Thursday, April 30, 2020

Winning the Peace after the Pandemic

In the midst of Covid19, the development of the United States military has come to an inevitable slowdown. The Pentagon’s Chief of Acquisition Ellen Lord said on April 20th that she “expects major defense programs to be delayed by around three months due to COVID-19 closures and disruptions.” Unfortunately, these numbers may be a bit too optimistic. With the United States having over a million cases of Covid-19, with 62,000 deaths at the time of this writing, it is likely that a four, five, or even six-month delay should be expected. The effectiveness of the military will also drop as equipment degrades and personnel skills are not used.

However, should the United States military shut down. After this ordeal is over, there will be a need to win the peace after the pandemic and other countries are already working on doing that. The only operating aircraft carrier in the Pacific right now is Chinese, which, in the absence of the United States, took the opportunity to sail near Okinawa and Taiwan. The message sent was clear. The Chinese are here, and the United States is not. With the United States military being under a Stop Movement order that is not set to expire until June 30, it is likely we will see many more of these operations being undertaken by our adversaries.

There also has been postponements or cancellations of many major military exercises. The Air Force’s Red Flag exercise for pilots was cancelled. The Army’s Defender Europe 2020 exercise was scaled back, and the Navy’s so called “Large Scale Exercise” was postponed until 2021. If cancellations of both basic training as well as exercises continue, the United States will experience a severe drop in military effectiveness, as  much as .5% of their end strength every month. 

So, what can be done? The only thing that can be done is to bring the risk under an acceptable level, much like essential stores in the United States have been doing.  Social distancing will have to be enforced, testing must increase, and the immune must be identified. Personal Protective Equipment should also be provided to all servicemen. There will also have to be a time every night in which every surface can be disinfected. By doing this, the risk of infection will not be dropped to zero but will be greatly reduced. That is all that can be done right now in the absence of a vaccine. In this way the United States military will be ready for what is to come after the pandemic is over, perhaps not at its most effective level, but at a higher level of effectiveness than it is at the time of this writing

Merchants of Death

Hey all; final lecture available here. There's also a bit of discussion of the final exam, which will take the form of a Minor Comprehensive Exam (three questions, you need to answer one over a two hour period).  Any questions, don't hesitate to ask...

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

How is the DIB affected by Trump's Border wall?

It may come as a shock or a disappointment to President Trump's supporters, but it has become abundantly clear that funding for the border wall along the US Mexico border is not going to come from Mexico. Instead, the Trump administration has channeled its efforts towards securing funds through a series of aberrant maneuvers, many of which have raised constitutional concerns. In particular, declaring a national emergency to circumvent congressional approval of spending seems to have been a very shortsighted decision considering the current Covid-19 crisis.

Perhaps more immediately consequential than the precedent set for the limits of executive power is the impact the diversion of funds has on the defense industrial base (DIB). In February, the Trump administration released a plan for the diversion of $3.8 billion in funding for the wall which had originally been designated for the production of military equipment in the United States such as the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, the F-35 fighter jet, ships and other equipment for the National Guard. The production of this equipment has significant economic impact on the districts in which they are produced. With over 1.900 suppliers across 45 states the F-35 alone contributes to over 254,000 jobs. With an economic depression looming, these jobs will be important to the country's recovery. This reallocation of funding reflects a lack of consideration for its economic consequences.

More recently, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has announced the restoration of half a billion dollars originally put on hold for the wall. The funding was restored for 22 construction projects in the United States including a $62.6 million dollar middle school at Fort Campbell, KY. To replace the funds, the Pentagon has taken money from Overseas Contingency Operations (which causes its own problems). It seems plausible that now, more aware of the economic impact of coronavirus the restoration of the funding was done to contribute to financial recovery in the future. Regardless, the restoration further indicates insufficient analysis of the impact of the original diversion of funds (as well as the political clout of Mitch McConnell).

In total, the Trump Administration has moved over $10 billion dollars of the defense budget to fund the border wall. If these examples are at all indicative of the consideration given to where they draw the funds the United States may end up like Trump's Atlantic City Casino. While the building of the border wall may also create jobs, they are not as dispersed throughout the country as the jobs created by the DIB and they do not contribute to national security against peer threats.

Closed Factories, Closed Minds: Covid-19's Disruption of Supply Chains and the Nation's Defense Industrial Base

Industries across the world are feeling the pressure as Covid-19 disrupts supply chains and production. The defense industrial base has not been exempted from these constraints. Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, stated earlier this week that the disruptions of supply chains will result in at least a three-month slowdown for major defense acquisition plans.

The U.S.’s dependency on supply chains from foreign countries for many of its defense industrial programs has been highlighted during this pandemic. The defense industrial programs that are being hit the hardest by this crisis are the shipbuilding, aviation, and small space launch sectors, with aviation being the most heavily affected so far. Mexico is one example of how this dependency is affecting the nation’s industrial base. Unlike here in the U.S., the Mexican government has not exempted companies in its defense industry from stay-at-home orders. The closure of several Mexican airframe production factories due to these orders is delaying the production for many of the U.S.’s major aviation programs, including yet another in a long line of production delays for the F-35 program.

The nation's reliance on international suppliers has, as it seems all things do nowadays, brought up a discussion regarding U.S.-China relations. Aside from the defense industry’s reliance on foreign countries like Mexico, broader concerns are now being raised regarding the U.S.’s dependence on China for many key medicines and supplies. Arguments like these that cite the U.S.’s reliance on foreign countries to demonstrate that the U.S. is overly dependent on international suppliers and should move production back home are simple and alluring to make, but the temporary difficulties faced during this pandemic should not be allowed to influence the globalized nature of the U.S.’s defense supply chains.

Instead of continuing the current administration’s penchant of turning inwards at every opportunity, the U.S. must maintain an integrated approach with countries like Mexico to stabilize its defense industry. This will require the U.S. government to demonstrate leadership and unity with its international partners - an unfortunately rare commodity these days - but this will be essential to ensure that there will be a healthy and capable defense industry for production to return to by the end of this crisis.

A Hard Knox Life

Fort Knox barely escaped the full wrath of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), but the post and region still took a hard hit. It was home to the US Army Armor Center and School for over 70 years until it was relocated to Georgia in 2005. Nearly 10,000 soldiers and their families moved away, leaving the surrounding communities and state officials with a sense of impending economic doom. This was Fort Knox’s most substantial transformation since World War II. Many feared that the post could shut down completely, but it was just the beginning of a long, turbulent decade.

To alleviate some of the damage this did, the one-star Army Reserve Aviation Command reactivated in Fort Knox in 2007, the two-star 84th Training Command was relocated there in 2009, and the two-star US Army Human Resources Command in 2010. However, the post’s situation worsened in 2011 when Basic Combat Training operations shut down and the US Army Accessions Command officially discontinued, removing nearly 1,000 soldiers and civilian personnel. Then, in 2013, Fort Knox’s combat force was almost eliminated after it lost more than 10,000 soldiers with the relocation of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. After a decade of changes turned surrounding communities into ghost towns and left the local economy in shambles, Fort Knox became an unrecognizable shell of what it once.

Fort Knox’s luck picked up a bit when it gained its third two-star command with the relocation of US Army Cadet Command in 2014 and the 1st Army Division East in 2015, along with nearly 1,000 personnel. Sadly, the post also lost the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command in 2015, but this was the last time Fort Knox took a hit. The Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs and Knox Regional Development Alliance, with support from Kentucky congressmen, began persistently advocating for Fort Knox and Kentucky’s capabilities and potential in 2015.

KCMA and KRDA stressed the damage that had been done from the decade of BRAC changes to give legislators and Pentagon officials a feeling of guilt, but it was the facts, numbers, and projections that set things in motion. While pushing the "Fort Kentucky" initiative, they sold Fort Knox on its unique capabilities, including having no environmental encroachment impact on training, net-zero utilities, a central location, world-class training facilities, and first-rate logistical infrastructure.

Success came after only two years of badgering Capitol Hill and the Pentagon with proposals, testimonies, and numbers to back up their claims. Thanks to these organizations and individuals, Fort Knox gained roughly 10,000 personnel in 2017 with the 1st Theater Sustainment Command. Then, in 2020, it was announced that Fort Knox was chosen as the home of the Army’s fourth headquarters, Fifth Corps (Victory/“V” Corps) -- the state’s first three-star command. This will bring about 800 personnel to Fort Knox and expand the post’s daily impact to the international level with close NATO and EUROCOM partnerships.

Between gaining an Army HQ in 2020 and becoming the first energy independent military installation in 2019, Fort Knox is proving to be one of the Department of Defense’s most valuable assets.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Military Expenditures should be evaluated using the Purchasing Power Parity Method

U.S. Military Spending vs. the WorldFor a country that only spends $60 billion in defense, Russia's military capability is impressive. Not only can its military deliver large quantities of weapons, but it possesses highly competent scientists and research institutes that enable the development of hyper-sonic weapons such as Tsirkon and Avangard, as well as air defense systems like the S-500. To contextualize, Russia's military expenditure is equivalent to France's and United Kingdom's, and despite the similar expenditure, its military is significantly more advanced and can maintain over a million personnel while purchasing/producing vast quantities of very potent military equipment. How and Why this happens?

The main reason this happens is because the use of market exchange rates grossly understates the actual volume of Russia's defense budget. With it having a weaker currency, it can afford services of brilliant scientists, and procure weaponry at a much cheaper costs than France or the UK. For example, minimum wage in the UK is set approximately 1550 € per month; on the other end, in Russia it is estimated at 11,400 Russian Rubble per month, which is almost 142 € monthly. The differences in these figures show that evaluating just on exchange rates could be misleading as 142 EUR in Russia can purchase a lot more than in UK or France. Thus, analysts and researchers should focus their analysis on countries' respective of purchasing power parity (PPP) - instead of using the market exchange rates - as this allows them to consider the difference in costs between countries. Lastly, to further explain why Russia’s military is so powerful, an analysis found that, “using the PPP approach, Russia’s effective military expenditure actually ranged between $150 billion and $180 billion annually over the last five years. That figure is conservative; considering hidden or obfuscated military expenditure, Russia may well come in at around $200 billion.” So next time, you’re analyzing countries’ actual military expenditure, use the PPP approach as it will provide a clearer analysis.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

National Security Corporate Complex

The phrase “Military Industrial Complex” (MIC) describes the interplay between the military and the corporations that help to create the technology that the military uses. These industries contribute not only to help the military but influence defense spending and policy. The military relies on the conglomeration of corporations to produce vital aspects of our defense. Contractors drive innovation and implantation in the military. The phrase coined in the days of the Cold War, and it was a fitting name for how the system worked. It was a “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry.” 
Today the number of companies and areas of the government that that complex reaches a wide range. Some have said that a more fitting name is the National Security Corporate Complex. Contractors are slowly reaching multiple parts of the government. Even in times in relative peace, the MIC has been growing. As our military has grown, the needs have grown with it. The MIC is so much larger today than ever thought possible. 
Before 9/11, the only other area of the government to have military contracts was the Department of Energy due to its role in nuclear weapons. Since 9/11, the complex has become more complex. “Many corporations now have sizable contracts with more than one federal agency.” Defense spending is reaching all-time highs. And today, the MIC doesn’t just have to involve weapons and transports, but it includes things like cybersecurity and VA medical care. “National security departments further expanded their contracting in information technology, for tasks ranging from the prosaic, like bookkeeping, to the exotic, including cyberwarfare and artificial intelligence.” Mixing private and public sectors is a necessary evil in the world of defense, but it is one that needs to be exposed. As the complex grows, it can threaten national security when lawmakers start putting corporations above the people’s needs. 

DoD Research and Academic Institutions

Hey all,

Below are some of the most common metrics for capturing the amount defense related (DOD specific) activities in a university, as well as the top 10 most militarized universities.

Department of Defense Research and Development Expenditures

This metric includes R&D funding for computer, environmental, life, mathematical, physical, and psychological science projects, as well as other interdisciplinary projects.

Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC)

This factor accounts for Federally Funded Research and Development Centers sponsored by government agencies that possess a national security mission, these are also administered entirely or in part by institutions of higher education.

University Affiliated Research Center (UARC)

UARCs are entities within institutions of higher education that receive more than $6 million a year of sole source funding to maintain "essential engineering, research, or development capability" through a "long term, strategic relationship" with the Department of Defense.

Other Metrics Include:

Minerva Initiative University Research Grant;

Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI)

Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Institute; 

These metrics and others determine how active in defense research an academic institution is.

Top 10:

1. University of Maryland
2. American Military Institution
3. University of Phoenix
4. George Washington University
5. George Mason University
6. Cochise College
7. Johns Hopkins University
8. Strayer University
9. Webster University
10. Georgetown University

Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID-19 Stimulus Packages and the Defense Industry

No industry or country is immune to the effects of COVID-19 and many countries are passing legislation to stimulate the economy. The Australian government plans to spend $213 billion AUD (135 billion USD) to an economy already struggling from the effects of the summer’s bushfires. Sectors such as tourism and agriculture were hard hit by the bushfires and a planned tourism campaign encouraging people to “holiday here this year” were quickly replaced by “stay home, stay healthy” as the country enacted strict lockdown measures. The defense industry is an important part of the Australian economy and is needed to maintain jobs. Plans for the stimulus money include fast-tracking payments to defense contractors (up to 500 million AUD will be sent two weeks earlier than planned) as well as a continuation of the Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority Grants program. The Sovereign Industrial Capability Priority Grants is a scheme which gives small Australian companies grants for projects that fall under prioritized defense categories. 11 companies will receive grants under this scheme to continue projects such as fiber optic cables and the development of robotic unmanned ground vehicles. 

The defense industry is also a priority for the government due to fear of decreased American support in the Pacific in the future. Currently, a planned US deployment of troops to the Northern Territory is delayed indefinitely and the USS Theodore Roosevelt is docked in Guam for the foreseeable future. Australia is prepping for more responsibility in the region, should this come to pass, by pursuing deeper relationships with India and Japan.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Potential Delays but No Hard Stop in Defense Industry

As industries across the United States begin to crack under the COVID-19 pressure, the defense industry keep scraping along. Companies and agencies are still hiring amid the pandemic and it is reported that the defense industry has maintained an normal number of contracts throughout the crisis.

While production on industry keystones such as F-35's and missiles has continued, serious delays are expected in project completions. F-35 factories in Italy and Japan experienced severe setbacks as COVID-19 raged through the world. The factories underwent full closures and upon reopening, encountered staffing shortages, sick workers, and community push-back. Key factories in the production line of missiles have also shut down in Mexico. The U.S. has been pressuring the Mexican government to allow the factories to reopen, but have not been successful thus far.

These delays and shortages may be indicative of the larger global supply chain issues that are expected as companies reopen their economies at various times.

National Innovation Systems

The university system is crucial to the process of research and development that the Defense Industry promotes. The current approach that justifies funding the University system of science and tech investment is called the National Systems of Innovation approach. This approach assumes that STI development is typically bounded geographically, so it is important to fund national laboratories, universities, and the private sector to work together to promote research and development.

The Seach for a New Bradley Falls Flat

In early January, the US Army said it was going to reevaluate its efforts to set up a better bidding process to help find a replacement for the M-2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle(BFV). In their first attempt, the US Army only received one bid from General Dynamics that was ineligible, and disqualified another bid from the Raytheon-Rheinmetall team as they weren’t able to get their German made Lynx KF-41 fighting vehicle to the US before the October 1 deadline. The head of the Rheinmetall team stated that they are hopeful they can find a way back into the bidding process and help in the development of the Bradley replacement. Both the Science Applications International Corporation(SAIC) and the Bradley-maker BAE Systems did not submit bids for this contest.
After several failed attempts by the Army to buy new vehicles to replace the Bradley, they tried to speed up the process with the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle(OMFV). However, this was more detrimental than it was helpful. The OMFV was meant to replace the M-2 Bradley which is used to transport infantry, but could be driven remotely. BAE Systems claimed in an email response that they are, “dedicated to providing combat vehicle solutions to meet the needs of the U.S. Army’s modernization efforts” and, “continue our commitment to the warfighter and the Army.” Though this is a setback for the Army Futures Command, founded in 2018, they are living up to Secretary Ryan McCarthy’s edict: “If you fail, fail early and fail cheap”. 
The M-2 Bradley has reached its technological limit for new armor, electronics, and defense systems. Because of this, the search for a replacement remains a top priority for Army Futures Command. The commander, Gen. John G. Murray has said, “We are going to take what we have learned and apply it to the OMFV program to develop our path and build a healthy level of competition back into the program.” The Army is still hopeful in their search to find a viable replacement for the Bradley and reevaluate the requirements of this project in the hopes of getting more bids for a more productive and competitive outcome.

The Defense Industrial Base

Hey all!  Here's today's lecture.  Feel free to ask questions in comments, or through direct e-mail. I will schedule a Zoom for tomorrow at 10am so that we can discuss any issues associated with class.

Companies That Play Key Roles in the Defense Industry

There are countless private corporations that serve as defense contractors in the defense industrial complex. Some that come to mind might be Lockheed Martin or Raytheon, but even companies you interact with in everyday life play crucial roles in the defense sector. Here are three well-known commercial businesses that play significant roles in defense.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Covid-19 and the Future of the Defense Budget

Covid-19 has presented the clearest and most widespread threat that domestic America has faced in decades. In just a few short months, it feels like our entire lives have been taken over by this pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been infected, tens of thousands killed, and millions more are still at risk before we can expect to find ourselves on the other side of this crisis. In the face of this threat to our society, the future of the nation’s defense budget could be called into question. 

Citizens may begin to have doubts about their dependence on the nation's bloated military. The end-state of this pandemic is impossible to predict when we are still stuck within the event, but the effects it may have on society could portend some changes to the nation's defense budget. Depending on the length and severity of impact that this still unfolding crisis has on our society, citizens' trust in the military to safeguard them could become diminished. The population may demand that the government's defense budget shift at least partially from its focus on foreign peer threats to domestic preparedness, as the current danger Americans are facing at home provides a much realer threat than some sciamachy across the sea.

However, it seems that this sentiment may not be shared by those within the government. Some members of Congress remain focused more on maintaining the deterrence of  designated peer threats than on shoring up the welfare of society at home. A new bill introduced in Congress this past week proposes the dedication of billions of dollars to a defense fund specifically earmarked to boost deterrence of China. The fund would be used to purchase missile defense systems and bankroll the construction of military bases across the Pacific.

For now, the administration and Congress have maintained the defense budget's course of deterrence. However, the end of this crisis is still not in sight, and pressure from an upended economy and an increasingly distressed society could cause a shift in the focus of our nation's defense budget down the line.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Taking Advantage of Primacy

There are myriad arguments to be made concerning the United States’ defense budget. There are those in favor of trimming the budget—in some cases quite drastically—, those who favor its increase, and those who think we have found the Goldilocks Zone. If the United States are to continue with protracted armed conflict abroad, then the current level of spending makes sense. However, if there were any time for this attitude to change, it is during the ongoing pandemic. Reducing the defense budget should be one outcome of this. 

The pandemic, piling on top of protracted conflict and imbalance in NATO burden-sharing, has exacerbated many of the problems within the United States. These problems can no longer be ignored. Security does not have to entail only personnel and materiel. Moneys should be diverted from the defense budget toward infrastructure. “Infrastructure” has become an amorphous term as of late. Specifically, revitalization of the nation’s interstate transportation options, water cleanliness, and technological advancements should be fostered. There is bipartisan support for mass infrastructure plans, and diverting funds from the defense budget would signal a welcome change in priorities for the country. This could help appease the GOP by lessening the need for increased taxes to fund this infrastructure plan. It would also provide an avenue for Democrats to induce changes in environmental policy. 

The time to make these changes is now, while the United States maintain advantages on potential adversaries and can afford to prepare for them. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Request for Increased Indo-Pacific Funding

While most nations around the world continue to deal with COVID-19, the military is already looking ahead to the future. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command requested an extra $20.1 billion between 2021 and 2026. This money would be used to pay for radar warning systems, cruise missiles, new intelligence centers, and increases in additional forces and exercises with allies. While the US has a special plan to deter Russia in Europe, the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), there is no similar plan for the Pacific and China. The proposed Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) would most likely primarily fund the Navy and the Air Force as opposed to the EDI which funds mainly the Army. The U.S. has three territories in the Pacific, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, and plans to build up defenses in Guam with this funding. 

There are fears China will use the pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen their influence in the Pacific. Because China experienced the virus first, they are now slowly returning to normalcy, while the rest of the world is preoccupied with fighting the disease. China has sent N95 masks and other medical supplies to struggling countries; however, this should not be seen as an act of pure goodwill. China is attempting to position themselves as a global leader and benefit from controlling a large amount of supplies. The US and China spent much of the beginning of 2020 blaming each other for the start and spread of COVID-19. The dramatic increase in cases led to an uneasy truce between the two countries; however, it is likely tensions will rise again after the pandemic subsides. The US needs to prepare for a power struggle with China in the Pacific which may come sooner than anticipated due to COVID-19.

Who's calling the shots in Trump's Defense Budget?

The "revolving door" between DoD, congress and lobbyists is certainly nothing new. We were warned as a nation by President Eisenhower almost 60 years ago of the dangers of the military industrial complex. More recently, progressive candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have blamed lobbyists for driving up costs across an array of industries leading to a lack of funds for public healthcare and education. President Trump himself campaigned on "draining the swamp" of Washington elites tied up in a "globalist agenda" influenced by such industries.
Yet the influence of industry on government has "flourished" under the Trump administration. In three years, Trump has appointed more ex lobbyists to cabinet level positions than Bush and Obama in eight. One of which is Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, who was previously employed by Raytheon as a lobbyist. Esper participated in submitting the largest defense budget since WWII this February. Much of the budget is asking for funds to update missile systems and nuclear weapons and has been accused of "having no mandate to economize."
This can all be taken as evidence of the enormous clout the defense industry has on the military budget, but the novel coronavirus presents us with even more. For one, all the defense industry has been labeled "essential" under the federal guidelines for limiting the spread of the virus. Over 2.5 million workers are going to work despite the travel restrictions and stay at home orders. At the same time many companies involved in the defense industry such has Boeing have received billions in aid (despite their alternative reasons for needing it). Over time, the influence of these industries have pulled funds away from other programs that could better prepare our country for crises such as the one we are facing. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Repercussions of Covid19

On April 15, a report was issued by the United States Naval Forces Command that eleven “Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) vessels repeatedly conducted dangerous and harassing approaches of the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60), USS Firebolt (PC 10), USS Sirocco (PC 6), USCGC Wrangell (WPB 1332) and USCGC Maui (WPB 1304)” while they were conducting operations in the North Arabian Gulf. Along with this, the Navy also reported a Russian fighter jet flying within 25 feet of a United States surveillance aircraft.  Likewise, a report issued on the same date by the United States Space Force stated that they were monitoring a Russian anti-satellite missile test that was being conducted.

The adversaries of the United States are taking advantage of the ceasing of military operations caused by COVID 19, and with over 2500 cases among military members so far, it is likely that operations won’t resume for some time. With the USS Theodore Roosevelt quarantined in Guam for an indefinite period, it is likely that China will try and take advantage of the chaos as well, especially considering that they are one of the first countries to begin recovery from the pandemic. With the USS Ronald Reagan receiving maintenance in Japan and the USS Nimitz being quarantined, China currently has the only aircraft carrier in the region. Because of this we may see more operations in the South China Sea in an attempt to expand their influence while the United States is sidelined. North Korea was also observed conducting several short-range missile tests the day before South Korea’s election.

The United States military’s plan to deter adversaries has, since World War 2, been to project power, and now their ability to do so has been severely limited. While these issues may pose no direct threat right now, our adversaries are keen to show that they have not been crippled by Covid19 and are just as powerful as they were before the pandemic. This coupled with the fact that the defense budget is likely to be cut after the two trillion dollar stimulus plan that was just released, it is up to the United States to deal with adversaries in a post Covid19 world on a smaller budget.

The First Launch - kind of...

While we were all beginning our social distancing measures and watching the world bow to the demands of COVID-19, the Space Force quietly reached a milestone. On March 26, the Space Force completed its first space launch mission. They sent an Atlas V rocket into space carrying a Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite. This is the sixth AEHF-6 satellite, completing a satellite constellation that will provide “jam proof” communications for the military.

Now, this is clearly not the first launch of its kind, as five AEHF-6 satellites are already in place. But the mission marks the first successful launch by the newly founded Space Force and the completion of a satellite constellation that has been well over 10 years in the making. The first of the AEHF-6’s was launched by the Air Force in 2010. The new constellation promises to upgrade communications and will become a cornerstone for the Space Force moving forward.

April 16: Defense Budgeting

Hey all; lecture is here.  Any questions please ask in comments or shoot me an e-mail. Optional Zoom at 11am (invite should be in your inbox), when we will also discuss a few other Patterson things.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Rebuild America, not the Military: the post-covid defense budget & uncertain future

To say we live in uncertain times would be a wild understatement. Tens of thousands of Americas will likely die from COVID-19; the two trillion-dollar relief package is likely the first of many to follow. Finally, fears of another Great Depression loom. There will be cuts, and the Defense Budget may seem like the right place to trim. This is not unprecedented. After the Great Recession, Obama cut nearly $800 billion—approximately matching the 2009 stimulus package—in planned defense expenditures in the first three years of his administration. While the US Navy dispatched its hospital ships to New York and Los Angeles and the National Guard set up field hospitals, the  heroes of post-pandemic America will likely be the health care workers—likely the TIME’s “Person of the Year.” The national imagination will likely concern itself with “Rebuilding America.” Unfortunately, the US military was in the midst of a transitionary period from focusing on counterinsurgency to peer threats as COVID-19 broke out. In this critical time, the US military is focusing on “combating the pandemic” over building a force able to counter peer-threats. The next National Budget will likely reflect this reprioritization of values. Funds will likely be directed towards honoring the sacrifices of the essential workers and mitigating the worst of the economic downturn over a new military build-up. A further inward-focused US might allow Russian and Chinese adventurism.  As the world likely enters a new epoch, the US military must be a stabilizing force around the globe. The real question is whether Americans have the will or return to a new era of isolationism?

Rivalry On and Off the Field

The Army and the Navy are the two oldest branches of the military and for the last 130 years they have been hashing out their rivalry not on the battlefield, but on the football field. It all started when a cadet from West Point (U.S. Military Academy) “accepted a challenge” from a midshipman from the Naval academy. In 1890 the first game was played. Over the years the two teams have only missed ten years.  5 of those missed meetings were due to war or not being able to agree on rules or other non-rivalrous reasons. But 5 the years of 1894-1898 the game stopped because of a disagreement “Following a reputed incident between a Rear Admiral and a Brigadier General, which nearly led to a duel after the 1893 Navy victory” after a meeting with president Cleveland the secretary of the navy and the secretary of war issues orders to their respective academies that the opposing team could not visit thus effectively ending the football game after a cool-off period the waters were ripe for another meeting and in 1899 the two teams met on neutral territory and the tradition continuities today.
 Each branch wants to be the best of the best, so they are constantly pushing to be better. this competition between the branches is one of the things that drives the U.S. military to be the best in the world.  The Army vs. Navy football game is one that highlights the deeper competition between the two services. Each academy is constantly working to be better and beat their rival even if it is only a football game. While each team wants to win they also want bragging rights and to say to the nation that they came out on top. This is what the branches do as a whole they want to prove to the nation that they are the best. While each branch has unique capabilities, they are all competing for funding and missions. This competition is what drives each to be the best at what they do. While the game is a major competition it has become more. It is a morale booster for the Army and the Navy. It binds each of the services together and gives them something to look forward to. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Coast Guard: The Awkward Middle Child

When people think about the branches of the US military, they usually only think of four in their heads: Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Add to that list the US Space Force, and that's five. The sixth one is usually just added as an addendum "Oh, and the Coast Guard." According to one count, there are 186 movies about the US Marines, 87 about the US Army, 74 about the US Navy, and 52 about the Air Force. The US Coast Guard only has 7. That is only five more than the US Space Force, and the Coast Guard has been around since before the creation of the Air Force...and Planes.

While a tally of movies about US Service groups does not reflect the duties and standings of the respective forces, it does represent how little space the Coast Guard takes up in the collective American consciousness. This lack of consciousness definitely reflects when it is time for budget appropriations. In FY 2019, the Department of the Army had a budget of $182 billion, the Department of the Navy (including the Marine Corps) had a budget of $194.1 billion, and the Department of the Air Force had a budget of $194.2 billion dollars.   The Coast Guard had a 2019 Budget of $10.3 billion dollars.

The Coast Guard is tasked with an enormous mission: providing maritime security, law enforcement, and rescue responses for over 4.5 million square miles of ocean, 95,000 miles of coastline (6,640 of that coastline in Alaska), 26,000 miles of commercial waterways, 361 ports, 3,700 marine terminals, and 25,000 miles of inland and coastal waterways – the largest system of ports, waterways, and coastal seas in the world. Apart from that they are also tasked with eleven other missions: Search and Rescue; MarineEnvironmental Protection; Defense Readiness; Ports, Waterways and Coastal Security; Drug Interdiction;Migrant Interdiction; Living Marine Resources; Marine Safety; Aids to Navigation; and Other LawEnforcement, and the final mission, Polar Operations. The USCG is the only US military branch with the capability to respond in both the Arctic and the Antarctic, the only branch with Polar Class icebreakers. These icebreakers have been in service since the 1970s and are way past their service date. Without increases in funding, the Coast Guard cannot perform that essential mission.

A Dog Reached Space First Because "Someone" is Petty

After the launch of Sputnik I, many Western nations feared there was a technology gap between the United States and the Soviet Union. This moment was a key event during the Cold War and prompted the creation of NASA and the Space Race. The US would have had the opportunity to put a satellite into orbit before the Soviet Union if the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) had been allowed to launch in 1956.

Explorer I, the first launched US satellite, was initially set to be launched by the Army’s Jupiter-C-based Juno I rocket. However, the Eisenhower administration decided that the first US satellite to be launched should be done so by a rocket developed by civilian American engineers rather than a rocket developed by a military missile program. Although, the selected project was not to interfere with high-priority military ballistic missile programs – Atlas, Jupiter, and Thor. While it was the administration's fault that the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, the only thing that stood in the way of the US claiming the second successful launch was a trivial interservice rivalry between the Army and the Air Force. This drama allowed the Soviet Union to send a dog to space before the US could officially get off the ground.

The Stewart Committee was set up to choose the best proposal for the future of US space programs. The Army proposed using the already flight-tested Juno I, the Air Force proposed the undeveloped Atlas rocket, and the Navy proposed a system based on the Viking and Aerobee rockets. The Army and the Navy proposed using the Juno I and Viking for Project Orbiter, while the Air Force proposed the Atlas rocket for its “World Series” project. The Navy quickly decided that there was no way that the committee would choose either of those programs, so Project Orbiter was scrapped and both the Navy and the Air Force began supporting alternatives. The Air Force's proposal wasn't considered since it was years behind the development of the Army and Navy systems. When it came down to the final votes, the Army and Navy representatives voted for their own services' proposals, and the Air Force representatives voted for the Navy's proposal solely because they didn’t want the Army’s proposal to be chosen. In the end, the committee chose to move forward with the Navy's Vanguard rocket.

Two months after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the US attempted its first launch with the Vanguard rocket which failed its first attempts to launch, crashing back to the pad and exploding. Following this embarrassment, the Eisenhower administration crawled back to the ABMA to request that the Jupiter-C be launched as soon as possible. Together, the ABMA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) completed the Jupiter-C modifications and successfully launched Explorer I on the Juno I rocket in only 84 days.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Rumbaugh’s Competing Visions of Space

Lyndon B. Johnson, in keeping with the late President Kennedy’s declaration of landing man on the moon before the 1960s were up, opined that “Men who have worked together to reach the stars are not likely to descend together into the depths of war and desolation.” This vision worked well until the end of the Cold War. Perhaps it is unfortunate for the future that we only got as far as the Moon.

In an ideal world, an environment such as space would be a global commons akin to Antarctica. However, even Antarctica is claimed by various states—with some overlapping claims at that. This is not a geopolitical issue because Antarctica is not intrinsically valuable.

We do not live in an ideal world, and space is intrinsically valuable. There will be struggles over its control. Perhaps, there will even be commercialization. So, semper paratus. 

Each of the six competing visions for a space force presents a different future. But, two starkly contrast one another: the keep the plumbing running (KPR) school and the galactic battle fleet (GBF) school. While these are admittedly “tongue-in-cheek” names for the schools of thought, I believe they are an accurate representation. The GBF folks have it right. 

Those in the KPR school are correct to assume that traditional military units will remain important in the short-run. However, the mentality that this will never fundamentally change is myopic. In particular, the belief that “future wars will still be fought principally by brigade combat teams, carrier strike groups, fighter squadrons, and other traditional military units” shows long-term complacency. The belief that whomever had the sharper stick, better steel, more horses, or advantage in any other technological advancement of the day would win wars forever is correct. But, often, those advantages are crafted by pushing boundaries. Simply keeping the plumbing running will not prepare us adequately for the next wars. 

The vision of the GBF school is impressive. Though the technology to achieve these aims is not yet available, it will never be available if it is not sought after. The United States should be innovators. Ironically, the quality of our “plumbing” produces the best chance  for any nation to pursue these goals which are now only science fiction. Aiming for this type of technological advancement improves the overall capability of the military even if we do not end up invading Klendathu. 

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Women and the Space Force

Historically, the Air Force recruits the most women of any branch in the military, with women comprising 20% of its active duty service members in comparison to 15% of the Army, 19% of the Navy and 9% of the Marines. However, with the creation of the Space Force, there is potential for this to change. Because the Space Force is so new, it has the opportunity to create a more inclusive and diverse force than its counterparts. The Director of Planning for the U.S. Space Force, Air Force Major General Clinton Crosier plans to aggressively court women to join by designing policies that enable career flexibility and ensure a welcoming environment. 

However, this may not be as easy as it sounds. The Space Force recently listed five areas of focus: space operations, space engineering, space intelligence, space acquisition and science, and space cyber. All five of these areas fall under STEM, a category that still struggles to recruit and retain women. In the American workforce, women make up only 28% of STEM jobs. The numbers grow even more dismal when examined closely. Of that 28%, only 16% work in engineering and 26% work in computer and mathematical science. Additionally, only 17% of the active duty military is female.

One way the Space Force might attract women is by pursuing a more generous maternity leave policy (The Department of Defense offers 12 weeks paid leave, a relatively recent policy. Before 2016, service members received only six weeks). The Marine Corps, which struggles immensely with female enlistment and retention, recently proposed a year-long maternity leave policy to allow new mothers more flexibility. One of the main reasons women leave the Marines (or any branch) is to raise a family. Likewise, the Navy has implemented many policies over the past few years to assist mothers to raise families while staying in their current roles. These include the Career Intermission Program, a sabbatical that allows sailors to take up to three years for familial reasons, more flexible, low-cost child-care programs, and more education and resources on pregnancy and breast-feeding while serving. The Space Force has also already shown willingness to listen to women by consulting civilian experts as well as hiring Patricia Mulcahy as Director of Manpower and Personnel. 

Making Inter Service Rivalries Worse to Enhance Nuclear Deterrence.

New discussions about nuclear deterrence, and the triad specifically, have been creating tensions between branches of the military. There is an argument beginning to surface that the only part of the triad the US would need for effective deterrence is the submarine launched ballistic missiles(SLBMs). Having submarines as the only means of launching nuclear warheads aids deterrence by erasing the need to not promise a “no first strike policy” and "launch on warning" policy. Erasing the need for bombers and ICBMs gives the enemy no realistic military targets to strike and thus would reduce the risk of a nuclear attack. By using only SLBMs, the US would rely less on luck. Previously, there have been glitches and false warnings on both US and Russian systems that almost put the world in the middle of a nuclear World War III. By erasing launch on warning, this issue of “luck” is essentially erased. However, this is detrimental to other branches of the military, specifically the Air Force, as they will no longer have nuclear capabilities of their own. While nuclear policy is primarily run by the civilian side, there would certainly be new and rising tensions between the US Navy and Air Force. 
This policy of only utilizing SLBMs as a means of nuclear delivery would certainly heighten tensions between the Navy and Air Force. However, it would be an excellent non proliferation treaty for the “big five” nuclear capable countries and enhance the overall effectiveness of deterrence theory. The US, Russia, China, UK, and France are all capable of utilizing their own SLBMs. This would be a much more stable version of arms control as with only SLBMs in the water, there are no targets on any country's mainland that would give them any strategic edge if they were struck with a nuclear weapon. The only real downside to this policy idea is that inter service rivalry between the US Navy and Air Force would almost certainly get worse. If there was some way to put this policy into action and keep tensions cool, this policy could potentially be a new beginning for safer relations among nuclear capable countries.

Space Force: A New Arena for Interservice Rivalry

The Space Force is the sixth newest branch of the US military. Similar to the Marine Corps, it is situated within an existing branch—the Air Force—and after a year will have a seat at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Established in 2019, once it is fully materialized, the Space Force will act as a centralized chain of command for military activity in Space.

Currently, Space activities take place in the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy, making the creation of the Space Force as source of contention between the services. The Air Force Association argued that the Space Force would eat up funding through excessive budget and administrative costs for little to no added benefit. Defense Secretary Mattis opposed the Space Force for similar reasons, citing “additional organizational layers” and overhead costs.

April 9

Hey all; lecture/PPT for today is now live.  I will send out a zoom invite for noon for any questions or discussion (I said 11:30am in the podcast and the e-mail, but it needs to be noon).  Looking forward...

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Interservice Rivalry and a "Bidding" Process

Most military objectives don’t fall squarely into the jurisdiction of one branch of the military. As a result multiple branches of the military are often attempting to complete the same objectives and address the same problems. This problem is further compounded by each branch of the military having not the same, but often similar capabilities and equipment available to them. This overlap can be beneficial if they in conjunction with one another are able to better achieve their goals. Alternatively, money and time can be wasted if multiple branches are addressing the problem in the same manner.

The budgeting process usually settles the disputes over which responsibilities are delegated to each branch. This has been beneficial in that it has allowed for competition between the branches similar to a free market. This idea could be elaborated further to push for more efficiency. A recent article by defense news argues just this. Essentially they believe that the interservice rivalry should be harnessed as a “force for good.” To do this, not all of the funding  should not be allocated immediately. It should be dispersed based on the proposals of each branch. The most efficient branch would then be delegated the responsibility.

While this approach may make the military more cost efficient, it fails to recognize the possibility that overlap improves overall readiness and efficiency in achieving military objectives. It also fails to consider what other aspects of the budgeting process it may alter. The “force for good” may lead to increased politicization within the military budget. In order to accommodate the political objectives of those reviewing the proposals, the military may shift their proposals. A “bidding” process between the branches could be disastrous in that it could shift the focus of the military from defense to cost efficiency. A better way to make the military more cost efficient would be to reduce threats by meeting them where they arise, investing in humanitarian assistance and development.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Russian PMCs in the Central African Republic

Russia is in a precarious position in its competition with the West. Its economy is struggling under the pressure of international sanctions, leaving it with limited resources to meet its grand ambitions. Nevertheless, Russian foreign policy remains intent on reasserting itself as a global power. To do so, Russia is turning to some old friends as well as looking to make new ones.

Africa is a prospective region that Russia is now looking to reassert its influence on the global stage. In this pivot back to Africa Russia is utilizing the same hybrid warfare style of using PMCs to secure territory and prop up favored regimes as it has done so in countries like Syria. The Central African Republic (CAR) is where one of the first and most successful of these Russian operations in Africa has taken place. Since 2018, over 400 Russian PMCs have been stationed in the CAR. The PMCs have trained thousands of the CARs troops on how to use Russian-supplied arms and have assisted the CAR's military in maintaining the precarious state of security in the country. The Russian PMCs have become so integrated into the security of the CAR that they now act as the personal security detail for the country’s president, and his national security advisor has even been replaced by a former Soviet intelligence official. Russian PMCs have also mediated several peace talks between rebel group leaders and the CAR’s government which helped lead to the 2019 Khartoum Peace Agreement that has brought much-needed stability to the country.

Of course, this assistance has not been without reciprocation. In return for the PMCs stabilizing the security situation and propping up the president’s authority, the CAR has granted Russia several liberties. Russian mining companies have been granted exclusive access to some of the country’s gold and diamond mines. It should not be too much of a surprise to hear that these companies are directly linked to Yevgeney Prigozhin, a major backer of the Russian PMC group Wagner that is believed to be the primary company operating within the CAR. Russia has also been granted the rights to operate an airfield in the northeastern Ouadda region.

Through its use of PMCs Russia has been able to secure political influence and valuable natural resources in the CAR without having to send so much as a single official representative. The success that Russia has achieved in the CAR could act as a blueprint for how it may try to make inroads into other African nations.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

Frontier Services Group

Frontier Services Group, a PMC founded by former Blackwater president Erik Prince is training Chinese military members in Beijing's International Security Defense College. Prince, a recurring Fox News contributor and cunning businessman started the company a few years after cutting ties with Blackwater.

As of 2018, Frontier had trained 5,000 Chinese military personnel, 200 plainclothes police officers, 500 SWAT specialists, 200 railway police officers and 300 overseas military police officers. China is undoubtedly the United States biggest strategic rival so his move has sparked controversy in Washington and beyond.

Prince says that his venture is "not a patriotic endeavor, but an effort to build a great business and make money doing it". It still begs the question of whether US training expertise should be exported to our greatest rival. Prince sees himself as an international-business man and has developed a cult of personality in both China and the US. Perhaps this kind of PMC transnational shifting is a product of a more globalized world. It is still a concerning development. There are over 5,000 PMCs operating in China and they have used foreign expertise in a rather cunning manner as they expand their influence around the globe.

Good Post article delving into the specifics of Fronteir in China;

PMC and State Sovereignty

PMC have many advantages, they are more cost-effective, they can mobilize quicker, and they insulate the state form repercussions. Still, PMCs blur the lines between the state and civilian roles. PMCs, especially in the U.S., are a private business that can be hired by anyone. The U.S. government hires them for the advantages listed above. Other companies hire them for security and other purposes. They are great tools, but some argue by allowing the private companies to use force, it degrades state sovereignty.
Part of sovereignty is States “legally use[ing] violence since they have a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force." (5) PMC are allowed to use force in the international sphere. The main pro for PMCs is that they are "flexible foreign policy tools"; they allow for less politicized and politicized uses of force by both States and other actors. PMCs ability to use force is what creates questions surrounding State sovereignty. 
On the one hand, some argue that in most cases, PMCs an extension of the military so, they don't degrade sovereignty, but PMC’s are just another way that States use force. This argument loses merit since private companies can hiring PMC for security purposes. The counter-argument to that is when private companies hire PMCs, and they are no longer serving the State or the State's interests but the companies that hired them, making them not a threat to sovereignty. 
The other side of this argument is that any force used outside the States control is a threat to sovereignty. When private companies hire PMCs, there is a fear that that company is going to gain too much power and potentially overthrow the State. While that is always a risk State take when they allow in reality, PMC seems to have the opposite effect. For one large States like the U.S. do not have to fear this since the military is so vast no PMC would be able to overthrow it. Two in unstable and underdeveloped nations, this is more likely of a threat. It has turned out that in most cases, the companies that have hired PMC and have more of an interest in keeping the status quo of the States and the PMC have been known to stop coups rather than take part in them. (65). 

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Blackwater and the Rise of the Private Military


You all should have received my presentation in your UK emails.

Feel free to comment here with any questions, or clarifications.

The Problem(s) with PMCs

Private military contractors (PMCs) play a significant role in military operations around the world. PMCs can benefit militaries by providing support in logistics, security, technical assistance and fill other support roles as militaries fight in international conflicts. PMCs also assist the military in positions ranging from tactical operations to strategy planning. The US increased its use of PMCs during the cold war, as armies were downsized but global tensions increased perceptions of the need for intervention globally.

PMCs present several problems. A chief problem is with oversight and transparency surrounding PMCs. As a private organization, PMC contractors are not subject to the same levels of oversight that US soldiers are. This lack of oversight for PMCs is controversial as PMC actions damage the international credibility of the US military. For example, interrogators at Abu Ghraib were largely contracted from private military corporations, and reportedly lacked professional training in interrogation. The legacy of Abu Ghraib continues to damage the reputation of the US military both at home and abroad.

April 2 Lecture

Hey all,

Here's this week's lecture!

Any questions, please either contact me directly or post in comments below.


Dr. Farley

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Russian PMCs in Africa

In the past decade, Africa has seen an increase in both civil wars and in Islamic insurgencies. Russia, seeking new areas to gain influence, has made the most of these opportunities to assist favorable governments. However, Moscow cannot always act in an official capacity. Private military contractors (PMCs) allow governments to bridge this gap and contract with these groups to go to war-torn countries. It is important to note there is technically a legal difference between mercenaries and PMCs. Mercenaries are independent soldiers who are not bound to a country; they fight for whomever pays them. PMCs recruit soldiers but are anchored to a country who recognizes them legally and allow them to operate. Mercenaries are illegal; PMCs are not.

One such group is the Wagner Group. This private military firm began in 2014 by Dimitry Utkin, a former special forces soldier. Since then, Wagner has taken part in the annexation of Crimea, the Syrian Civil War, the Sudanese revolution, the Second Libyan Civil War, and helped fight Islamic groups in Mozambique. They also provided paramilitary support prior to presidential elections for Hery Rajaonarimampianina in Madagascar and Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. There is debate as to whether the Wagner Group is actually completely privatized or if it has ties to the Kremlin. While PMCs are not legally allowed in Russia, there are multiple firms. The government does not acknowledge them; yet, enlists their services. This allows the Russian government plausible deniability. 

Most recently, Russia sent 1,400 soldiers through the Wagner Group to Libya to help Khalifa Hifter. Hifter’s government is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The government in Tripoli is supported by the United Nations, the United States, and Turkey, mimicking the Syrian Civil War. Russia and Turkey continue to battle for dominance in Africa, with Russia involving itself in most regional disputes. Wagner is now no longer the only PMC in Russia. With at least four new ones forming in the past few years, it seems clear Russia has big plans to utilize these companies for its future.