Saturday, June 13, 2009

Relocating to the MilPub

We have decided to relocate to the MilPub Tap Room, a warmly lighted place where everyone is welcome and several have already accepted the invitation to participate.

Our thanks to JD Henderson for letting us borrow Buggieboy to keep some of the old Intel-Dump gang in touch for the past year or so. Please amble on over and join the crew.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Lunatic Fringe

Over some wine and cheese last night, an Oxford educated, local retired Greek cardiologist and I pondered a variety of things, large and small. In a semi-joking way, while discussing the differences between American and European socio-political culture, he said that in the area of lunatic fringe violence, America seems to have it backwards. In Europe, it's the left wing fanatics that are known for violence and assassinations. Conservative political leaders need greater security than left wing ones. In the US, he observed, it seems that right wingers are the people to fear. He, as do most Europeans, fear for an liberal, African American President's safety.

Paul Krugman seems to have the same view!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Heart Breaking News

Today's IHT had this piece on Soldier suicides. I thought about it a lot today, and wonder if this is an unavoidable result of expecting a relatively small volunteer force to conduct an excessively long campaign.

My thoughts, of course, are based on anecdotal experience, but the fact remains that the US has not called called upon soldiers to face such stress in the past 100 years. While the Doughboys of WWI, the GIs and Marines of WWII, Korea and Viet Nam may have seen much more direct combat action, there is a vast difference in the human dynamics of today's AVF GWOT GI and his predecessors.

1. The twin operations in Iraq & Afghanistan have gone on longer than WWI, WWII or Korea.

2. While we fought for seven years in VN, troops were assigned to combat tours primarily on an individual replacement basis.

Number 2 is the one that occupied my thoughts today. During VN, it was common to see one's comrades in arms leave the service. In fact, "ETSing" was a regular occurrence. Similarly, we came and went from the combat zone as individuals, and when not in RVN, our activities were focused on the job at hand, not refitting and retraining to redeploy. And, we enjoyed more than 12 to 14 months between deployments, and rarely served with the same people on subsequent combat tours. Further, the average time in combat with the soldiers in a unit was 6 months, as rotation dates were spread out across the year.

Today's AVF soldier cannot escape Iraq/Afghanistan. After about 6 months stateside, he and those he recently served with begin the refit/retrain cycle to deploy again - together. Thus, the soldier might very well serve five or six years, including multiple in theater tours of 12 to 14 months, with the same fellow soldiers the entire time. The bonding has got to be intense.

At first blush, this bonding might seem a good thing. Yet, I clearly remember that leaving my colleagues in VN was more difficult than any other PCSes, and I had been with them an average of six months. They were still in harm's way, and I was going to "safety". The relief of surviving the tour was offset by worries for those left behind. Further, there was no "shame" on those who simply served their contractual terms and returned to civilain life. The draft ensured a constant flow of new talent.

But today's soldier does not face the "normality" of people leaving the service as commonly as we did in VN. He knows that the Army is hard pressed to fill it's ranks and that retention is critical. Further, he is much more closely bound to those around him than we were in VN, and believe you me, we were tight. I can easily see where some Soldiers might wish to move on in their lives, yet feel as if doing so would be tantamount to deserting their buddies. In short, almost trapped with no honorable way out.

Iraq/Afghanistan is our first protracted campaign using an all volunteer force. There have been several signs of stress induced behavior. Marines killing themselves in significant numbers by reckless motorcycle riding. Spousal abuse. And, suicide. And, there really is no end on the immediate horizon. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate the assumptions of the AVF, and address its real limitations, or more accurately, the limits it places on US power projection.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I never did like the guy!

Back in the good old "Intel-Dump" days, my favorite moniker for the then serving SecDef was "Secretary Rumsnamara". As time passes by, more and more of the players of that time are providing insights and vignettes that paint this clown as a disaster of immense proportions.

There's an old Jackie Leonard one-liner that came to mind early on as I observed Rumsnamara, "She'd be a good looking broad if it weren't for her face and figure." In those politically incorrect days of the 50's, Leonard was simply stating that in terms of the two principal components of "looks" the subject woman failed, and that failure obviously was complete. After all, what was left?

Of course, there are more than two necessary attributes to quality leadership. But as one views the life and actions of Mr Rumsnamara, he comes across as lacking, if not in virtually all, at least all the primary virtues of a leader. GQ magazine just published an article about the man, and, while pretty revealing, it isn't "pretty". I was truly enraged by this crap, as well as his campaign to transform network military analysts into “surrogates” and “message force multipliers”. Perhaps my "Rumsnamara" was too kind a label, and "Goebelsfeld" could be more appropriate.

Here's a man who was definitely not a team player, seemed to be more interested in serving himself than his nation and was an obstructionist at heart! Is it any wonder that slowly, more and more retired senior officers stepped forward and did the unthinkable - called for his resignation?

If we only view this clown in terms of the GWOT (Iraq/Afghanistan) and Katrina, it is staggering to consider the amount of damage he did to our country and others. Add to that the pain, injury and death he needlessly inflicted upon individuals, and he easily sits amongst the greater villains of all time.

Of course, Rumsnamara was enabled by Bush/Cheney and Company. Without their style, goals and objectives, he would never had the free hand to do the damage he did. And that damage is profound, as he shaped the senior ranks of the uniformed military to fit his desires, and that shaping will be lurking in the background for a few years to come.

Please, President Obama, spend the time and resources to investigate, expose and prosecute, as appropriate, the people who took our nation down this lawless and costly road. We, The People, deserve better!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Is the Noose Tightening?

It is hard to read the "responsible" press and not find an article or editorial pertaining the the practice of torture by the Bush administration. Today's IHT reported on the backlash that John Yoo and Jay Bigbee face as a result of their outlandish memos claiming that previously outlawed treatment of detainees was legal. It would appear as if many of their fellow members of the bar and academia are uncomfortable with them in their midst, making them as unwelcome in US circles as they are in the Spanish circles seeking to prosecute them.

This editorial cries for full disclosure.

It very well might become increasingly difficult for the Obama administration to follow a line of "only looking forward". As nasty, embarrassing and divisive as a full inquiry might be, it seems to me that the support for punitive as well as curative action is growing.

But then, I'd really like to see these vermin suffer for the abominable acts they so gleefully approved. No claims of objectivity on this old geezer's part.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Farewell to the USAF???

Paul Kane lashes out at the good old USAF in his recent NY Times OpEd. Yes, he is right that the USAF has no major on site role in the current hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yup, they are not "sharing the pain".

Sorry, Mr Kane, but life itself is not fair. To make airpower a permanent subservient element of the other three services would be a foolish move. What we don't need today, we may very well need tomorrow. The current military services do not duplicate all the capabilities of the USAF. Perhaps we should turn the Navy over to the Army, as the Army had tremendous experience in operating floating vessels.

And, of course, the USMC's mission could easily be absorbed by the Army, which already has infantry, armor, artillery, amphibious vessels and aircraft.

I have no objection to tweaking the roles and missions of the services, especially as it pertains to aircraft operations, but there are benefits in having proponency for operations in the air in the hands of a separate service. Just as long as it isn't a strangle hold.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Revamping the DOD

Well, I know it has been discussed elsewhere, but one of the gang mentioned this NY Times OpEd, and I have no reluctance to discuss some of the flawed thinking in it.

I don't know a lot about Mr Kane, and simply stating that he is "a Marine veteran of Iraq " says not much more than "Eddie Slovik was an Army Veteran of WWII".

I won't address his "disband the Air Force" or "Universal National Service" ideas just yet, but save them for two separate threads to keep the dialogue focused.

But, I will address his thoughts on "Up or Out" and manpower planning.

There are some drawbacks to "Up or Out". Yes, the services lose some good people. The difficulty is that the services only need "X" number of captains, for example. If Captain vacancies are limited by allowing the least competitive to remain as long as they wish, then good Lieutenants cannot advance, and the lesser qualified Captains perform the jobs that more promising Lieutenants might be promoted to and fill. There have been "Selective Retention in Grade" programs to allow twice passed over officers to remain in uniform as a manpower management tool, and this exception to "Up or Out" is a fine idea. Note the use of the term "Selective". Sometimes trying to maximize manpower quality can be tough. I am reminded of what the Colonel from the Marine Officer Selection Office said to us when visiting our college campus, "We select our officer candidates with one thing in mind. Not every Lieutenant will become Commandant, but every Commandant was once a Lieutenant. Thus, to the best of our ability, our material for Lieutenant should be material for the top as well." Potential for advancement helps provide a good pool of candidates for higher level billets.

Unlike private sector employment, the military can not seek a pool of permanent, career first-line workers. There are a variety of reasons for this, not the least of which is that aged riflemen are not as capable of the rigors of the trade as young bucks. Also, unlike the private sector, the military cannot tap other employers for people to laterally transfer into the NCO and Officer ranks. They have to grow their own. Part of that "growing" is winnowing, unfortunately. The age old addage of "Mission first, then the welfare of the troops" is the only way the military can succeed.

The military is, by public policy, an organization of designed capability, and thus of a defined size. It must maintain it's warfighting capability within this defined size. Further, it is totally depended upon UNITS to accomplish its mission. It is not a collection of individual players. Thus, it tries to use manpower management tools to staff the ranks for current and future needs, yet cannot "overhire" as a tool for the future. Civilian employment has similar tools. When a company has too many employees in a given category, they conduct layoffs. Very often those selected for furlough are not the least able, but the least senior. Were it not for age discrimination laws, many would be the older, higher paid, to save even more money, and in fact this is often accomplished by incentives to retire.

There is a limited place in the military for "Selective Retention in Grade" or technical specialists (WO Aviators, for example) that can be less subject to "UP or Out". But it is not a "One Size Fits All" solution.

Assailing "Up or Out" has great emotional appeal, as well as the financial accounting suggestion Kane makes. And, they might just be fine for organizations that do not have to be near 100% capable of accomplishing a defined LIFE OR DEATH mission at all times. I am just not convinced that the manpower and operating tools of American private sector business are 100% appropriate for the defense of our country. They were clearly not so for the defense of our economy!