled this morning without prejudice.

I have always believed that the FCS program was far too complex to execute both technologically and fiscally as a total package but was tailor made as a sort of service “Skunk Works” that could develop the associated technologies for futuristic solutions to aging platforms and incrementally populate them within the force. It’s as if you’re working toward that Buck Rogers goal every day knowing full well you won’t get there but that at least part of the fruits of your labors will be incorporated into forces who need them today.

The Army’s going to need a replacement for the Bradley and M1 soon and as the development of the JLTV shows, there’s lots of cutting edge solutions or just beyond the edge ones that could make the next set of ground vehicles more deadly to bad guys and safer for Joes. Or are we at a tipping piont here — kind of like the one the Air Force is struggling with — where it’s all just a waste of money spent on manned systems. Is it close enough for us to envision robot ground vehicles pummeling enemy redoubts instead of manned ones in the next “generation?”

Maybe so…

– Christian Lowe