Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Final Exam

Defense Statecraft Final Exam
Spring 2010
Please answer one of the following three questions by 5:45pm today.

1. Critics of the 2010 QDR have argued that it fails in its mandate to set forth a strategic plan for the next twenty years. Evaluate this argument. Is it wise to spend time thinking about the medium term while in the midst of two wars? Is it possible to conduct strategic planning with a twenty year time frame?
2. On March 26, 2010, the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan exploded and sank in disputed waters. Discuss, from a South Korean point of view, the difficulties associated with determining responsibility for the sinking, and with developing an appropriate response.
3. The “COIN vs. Conventional” debate is currently roiling the US defense establishment. Characterize each position in the debate, and discuss what is at stake. Which side has the more compelling argument? What events might “prove” the case of one faction or the other?

Sunday, May 02, 2010

IMPROVE Acquisition

On the 28th the House passed the IMPROVE Acquisition Act. The two main focuses of the bill, as the name indicates, were on tighter spending in defense acquisition and creating incentives for small defense contractors to enter the market. DefenseNews comprehensive view of the bill includes:
• Demanding more accountability among acquisition workers;
• Improving financial management so Pentagon spending can be audited;
• Expanding the industrial base to increase competition;
• Rewarding acquisition workers who save the military money and punishing those who don't.
It passed with a resounding 417-3 vote. Estimates are the bill could save the budget $27billion a year.

There are some interesting changes in the acquisition process. One is allowing the military to switch vendors if a new company can offer a 15% saving without a decrease in quality. Talk about making for a picky buyer. The military is already a monopsony, and this idea seems to decrease incentives for contracting firms to want to innovate if their contracts can be broken. Of course, on the surface, they would not ‘break the contracts’ but this might provide some nice escape clauses. Another interesting focus is the need for military budget transparency. Roughly two-thirds of the DoD budget is fully auditable. This is much higher than the past, but still a work in progress. In 2007 it was only 36 percent.

Even though the bill passed with 417-3 vote there were still complaints. Some arguing that adding more regulations will just complicate the acquisition process. Others commented that the bill will eventually hurt small defense contractors instead of helping due to the potential of restricting ‘bundling contracts.’ The big firms do it too.

In the end $27billion is not a small number and working towards tightening DoD spending is not a bad thing. The oligarchic suppliers and the monopsony customer make defense acquisition a tough market to foster competition and cost-savings. The Senate still has to look at this legislation and some suggest they won’t support it. As our reading for the week argued, the big contractors probably are not going anywhere any time soon, but finding ways to break the unfair markets, incentivize innovation, and reduce costs are goals worth working towards in my opinion. But then again, if reducing costs means lower quality then what?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Non-Lethal Weapons: R&D a Matter of Deadly Importance

The upcoming troop offensive in Kandahar will play out similar to the recent Marja campaign but will likely be larger in scope. More insurgents are based in Kandahar and the U.S. is hoping for a greater contribution by Afghan forces than was made in Marja. As the Kandahar offensive draws closer, General McChrystal will likely “talk about operations in advance to try to scare off insurgents and convince the local population that their government and its allies are moving to increase security.” While potentially setting up coalition forces for attack and IED traps, this announcement strategy is calculated to reduce potential civilian casualties. This is in keeping with the general COIN principle, as elucidated in the Army’s FM 3-24, that new enemies are created when civilians are the victims of military operations.

The fact is that when troops are present in a war zone as they are in Afghanistan, civilians will occasionally be in the cross-fire. And when civilians are injured or killed, the reactionary anti-American sentiment that develops makes the greater war effort – sometimes described as a campaign to win the “hearts and minds” of Afghan citizens – far more difficult. In a recent episode, 5 Afghan civilians were killed and another 18 were wounded when American forces fired on a passenger bus which appeared to be approaching too fast to a military convoy and which coalition forces thought may contain explosives. The governor of Kandahar province openly questioned why the American troops could not have simply shot the tires to stop the approaching bus. However, shooting out tires or the engine block may be more difficult than generally presumed, especially when threats seem to appear suddenly and a split-second reaction is necessary to prevent soldiers’ deaths. Sadly, this was just one of many convoy or checkpoint shootings in recent months in which the victims were later determined to be entirely non-threatening.

The frequency of such incidents begs the question: can the U.S. forces employ a different tactical response to approaching vehicles that outwardly appear threatening? Despite our commitment to COIN principles that stress the need to protect civilians, it would be foolish to implement a policy that would urge our troops to withhold firing at or otherwise defending themselves from what their experience tells them are potential threats. However, it would be entirely reasonable for U.S. forces to employ weaponry that would stop a potential threat while preventing the unnecessary loss of life. That’s where non-lethal weapons come in.

The Defense Department has been researching such weapons since 1996 under the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, under the auspices of the Marines. After a 2004 CFR task force report described the capabilities of non-lethal weapons, funding was increased to approximately $150 annually. While that may seem like a lot, when compared to the hundreds of billions spent by the Defense Department annually (much of it on R&D for conventional, lethal weapons), this is actually a paltry sum.

From what research we have, there are a host of weapons that could potentially be used to eliminate unnecessary casualties in the checkpoint or convoy setting. Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute thinks radio frequency weapons that short circuit vehicle electronics, acoustic weapons, or flash weapons might be appropriate. Directed-energy weapons – which include lasers, particle beams, and sonic devices – can immobilize people or machines would be another option. The Defense Department budget should be adjusted to reflect the necessity of investigating such weaponry further, especially in light of our clear mandate to reduce civilian casualties as much as possible.

Some degree of adjustment may already be occurring. Earlier this month, the Marine Corps System Command awarded General Dynamics a $3 million contract to evaluate a non-lethal weapon system known as Medusa. The system equips grenade launchers with non-lethal munitions that temporarily incapacitate targets “through intense light, sound and pressure stimuli.” Also in April, Australian corporation Metal Storm received an approximately $1.5 million contract to develop weapons with the same functionality but which can be mounted on Humvees. Because these two weapons could be present alongside convoys or at checkpoints, they could afford military personnel the non-lethal means available in an instant that they so desperately require.

Russia's Defense Industry

Conversation topics abound in regard to the US Defense industry and the powerful role it plays in defense statecraft. However, the focus is often on the United States defense industry and the scope of its influence domestically and internationally. However, let us take a moment to consider the Russian Defense industry.

A New York Times article on Monday identified a Russian company that has developed and is marketing a new missile system that can be contained and deployed from a shipping container. Not only do these specs create intrigue about the technology and size of the system, the article indicates they are cause for alarm both because of their destructive potential - and the customers that might be interested in them.

Historically, Russia has negotiated arms deals with Iran, among other less-than-friendly states. While the United States is concerned with progressing Iranian nuclear technology, this missile system gives cause for greater alarm due to the greater likelihood of procurement. When asked who might be potential clients for the missile system, Russian defense expert Mikhail Barabanov articulated, "anyone who likes the idea." The relatively compact, self-contained missile system can give any entity, whether countries or non-state actors an asymmetric advantage against larger military platforms, whether stationary bases or mobile ships.

One upside to this discussion is the historical tendency for the Russian government to nationalize private companies. The strength of the state and the security this missile system offers gives Medvedev and Putin the ability to take the afternoon off without concern.

With the potential to sell and ship such a compact missile system anywhere in the world, largely without notice, we should consider not only the role of the US defense industry, but the newfound power of Russian companies and their contribution to the defense statecraft of other nations.

Where have all the Cowboys of Good Governance Gone?

Just below I referenced the Pentagon's recently published report on Afghanistan. Admittedly I focused on an incredibly small portion concerning Karzai's government. The document is lengthy at 152 pages but covers a cornucopia of subjects: regional actors, security, governance, counter-narcotics, strategy, etc. I talked in my last post a little about progress cited in this report so I'll elaborate on that here:

  • Overall it appears that the declining stability in Afghanistan has tapered off in the last three months.

  • Violence has increased considerably but it's attributed to increased Internaitonal Security Assistance Force activity (ISAF)

  • Afghans see improved security over a year ago--50% increase in proportion of Afghans who see security improvements

  • General population generally sees Afghan government as harbinger of progress/improvements

  • National survey completed in March indicates 59% of Afghans believe their government is headed in the right direction (8% increase since September)

  • 83% report corruption affects daily life

  • 45% express confidence in national government--up 6% from September; pg 45 includes a district level governance assessment map

  • 30% believed that government was less corrupt than a year prior, 24% believed it was more corrupt.

  • 29% believe Karzai to be corrupt, 33% provincial governor corrupt, 34% district governor corrupt

On government corruption: The oversight, internal and international support is there. There are good legal and institutional reforms in place or awaiting implementation, but what is ultimately lacking is political will. More specifically, there are 32 specific anti-corruption commitments developed by the Afghan Government to be accomplished between February 28, 2010 and the end of the year. Thirteen of those measures were to be signed into effect by Karzai no later than Feb. 28 but as of March only one of two presidential decrees has been signed. Stressed several times is political will which simply isn't there.

There's a lot of other stuff going on here too. U.S. civilians in the country has tripled since early 2009; this increase is seen largely as a positive taking a lot of weight off the military in leading diplomatic efforts. The Afghan National Army and Police are looked very highly upon--only 1% view them as a source of instability--while the insurgency is increasingly viewed as the major destabilizing force in the country. There's a detailed description of NATO and U.S. COIN directives in Key Terrain and Area of Interest Districts starting on pg. 26 (no I won't out line everything for you).

Overall things do look positive. 2009 was a tough year, apparently the insurgency declared it their best year, but security and public perception are dramatically improving in 2010. We can look forward to Karzai tripping to Washington in early May and to a peace Jirga scheduled for sometime in May which looks to kick off Karzai's Reconciliation and Reintegration program.

Another thing of note: India's only participation in Afghanistan comes in the form of aid and aid workers. Pakistan ensures that India does little else but things could be changing. Just yesterday India and Pakistan made a move toward normalization quite unexpectedly after India discovered it had a spy in its Pakistani embassy. India taking a bigger role in Afghanistan might contribute much, but it will be telling because it means that Pakistan (and presumably India) has taken the security focus away from its borders and will focus on internal stabilization. A lot of Afghanistan's woes can be traced to insurgents moving back and forth through the AFPAK border and Pakistan's own instability. A greater internal focus from Pakistan would be greatly welcomed.

And one last thing, what I've said below about Karzai still stands. While not explicitly stated this report makes pretty clear that a lot of things are going pretty well despite his lack of 'political will.' If this trend continues till mid to late 2011 when Obama wants to start handing security over then Karzai can expect to oversee very little of what the military does. I suspect the military will remain under some kind of international control or strong guidance in lieu of a handoff.

Move Over Gentlemen

The United States Navy has made a huge leap forward in advancing the quality of the submarine fleet. In an announcement on April 28 women are now to be integrated into the submarine force of the Navy! This move is only going to enlarge the pool of qualified and available candidates to increase the performance level of the fleet under the sea.

The first whisperings of women on US submarines came in April of 2008 when an announcement was made to possibly man, or woman, two new Virginia class submarines with all female crews. The move now is integration into co-ed crews. However, in 2008 the altruistic nature of the move was questioned as the case of Bishop vs. State of Connecticut was set to be seen in the Supreme Court. The case in question was posed due to the limitations placed on a woman's naval career without the option of submarine duty.

In the international community women have been on active duty in submarines since 1985 when Norway allowed women onto conventional subs. Australia, Canada, Spain and Sweden also have females in submarine crews. The first female sub commander was a Norwegian woman in 1995, Solveig Krey. With 15% of the US navy personnel being of the female gender it is appropriate that moves are now being made to integrate them into one of the last all male sectors of the fleet.

The announcement made at Kurgs Bay Naval Submarine Base indicated that the first women would be on the subs in 2012, with the influx being strictly at the officer level on guided missile attack subs and ballistic missile subs as they encompass the most living space. It is said that there will be four subs total that will be home to the ladies with 24 women included in the rotating shifts. However there is also talk of have three women officers on each of the eight Trident sub crews. There is still no timeline for the inclusion of enlisted women in the crews as that would mean modifications of separate bunks and bathrooms.

USS Alaska Lt Cmdr Daniel Lombardo thinks that "adjustments for the crew will be minor" and really sees no great degree of impending problems. Wednesday night passed without any outcry from Washington, signaling that Congress was not to object. The largest group of outcries has come from the wives of male submarine sailors, contesting whether their husbands will be losing jobs just so the government can integrate women into the system, not to mention their 'under their breath' concerns about harassment allegations and the like. The concerns are only quelled by claims that the professionalism of the modern navy and the quality of personnel that defend the nation should give us faith in the ability of this integration to be successful. Who are we to question that? Furthermore, Rear Adm Barry Bruner, a strong advocate for the integration, reiterates that change is good and nothing will move forward without much forethought and planning. So ladies, welcome to the undersea fraternity!

The Future Really IS Unmanned

This semester we have read a lot about UAVs and their increasing importance. Well, UAVs just got a big boost from the Air Force. Thus far UAVs have been used for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and battlefield strike. The Air Force wants them to do even more in the future. The service is reevaluating and expanding the missions its MQ-X next generation UAV will be required to perform. Air Force officials are going to scrap the initial capabilities document drafted by Air Combat Command on the MQ-X and begin anew with a “broader group of stakeholders” involved in the process.

In addition to Air Combat Command, Air Force Materiel Command, Air Mobility Command, and Air Force Special Operations Command are going to give their input as to what they need out of a next generation UAV. Service officials want the MQ-X and all future UAVs to be able to carry and operate a variety of mission payloads in the same way a C-130 can today. New plans will focus on areas outside the traditional ISR and strike missions handled by the service's UAV fleet. Capabilities include close air support, combat search and rescue, airlift, force protection and operating in contested or denied airspace. Officials say that at a minimum, the aircraft must have protected communications and datalinks, the ability to survive in contested airspace, incorporate sense-and-avoid technology, and enough power generating and cargo capacity to allow it to carry a variety of sensors and weapons.

At a minimum, MQ-X is supposed to replace the service’s Reapers in the role of strike and ISR planes. But we already know UAVs are good at that. The Air Force is right on to realize that UAVs are going to be more and more important. The question is: why are they just getting serious about investigating UAV’s future capabilities now? It remains to be seen if the Air Force will fully embrace UAVs as the future of the service or if their leadership, made up of pilots, is going to be willing to give up on having pilots in the cockpit.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Defense Industry Adaptation

As cuts to the defense industry’s major breadwinners are proposed in Congress, it may be time for a shift in focus. Traditionally, large projects like the Navy’s destroyers and the Air Force’s fighter jets have kept those companies in development and production round the clock, but with an administration eager to trim the defense budget, it is not difficult to circumspect that such projects will soon lose their luster. Too keep up with this trend, the defense industry needs to do some soul-searching and figure out what their future holds.
Luckily, there are some relatively unexplored avenues they can turn to. The military is going through its own state of transformation and is slowly broadening their horizons, appropriately into the area of counterinsurgency. Understandably, they require new, unique tools to succeed in this endeavor. Though the previous large, showy projects have formerly brought in the big bucks quickly, the military may now need something entirely different. This, combined with the looming budget cuts may result in a simultaneous defense industry transformation as well.
Should the defense industry now turn its attention more closely to developing innovative tools required for soldiers on the ground in counterinsurgency, it may find that the budget cuts currently proposed would not be as disastrous as currently considered. We can be reasonably confident that destroyer and aircraft carriers will still be built and that fighter jets will still need updates, and therefore that sector of their market will remain steady. To fill the gaps that some cuts may leave, however, work tuned towards this new COIN market will prove essential and, most likely, extremely profitable.
Such mainstream devices (like more precise thermal night vision and lighter body armor, which are already in development in small companies), if made to the right standards of excellence and provided at the price point possibly from the large providers in the industry, would be eagerly snatched by the military, would make our soldiers more efficient and safer, and would help the large-scale defense industry more smoothly transition into working with a tighter DoD budget. These are areas the industry needs to look into to protect itself from the pending restrictions on its larger projects.

PowerPoint is Evil. Long Live PowerPoint!

PowerPoint is bad . . . but what now?

Everybody seems to agree on this one thing: Microsoft’s PowerPoint presentation software dumbs down military briefings and its heavy use takes up a ridiculous amount of time. Apparently everyone from platoon leaders to generals labors for hours to crank out slide after slide of presentation fodder.

But while there are plenty of voices decrying PowerPoint, nobody is very good at coming up with a replacement. The latest trigger for a round of PowerPoint hatred is this New York Times piece, published April 27. It details the overuse of the software, and quotes numerous military men expressing their dependence and hatred of PowerPoint:

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

Yes, PowerPoint is bad. It stifles creative thinking and encourages simplistic answers to sometimes tortuously difficult problems. But how do you replace it? According to the NYT piece, Gen. H.R. McMaster banned PowerPoint from his command while taking part in the Iraq invasion. Spencer Ackerman has suggested cloud computing, i.e. Google Docs. But both answers are reactive – they don’t provide the same utility of PowerPoint (for the military, or business). Frankly, nothing does.

This isn’t the first time those in the military have complained about PowerPoint. Gen. Michael Flynn’s indictment of intelligence work in Afghanistan (released earlier this year) came down hard on the use of PowerPoint. As Matt Yglesias pointed out then, it’s not a new problem or a rare one. Now, months later, here we go again with another round of complaints and no solutions, although plenty of parodies.

As the Atlantic Wire notices, this kind of standardized, simplistic way of seeing the world is growing in the American political culture. Also, it’s not a problem created by technology. This way of thinking is entrenched in who we are.

This is not the first time someone’s written an article detailing complaints about PowerPoint. Yet because the military and the press have no substantive solutions, PowerPoint will keep getting used at Pentagon desks and in foxholes, and journalists will keep cranking out complaint-filled articles about how ridiculous it all is.

Way to solve the problem.

I’ve got a solution of last resort: Why doesn’t DARPA do something about this? Or perhaps I should pull out a tired cliché and demand a Manhattan Project-type effort to replace PowerPoint…

Softer This Time

Yesterday, the Pentagon released a 152 page report on the progress being made in Afghanistan by U.S. and NATO forces. The progress, positive as it is, comes with caveats, the biggest of which is the Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Now it looks like we've been through this before: earlier this month there was a bit of a PR fiasco when Karzai was bad mouthing the hand that feeds and the hand started having mixed reactions. The White House officially stated that Karzai was a respected partner (i.e. necessary and tolerated evil) and would continue working with him.

Where the majority of previous Karzai criticisms were accepted ad hominems, the Pentagon measures Karzai's effectiveness by polling citizens in the 121 Key Terrain and Area of Interest Districts on their support for and perception of the effectiveness of the Afghan government. Only 29 of these districts held Karzai and his government in any amount of positive light. Reasons? Corruption and inefficiency. None of this is particularly new but this is an official report citing a survey conducted by the military with the Afghan civilian populace. We no longer have Ambassador Eikenberry shouting fraud, we have the Afghan people themselves expressing extreme discontent. This also isn't the public scuffle of a few weeks ago.

The unclassified report comes barely two weeks before Karzai's Washington visit, giving Obama significant leverage in that meeting. I wrote about Karzai and his outbursts when they occurred and suspected they might be a grab for legitimacy and some politicaly leeway, but with this report it can be argued that Karzai has little legitimacy as it is--at least in these important districts. Karzai's poor reputation, coupled with the relative military and security progress mentioned in the report, gives him little wiggle room with which to respond.

All I can say is I hope Obama reacts harshly in private. I'd like to see some of Karzai's funds getting flagged if the corruption doesn't abate. Obama needs to push for more transparency or even force it. We can criticize Karzai all we want, but this man's put up with it for a while and still gotten away with pretty much anything. At this point I don't think we risk deligitimzing the Afghan government more than Karzai already has.

Obama wants to see Afghan security forces taking over operations and security by 2011? They damn well better be in someone else's hands and not Karzai's.

(From the Executive Summary:)

Key Terrain Districts (80): Defined in military terms as those areas that afford a marked advantage to whichever party controls them – are those districts where the bulk of the population is concentrated, and that contain centers of economic productivity, key infrastructure, and key commerce routes connecting such areas to each other and to the outside world. These districts roughly follow the line of the three major highways in Afghanistan through the most densely populated portions of the country.

Areas of Interest (41): In general, these are districts that, for a variety of reasons, exert influence on Key Terrain districts to a degree that renders it necessary to focus information collection and operational resources upon them to support operations in the Key Terrain districts.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Defense Planning 101

There's been fuss recently over the US strategy in Iran with the leaking of Secretary Gates' January memo stating that we are unprepared for a nuclear Iran. Of course, Gates has since announced that the administration is indeed prepared for that and many other contingencies in Iran. But what about that war we're actively fighting just next door - in Iraq?

President Obama's existing timetable for withdrawal in Iraq is fairly simple: have all but 50,000 soldiers and marines gone before September 1, 2010 with the remaining troops exiting the country before the end of 2011. But as today's NYT news analysis piece states, that plan "was based on the assumption that a newly elected government would be in place by the time Americans headed home. Fourteen months later, that assumption is exploding but the plan remains the same." In other words, to what extent does the current troop withdrawal plan take into account Iraqi political (and sectarian, for that matter) mishaps?

Maybe it just doesn't. Peter Feaver at FP hints that domestic US politics could likely be dictating the Iraq withdrawal timeline: "It is hard to predict where August will fall in the Iraqi political trajectory, but it is a rock-solid certainty that August comes comfortably before the U.S. midterm election." Even Ambassador Crocker, who was certainly not vocal about many defense policies in his talk at UK, said "I am a little bit nervous ... We may not even have a new government until we're at the August deadline. I'd like the U.S. to retain the original flexibility."

Indeed, Obama has not had met with his full national security team for months to discuss Iraq, which indicates the administration clearly has higher national security priorities. Though the President has stated he will stick to the deadline (with approval from General Odierno), one can only trust that contingencies are being worked out at the Pentagon and that the US policy for troop withdrawal isn't solely a function of domestic politics. Reigning expert on Iraq Tom Ricks, along with my colleague's posts on the subject suggest the glass is almost always half empty when it comes to Iraq, especially with respect to its overall political stability. (For Ricks: "not only do I think the glass is half empty, I am not sure how long the glass can take the strain of what it is holding.") Thus, while war is inherently political and we do have elections approaching quickly, the Obama administration along with its military planners would behoove themselves to follow their own doctrine if we are truly in the final stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom with "victory" just over the horizon.

Either way I do hope the media doesn't continue ignoring Iraq despite falling US casualties. It really did used to be a big deal, I promise.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This Guy's On To Something

Maajid Nawaz. You've probably never heard of him. I hadn't until Sunday night when Lesley Stahl of the good outstanding CBS news program 60 Minutes interviewed him and asked him about The Narrative, an ideology that since 9/11 has spread particularly among Western Muslims and says the United States has declared war against Islam. In the interview, Nawaz says subscribers to The Narrative believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were waged because the US hates Muslims, US foreign policy around the world is purposely, directly counter to Muslim interests, and the Muslim faith is in a fight to the death against annihilation by the West, with the US leading the charge against it. If you have been looking for a unified source of Islamic extremist ideology, this may very well be the closest thing to it.

Something even more interesting about The Narrative is its constituents. Many are born in Western countries, speak English, are well-off, and highly educated. Links between Major Nidal Malik Hasan, perpetrator of the Fort Hood shooting last November, and The Narrative have been proposed; the same with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day underwear bomber.

Maajid Nawaz has particular authority to speak on the subject because he was once a true believer himself. A former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamist political movement that is "firmly anti-Western and deeply committed to The Narrative," according to the interview, Nawaz was recruited while attending the University of London (Adbulmutallab attended the University of London as well) and eventually arrested in Egypt for promoting Islamic extremism. And here is where the story takes an interesting twist:
During his trial, Nawaz remained defiant. He would walk in and out of court shouting out radical slogans. After he was convicted and sentenced to prison for five years, he was locked up with the assassins of Anwar Sadat and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Boy, if you weren't radicalized up until then, you certainly would've been then," Stahl remarked.

"Well, the interesting thing with these guys is that, in the 20 or so years since they've been imprisoned, they'd gone through a process where they had abandoned their jihadist views," he said.

"They did?" Stahl asked.

"Yeah. And my initial reaction was, 'Oh, my God, you've sold out.' And so, I approached them with an idea to try and actually convince them they were wrong," Nawaz said.

Nawaz believed he could "re re-convert" them. "And what ended up happening was through the discussion process, I began doubting the strength of my own convictions," he explained.

They were able to persuade him that today's radical ideology is closer to fascism than true Islam. So after four years in prison, he returned to England in 2006 and soon left HT...

He decided he wanted to make amends for the 13 years he had spent as a radical, so now he devotes himself to rebutting the very narrative he once passionately promoted.

"Frankly, Lesley, I think it's 'the' key factor in solving the problem we're experiencing in the world at the moment," he said. "Countering The Narrative is the core of the solution, making this narrative as unfashionable as Communism has become today."
Fascinating. The rest of the interview walks through Nawaz's campaign against The Narrative. He debates Islamic leaders on BBC news channels, holds discussions with students in his native Pakistan, and, at every turn, speaks against the ideology to which he once devoted his life. Absolutely fascinating. The whole interview is here; it is well worth the 15 minutes it takes to watch it, especially the rest of it after the above quoted section.

After watching the interview, I couldn't help but compare Nawaz to the Apostle Paul (once persecutor of Christians turned evangelist and writer of over half of the Bible's New Testament). Could Maajid Nawaz be Islam's modern-day Paul (in terms of Islamic extremism and the West)? Maybe. Personally, I think this guy's on to something.

Policy Recommendation: If the US is ever going to effectively secure itself against Islamic extremism, everyone in charge of our national security should be required to sit down and watch this interview. That would be Step One. Hopefully after that, Step Two would be in the right direction.

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No... It's a Shark!?

Ok, well not quite, but so much talk about UAVs buzzing around the sky, it's time to look down! The up coming Unmanned Undersea Vehicles conference is set to commence in June of this year. It will be held at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport RI. Though the conference is rumored to include rapid fleet capability insertion and most probably discussions and developments in greater degrees of autonomy, if you don't have a secret or higher clearance, consider yourself un-invited.

The UUVs, as they are so lovingly referred to, most commonly resemble baby submarines or manta looking vessels. They range anywhere from under 100 (man portable) pounds to over 20,000 pounds. The main functions of the UUVs include: intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, mine counter, anti-sub warfare, identification, oceanography, communication and navigation, payload delivery, information operations (ie spying!) and time-critical strikes.

The vehicles were used in 2003 in Operation Iraqi Freedom in what was described as securing of ports for the entry of humanitarian aid. They were used further to go up river at Az Zubayr and Karbala to check the river bottoms for mines, overcoming the challenges of tidal extremes and limited visibility. The machines are much more capable of withstanding such pressures that the human counterparts, not to mention taking some of the life loss risk away in identifying possible mine locations.

The Talisman L for example can be deployed from almost any vessel and controlled from a stand-alone console, integrated into a combat management system or programmed to function autonomously. BAE systems deployed one in the UK in 2009 to monitor harbors and ports, protecting service men and women. The Talisman L can reach speeds of 5 knots, can hover and move in any direction, and contains high definition forward and side sensors as well as multiple cameras from an array and angles. It can be coupled with its larger sibling the Talisman M to allow for full spectrum approach from detection to neutralization of threats.

Really these things are pretty cool, like little baby remote control submarines, sounds like fun. The fact that they are extremely useful helps as well. The force of the UUVs in the future looks promising with new technology and demand, especially given the Navy 2004 Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Master Plan. So remember, don't just look to the sky!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Strategic Planning – How Do We Make Decisions?

Every four years the Quadrennial Defense Review is drafted by the Department of Defense. In summary, this document not only assesses present and future threats and military planning to meet those challenges, it also sets forth this assessment within the context of a budget plan. At times the QDR emphasizes new priorities and reflects those priorities by budget re-allocations, such as cancelling programs to fund other initiatives.

Even so, there are cries that government spending on all things military is excessive. In the face of criticism, how should the government choose to fund the Department of Defense and its varied programs? Should leaders set a budget and then direct military leaders and planners to meet security threats within those means? Or should the results of threat assessment and strategic planning inform the budget?

While sometimes a chicken-and-egg type question, this question requires analysis and research more than Google can provide.

The debate between military leaders and elected officials has an extended history, and long before President Obama was elected there have been calls for spending reductions. Yet the finger is not to be pointed solely at the Secretary of Defense. Although drafting the QDR falls under the purview of the DoD, Congress ultimately decides what and how much funding to allocate to military spending.

Like any entity operating within a budget, there is only so much creativity that can be applied to cost-savings. While Dave Ramsey may be a good counselor for personal finance, the envelope system isn’t feasible for the US military. (Besides, there would be too many covert envelopes.) Eventually, if the budget is reduced, the scope of military programs must be as well. While this type of decision is unpopular, sometimes challenging decisions must be made if priorities are to be shifted. So one question to be asked of critics is this: Do you consider Defense spending and the security it provides to cost too much – or do you wish other national programs received more funding?

Calls for a 4% plan – where the Defense budget is pegged to a percentage of GDP – are on the table and advocated by General Mike Mullen. Although this approach establishes a framework for budgeting, it doesn’t speak to stewardship benchmarks or how spending should change depending on whether the US in a time of war or peace. In an era where large-scale conventional war seems less likely, and US peace-keeping and nation-building efforts are more prevalent, the DoD budget can and should vary in importance with other national priorities.

However, maintaining a strong readiness posture is an essential part of providing for US national security. Maybe Dave Ramsey’s emergency fund idea isn’t so bad after all.

Lord of War? No

Last week Secretary Gates unveiled a new export strategy to revamp licensing requirements that have existed for dual-use products, sensitive technologies, etc… since the 70s. The proposal was well received by the audience at the Business Executives for National Security (BENS), but there is still a long road ahead for the proposal to become policy. It will require executive and legislative support.

Gates appears to be going in for the kill on this one though. He sighted weaknesses in having both Commerce and State department lists, the economic effects of having to get a license for every ‘latch, wire and lug nut’ in an F-16 when the entire aircraft is already approved, and that the US is losing a brain-drain by not creating incentives to keep MNCs in the US. The Economist reported a couple weeks ago on the growing EU role in defense contracting and arms sales. Gates wants to keep the US safe and update the system.

Overall, Gates’ proposal includes an executive mandate to consolidate the Commerce and State department lists into one, creating a single oversight agency that will have sole enforcement capacity, and funding IT infrastructure to facilitate communication and information flow. In practice the policy will get rid of the flat licensing requirements and institute a tiered policy where the most sensitive technologies are on top and protected comprehensively, but as these technologies become outdated they are downgraded and freed to increase exports.

Apparently some allies think this is a good idea and agree that the old (anti-Soviet) system has damaged US capacity to export defensive capabilities to NATO members and other allies. This is not a new idea however. Bush defense proposals from 2007 with Britain and Australia are still in legislation - let’s not start on the three outstanding FTAs. Trying to get Commerce, State, DoD and Congress together on who gets to oversee what and where the zero-sum will leave them politically is a hard sell. This policy also makes sense in the larger NEI project and the Obama-Gates-Mullen relationship seems united. It will be worth watching how the politics play out.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Want a Prompt Global Strike? Then you better want to dump nukes

While all eyes were on the highly-publicized, well-covered launch of the somehow still super-secret X37B military space shuttle from Florida, an important launch in California went virtually unnoticed.

The hypersonic delivery system for the proposed Conventional Prompt Global Strike system launched atop a Minotaur IV rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 was to travel 4,100 miles and crash in the South Pacific. Things did not go as planned. Controllers lost contact with the vehicle a few minutes after launch. Another launch is planned, but the failure highlights the technical difficulties inherent in the CPGS program.

And yet those aren’t the only difficulties. As several observers have stated over the last few days, the CPGS program could prove technically difficult and costly to implement, could spark a nuclear response from twitchy nuclear-armed nations if used, and would unnecessarily replace already deployed weapons and delivery systems. These observations are duly noted.

But the detractors of the CPGS forget one thing. Its creation could be used as a spur to complete then elimination of the US nuclear arsenal. Naysayers of the weapon, such as Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund, are right to point out that nuclear-armed nations will not be able to tell between a nuclear and non-nuclear weapon launch and could respond with nuclear weapons, thus sparking a nuclear conflict.

Therefore, if the Obama Administration wants these weapons, their development should be tied to the reduction of nuclear weapons and their deployment tied to the elimination of the US nuclear arsenal. Obama has said the move to develop the CPGS program was based on a desire to “move towards less emphasis on nuclear weapons,” but that is not good enough.

Supporters of the CPGS need to take responsibility for the potential consequences of the use of their weapon. The only way it could be used responsibly is if nobody need fear a nuclear attack by the United States. That can only happen if the United States has no nuclear weapons.

If supporters of the CPGS really want the system, they should also be pushing for the total elimination of the US nuclear arsenal. Any other position will reveal their passion for the CPGS as costly, irresponsible money-grubbing.

Supporters of the CPGS, the next move is yours.

Friday, April 23, 2010


The DIME (Diplomacy, Information, Military, Economics) model is a new thought organizational concept emerging out of US military academia. So new, in fact, Wikipedia only has one sentence on it. That's pretty freakin' new. At its basic level, DIME is a new way to think about and categorize the power, and thus influence, of a state. The logic goes that a state's influence in the international system is defined by its ability to project power in each of the four areas of DIME. And it is the job of a state's leadership to balance their particular state's interaction with other states in terms of the four elements of DIME. Sometimes diplomacy alone will solve a problem, information is always needed to support the other three elements, economic interaction occurs everyday between most states and can be used to project power in different ways, and sometimes military actions are needed, although this does not always necessarily mean war (think the 24th Marine Expeditionary Force in Haiti a couple months ago). Each of the four DIME elements consist of a range of varying degrees within their own category as well. A state can use diplomacy to enhance and strengthen a relationship with another state or it can use diplomacy to indicate a strain in relations with a state. Economic interaction can be trade and cooperation, development assistance, or sanctions. Information is both out-going, in the form of communication, and in-coming, in the form of intelligence. The four DIME elements ebb and flow based on the situation they are applied to and, like most strategic models, the DIME model can get messy very quickly.

DIME is also a way for the US military to think about the role its plays in our great country and how that role interacts with the roles other organizations play. And there always seems to be a strong debate about which elements deserve the most emphasis and funding. It has been said by numerous US officials across the spectrum of leadership that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be won by military might alone, that all the tools available to US decision-makers must be employed. This is the heart of the DIME concept. And it's not surprising that US leadership started delivering speeches about how the current wars cannot be won by military might alone once the Iraqi insurgency kicked off in 2004. The Iraqi insurgency has caused the US military to rethink how it approaches its missions. Effective diplomacy between a stable Iraqi government and the US, along with effective diplomacy at the unit level, all in conjunction with economic stimulation and Iraqi job creation have become equal (or exceeded, depending on where you're sitting in the discussion) to military impact on the situation. And if you don't believe me, just check out the below from the U.S. Army Field Manual 3-24 Counterinsurgency:

Counter-insurgents achieve the most meaningful success by gaining popular support and legitimacy for the host government, not by killing insurgents. Security plays an important role in setting the stage for other progress, but lasting victory comes from a vibrant economy, political participation, and restored hope.

One example, on the economic side, of how the US military is approaching these DIME model concepts is personified in the position of Mr. Paul Brinkley. Mr. Brinkley, a former Silicon Valley executive, is Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and Director of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Iraq. His basic job is to work with the Iraq Ministry of Fiance to get the country's economy up and running again. Interesting position for someone with a DoD badge.

DIME may only have one sentence in Wikipedia, but it does have its own website linked off of the US Army War College's website. And with the concept of war and state interaction changing, we can only expect that the DIME model will garner increased focus within the US military and US leadership as a whole. The ability of a state to project power is a field of study unto itself (Side Note: if you want a place to get started, I'd recommend here). It will be interesting to track how the dynamics of the DIME model change once the next big US military kick-a** adventure takes off. Maybe, just maybe, could this concept be the foundation of the next US RMA? That's a whole other discussion. Only time will tell.

Mine's Bigger Than Yours!!

With all our talk about strategic planning and war planning as well as the difficulties and even consequences that go along with them, one cannot ignore the war games going on in India and Pakistan. War games mind you that are based on a war with each other! The games commencing this month and taking place close to the shared borders between the two adversaries. In such a situation, one begs to question whether or not such a show of force is really productive. The security dilemma it has the propensity to create is that of a threatening nature, that while enhancing their own security, at least in theory, they are posing such a display of force to the other side as to make them worry and respond in turn with heightened suspicion and advanced weaponry of their own.

The fact that the two sides "coincidentally" decided to have war games at the same time does not add to the comfort level. There is concern in Pakistan over India's Cold Start doctrine that supposedly enables India to respond quickly to any uprising from Pakistan. The doctrine itself though, rumor has it, is one that has not yet been developed enough to be effective, especially in an atmosphere where both adversaries have nuclear weapons. So why not alleviate some Pakistani concern by stating in some way that the doctrine has not matured into something operational and adequate? Well that would be showing weakness right? Or would it enhance security for India by giving Pakistan some added confidence? Its a double edged sword, once things have been put into playLink taking them out of the game is very complicated. The actions of one directly effect the other. Allowing room for concern and massive changes in plans in response.

So in response, the war games are here! Pakistan has been shooting off fireworks (well launching an assortment of bombs and missiles) for the masses and apparently its been quite a show. The games (video here) that started for Pakistan on April 10th are not due to end until May 13th and involve multiple levels and phases. That is a whole month of tactics and a whole lot of ammunition to play games with! Not to mention the 50,000 or so troops engaged, F16s and yes, tanks! The Pakistani operations, with names like New Resolve and Fresh Passion give of a flare of patriotism and well, new resolve. India even has a new airbase, and guess what guys...those of you who have now mastered the art of the M1 tank, well India's got'em too if you're interested!

Ultimately, the question is what really do these games achieve if they cause so much suspicion and animosity, though leaders on both sides denounce any intent to threaten, they only want to be prepared. Besides being a whose is bigger competition, would countries such as these be better off without such displays? I can see it working when one is substantially weaker than the other and a massive display of capabilities might work, although it is even questionable in that context, but with two relatively equal opponents? Further, what if someone didn't eat their Wheaties that morning and falls asleep at the gun and oops didn't mean to shoot that one over the border, hello real war goodbye games?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nukes and Tanks: Deterrent Friends!

With Tuesday’s extensive discussion on the role of conventional warfighting techniques and equipment in the modern Army, Monday’s trip to Fort Knox that brought up questions of the future of conventional armored forces and the fact that many of us are in a class on nuclear weapons, I felt this topic was ideal for a blog post.
As President Obama tours the world (and invites the world to Washington) promoting a platform of disarmament and anti-proliferation, anxious questions have been raised by those at home, particularly from those who grew up taught to be terrified of a potential Soviet nuclear attack (see image). There are concerns that a diminished nuclear arsenal might not be a strong enough deterrent against some states with a particularly vivid distaste for the U.S. and, if true, it certainly is an unpleasant thought.
These concerns, however, are exactly the reason why our conventional forces and equipment are still useful, even mandatory, in a military that currently faces conflicts that are exclusively COIN-based. (Some of this will seem repetitive from Tuesday, of course, but on the off-chance that someone outside of PS reads this, I’ll rehash a little.) Currently, it appears that the primary enemies of the United States are to be fought with COIN-only techniques; but, of course, this does not mean that this will always be the case. It is easy to imagine that at some point in the vague future of the U.S., conventional war may be required to protect her citizens and interests. This alone is a suitable argument for maintaining conventional warfighting ability, however it becomes even more important with regard to the nuclear disarmament.
The concern of those who cling to the arsenal is that eliminating these impressive weapons shows that we’re softening, weaker or less prepared to fight. To counter this image, both to appease those at home and to convince those abroad, continuing to nurture and grow our conventional branches (such as armor) will prove essential. The message to be sent should not be one of weakness or pacification but one of strength. In other words, the nuclear disarmament of the United States need not be a concession, but a message to the world (and specifically our adversaries) that we have such faith in our conventional forces that our nuclear weapons are less important, and almost disposable; that the U.S. can do so much damage with our traditional “roll-right-over-you” forces that they deter even nuclear attacks. Combine this with the fact that we will, certainly, maintain a (probably substantial) arsenal of nuclear weapons “just in case,” and we hardly need to fear some disarmament.
Not only does this stance comfort those who fear the U.S. being left without a strong deterrent, but it also assures them that our conventional forces will continue to be strengthened and trained. To get more of the country on board with his disarmament agenda, the President would be wise to push a stance of this nature and pursue an increased focus on the abilities of our traditional forces and equipment.

Optimistic about our all-volunteer force

On Monday April 19, 2010, member of the Patterson School visited Fort Knox. During lunch, I had the opportunity to ask two servicemen about their experiences and their views on the Army and military service. Both spoke very favorably about the Army; we discussed training, base life, benefits, and a few other issues. Each told me previous tours in Iraq were worthwhile and productive and the men were extremely enthusiastic to go on another tour, preferably in Afghanistan. Each man was in his late 20s and had reenlisted several times and stated his intention to do so in the future. One spoke about how he tried to get his brother to enlist years back. His attempts were unsuccessful and now his brother is a “bum who sits on the couch all day” with his parents, and presumably does not work. The other man told me he tried some civilian jobs after finishing his stint with the Navy. When that didn’t interest him, he enlisted with the Army.

Overall, I was (pleasantly) surprised by how positive everyone seemed to be about their service. I got a sense that soldiers feel few are willing to sacrifice they way they do, but that they view the Army as a calling and truly love the military lifestyle. This contradicts the view put out by many news articles, foreign affairs essays, and novels that paint our campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan as wasteful endeavors with no end in sight. At least from the point of view of a couple soldiers who have seen Iraqi combat operations, this is not entirely the case.

It’s necessary to have such enthusiasm among our military personnel when we continue to employ an all-volunteer force. Currently there are approximately 1.3 million men and women on active duty. Assuming this number remains relatively static, our military must receive adequate support so that the vast majority remain as dedicated and view their service with the same level of positivity as those men we met at Fort Knox. Thankfully, the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review makes this a priority.

The 2010 QDR lists “Preserve and Enhance the All-Volunteer Force” as part of the overall “Defense Strategy.” This appears on pages vi-vii of the Executive Summary and pages 15-16 of the main document. In these sections, it states that the prolonged wartime period since 2001 has elevated the importance of preserving our force and transitioning to sustainable rotation rates. The QDR asserts:
“Although a strong sense of purpose and demonstrated operational excellence are shared across all Services and ranks, indicators of strain on the force – from retention levels in key commissioned and noncommissioned officer ranks, to increased rates of combat stress and substance abuse, and to even more tragic outcomes such as increased levels of suicide and divorce – are cause for concern.”

Our servicemen are experiencing higher than ideal deployment rates and briefer dwell periods. Thus, given the need for substantial and sustained deployments in conflict zones, the Defense Department emphasizes that our military personnel must receive extensive physical and psychological care. Additionally, the 2010 QDR revised the military’s long-held two-war policy under which it seeks to retain the capacity to maintain two conventional wars simultaneously. The shift from the two-war policy and the emphasis on preserving the strength of the voluntary force reflects a realistic assessment of American military capabilities after nearly a decade of war. It’s a welcome change from Bush-era military policies that seemingly saw no limit to military power or sustainability.

Obama’s late November/early December 2009 plan to escalate the Afghanistan campaign by 30,000 troops required a drawdown in Iraq. If all goes as planned, there will be only 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq by the end of August 2010. At that point, forces in Afghanistan will number well over 100,000. It is at least somewhat comforting to personally find out we have servicemen eager to meet this need and to know that the Defense Department is prioritizing their well-being.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Global "Commons" and Strategic Planning

Given the presence of the tragedy of the commons with which I'm sure everyone is familiar, the DOD has some work to do (in conjunction with a multitude of stakeholders domestically and abroad). The 2010 QDR defines the global commons as "domains or areas that no one state controls but on which all rely," with the main ones being water, space (especially outer space) and cyber space. Recent reports and opinions have illustrated some of the challenges involved in both (1) securing our access for our military for its resource needs as well as our own, and (2) sustaining the commons themselves so they'll be available for others and our children.

Water. Foreignpolicy.com says 4,000 children around the world die daily from water sanitation issues that are easily preventable. From water shortages in the Tibetan plateau to the aqueducts in Nevada failing to fully quench the thirst for LA and other populations on the west coast, it is clear that without improved technology, drinkable water shortages could precipitate conflict as rich and consumer-driven nations like the US consume vastly more water per capita than others.

As far as the seas, laws and regulations such as the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas exist, but as we saw this month, tragedies still occur due to lack of enforcement. In the future, "land" grabs over parts Antarctica might be problematic, which is a space considered by the US to be international waters but by other nations to be extensions of their sovereignty (think Chile, Argentina, Australia).

Space. China, in its perpetual unique interpretations of international treaties and norms, has been for years trying to leverage its power using space, part of which above its mainland it considers sovereign Chinese territory. With Iran vying to get into outer space as well, who knows what could happen well into the future.

As reported by the economist recently, the first accidental collision in space due to "space junk" occurred a year ago. And not just the big, defunct satellites are issues of concern:
A fleck of paint may not sound dangerous, but if travelling at 27,000kph (17,000mph), as it would be in orbit, it could easily penetrate an astronaut’s spacesuit.
Since the collapse of USSPACECOM into USSTRATCOM in the 1990s, DOD is clearly focused on threats here on Earth presently.

Since we had a presentation on this topic in class yesterday, we've heard the song and dance routine about various cyber threats and the challenges in deciding what and how to protect "cyber assets." With the newly-created USCYBERCOM still awaiting a director, CJCS Admiral Mike Mullen recently interviewed with Danger Room and said:
But there’s a blurring, if you will, in the speed of cyber between defense and offense. And so I think you’ll see that, as well.
That statement certainly wouldn't go over well in the high seas.

What's more, cyberspace is a fundamentally different domain than its counterparts in the global commons. As has been known for quite some time, cyberspace and the internet in particular isn't exactly an easily structured or organized system since it was created in a piecemeal fashion.

What do all these global commons challenges tell us in the context of strategic planning? The US and the DOD can't expect long-term sustainability and acquisition of resources in the global commons if it plans in a vacuum. Without planning with other nations and militaries, the DOD can expect inevitable conflict in the global commons down the road.

North Korean Spies Detained

Tensions on the Korean peninsula increased another notch this week as reports have surfaced about a team of spies attempting to assassinate the highest level North Korean defector living in asylum in Seoul. Hwang Jang-yop is a former North Korean Workers’ Party secretary who defected to South Korea in 1997. He is a bitter critic of Kim Jong-il despite having helped Kim create Pyongyang’s ruling philosophy of juche, or national self-reliance. The two North Korean agents entered South Korea under the guise of asylum-seekers but were detained after a round of routine questioning. Their mission was to slit the throat of the 87-year old Hwang, who occasionally lectures on Korean politics, before committing suicide.

Opposition politicians in South Korea have called foul on the timing of the announcements, accusing conservative ruling party President Lee Myung-bak of using the arrests and the recent sinking of a South Korean ship as ploys to increase votes in the upcoming mayoral and gubernatorial elections. The Korea Herald suggests the attempted assassination is related to fears of a turbulent succession of power from Kim Jong-il to his son, Kim Jong-eun. In his recent lectures, Hwang expressed skepticism about the new leader’s abilities to rule. There may already be enough support for Kim Jong-eun, however, given reports that the assassination plot originated in a military intelligence directorate, indicating that the army supports Kim’s transition plans to his son and is seeking to eliminate any opposition to his ascension.

Either way, the recriminations between the two Koreas continues to build. Given the seriousness of the Cheonan explosion and the lack of retaliation from the South thus far, this newest incident is not likely to be a casus belli but yet another sticking point in the way of Korean reconciliation and de-nuclearization.