Tuesday, June 30, 2015

DoD 'wargames' look at the future of recruiting, retention challenges

There is nothing more annoying than people who have never served in the military lecturing senior officers and NCOs on how they could do things so much better.



DoD 'wargames' look at the future of recruiting, retention challenges



Most businesses have a single core competency (tech, manufacturing, chemicals, etc) that makes it much easier to develop a "money ball" approach to recruiting and retaining top talent.  None of those high-priced technical experts though will ever be asked to give up their life for their country.  A military full of troops recruited specifically for their particular talents will create an even more elitist mentality in the ranks (see "fighter pilots" in USAF, combat arms in US Army, infantry in the USMC, surface warfare/aviators in the US Navy).



I agree we have an antiquated, ineffective personnel system in the US military and it is in desperate need of repair.  The condescending manner of Michael Jones and the other tech wizards fails to grasp the basic core of the military.  In order to win at war, everyone has to function as a cohesive unit and not as a bunch of innovators.  Military maneuvers, something going back to ancient times, are based on the concept of everyone moving as one.  Start populating the ranks with innovators and you may look awesome during peace time at home station but it will be a disaster during war time.



Think about this for a minute, not a single USAF fighter pilot or Marine infantryman thinks about himself when doing the mission.  They do the the job they way they were trained for years and it works because everyone else can execute their job in synchronization.  Innovation sounds sexy and exciting but it will get people killed in combat.



To his assertion that he can designed robots to replaced 80% of the troops performing tasks today, I remain skeptical.  Just look at the claims the much vaunted F-35, which recently failed to outperform a F-16C Block 40 in 1 V 1 dogfight…an aircraft the F-35 is supposed to replace.  Sure in theory, many tasks can be automated but what fallback is there when that tech breaks down?  A robot designed to refuel an aircraft on a carrier deck breaks down due to constant exposure to saltwater…now what?  You better still have manned crews that can take that over to launch the aircraft.



The military needs to do away with performance appraisals that rate solely on the assignment and needs to look at the whole person.  The military needs to stop penalizing personnel that cross-train into other career fields (you are no longer staying in your lane and thus the personnelists don't know what the hell to do with you for your next assignment).  Speaking of, we could with eliminating or greatly reducing the manpower centers.  Manpower is like huge HR office, it becomes this anonymous group that moves personnel in and out of assignments giving commanders the perfect alibi for not getting involved in who is coming into their unit.  Yes, that does risk nepotism but do you really think the current way personnel are assigned is any better?  It means the military has to do a better job of vetting who becomes a commander.












Monday, June 29, 2015

US Economic Collapse and War

If you have a FB page, then your feed has pretty much been filled with either rainbow colors or the stars and bars.  Those celebrating the SCOTUS ruling mandating the legalization of gay marriage across all 50 states have been modifying their profile pics with rainbows to celebrate the decision.  The diehard Southern sympathizers, who often refer to the Civil War as "Act of Northern Aggression", are aghast that not only is the Confederate battle flag being taken down from Southern statehouses but stores (such as WalMart and Amazon) are banning the sale.

I've watched both events unfold and can't help but feel that these two things were timed to take our attention away from something but then I thought that it was just my tendency to look for a hidden agenda.  Perhaps I was just being too jaded and needed to drink some more tea.  Then I read a FB post of a former colleague who is decidedly not a conspiracy theorist or national security enthusiast.  Even though she was truly happy for passage of gay marriage and banning of the Confederate battle flag, she felt like something bad is just about to happen.  A vegetarian, music playing, gay-rights activist liberal yet she feels after all of this progress the shit is about to hit the fan?  More than anything else, that got my really thinking.

China and Russia are never far from my mind these days but I just haven't seen anything new the would have warranted a media "double-tap" of banning a racist symbol and legislating gay-marriage within a week of one another.  Then it started to come out just have far the Greek economy has plunged.  Greeks starting make runs on ATMs forcing the banks to shut them down until Thursday.

Okay but Greece has seemingly been on the verge of collapsing before.  Even if Greece fails, to most Americans this is would hardly seem to be of much concern.  Greece's problems are the European Union's problems and the US can just help bail them out.  Myopic and convoluted thinking though it maybe given the world's global economy.  Most Americans won't register that a major European country is about to go bankrupt which in turn could send the whole European continent into a recession or even total collapse.  Of course, that could never happen here…right?

Then this morning I came across an article in the New York Times, Puerto Rico’s Governor Says Island’s Debts Are ‘Not Payable’.  The commonwealth of Puerto Rico cannot pay its $72 billion in debts.  Even though Puerto Rico is not a state, it uses the municipal bond market to fund its public works projects.  We already know of Detroit's (and now Stockton, California) bankruptcy woes.  Puerto Rico's bonds have a face value of 8 times Detroit's!  Unlike the case of say Greece, Puerto Rico's debt is held largely by private investors on the mainland US.  Your own portfolio may contain Puerto Rico municipal bonds without you even realizing it.

Now the story gets more dire.  "Puerto Rico, as a commonwealth, does not have the option of bankruptcy. A default on its debts would most likely leave the island, its creditors and its residents in a legal and financial limbo that, like the debt crisis in Greece, could take years to sort out."--NYT

Of course the looming economic collapse in Puerto Rico did not happen over night.  "Residents began leaving for the mainland in droves, and Puerto Rico’s credit was downgraded to junk, making borrowing extremely expensive."  The debt is unsustainable and the only recourse seems to be a bond exchange for a lower rate.  Obama and his administration have used a 'hands-off" approach to Puerto Rico but this seems to ignore the consequences to the US municipal bond market as individual investors look elsewhere for options.  Much like Greece, we may be seeing our own economic collapse coming but Washington wants us to stand divided so the media focuses us on racism, gay rights, and gun control.

The threat of Russia and China, with assists from Iran and Syria, may not be enough to bring us to the brink of war.  However, economic collapse with investors fleeing US markets, foreign investors dumping US bonds, and Americans running on US banks could be just the perfect storm needed to begin the next war.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Knee-jerk reactions

About a month ago, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) made headlines for missing more of the attempts to smuggle simulated bombs on to aircraft than they found (80% or more attempts were successful).  Somehow this did not cause the masses to question why we need TSA.  The TSA was created as a knee-jerk reaction to the events of 9/11.  It was reasoned that since the terrorists were able to board with box cutters, the solution was to federalize the screeners.  That was the long and short of it, TSA was begun simply by federalizing screeners.

Nearly fourteen years down the road, plus massive amounts spent on technology, TSA is still fundamentally doing the same thing it has always down…screening passengers to make sure they aren't boarding with prohibited items.  The problem is the core function of TSA does not allow the screeners to function beyond a very bureaucratic and politically motivated set of rules.  They are required to perform their jobs a certain way to look for specific threats.  They cannot deviate from protocol hence getting something by them is easier, not harder.

Another knee-jerk reaction was for Mr. Obama to pull out of Iraq without regard to the consequences.  His motives were more political than strategic and as a result, we know how Daesh (ISIS) doing its best to create a caliphate.  Now the next knee-jerk reaction is to refrain from sending in more troops and blaming the Iraqis from holding up their end of the bargain.

The latest knee-jerk reaction though was courtesy of a punk-ass racist who killed 9 African-Americans in a church last week.  Rather than having a dialogue about the state of race in this country or the dangers of psychotropic drugs, we get a superficial movement to ban the Confederate battle flag.  How banning a flag is going to reshape attitudes towards race is beyond me.  Mr. Obama has done nothing to use is role as the first black President of the United States to make race a major issue.  He ducks this important issue to focus on gun-control and banning flags instead of getting whites and blacks to finally start having real dialog about how the state of racial relations in the US.

The Confederate battle flag may be a rallying symbol for racists but banning it will hardly have any changes on the attitudes that produced the racist in the first place.  Similarly, banning firearms is not going to stop mass killings.  There are over 58 million firearms in the US that we know about.  Even if a ban is passed, there is no way in the world to seize all of those weapons.  A racist prick like the one last week will either steal one or build a bomb.  Everyone seems to forget that there are laws against murder yet we continue to see people being murdered daily.  Banning weapons or flags makes for great sound bytes but it doesn't address the real problem.

The media is also ignoring and very obvious question.  If things are truly as bad as they want us to think, why was there no rioting or looting in Charleston after a confirmed racist killed 9 African-Americans?  Ferguson, New York and Baltimore all have seen a deterioration of relations between police and the African American community but somehow Charleston (both black and white) have stood in solidarity.  Of course, the answer to that question won't be found in the media for peace and love doesn't sell copy.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

War is a Racket

Like most of America last weekend, I caught "Jurassic World" which was a good movie but not a great movie. Despite it being just a good movie, we already now two more sequels are going to be made.  Why/  Because big money is about backing the sure thing.  This is the reason I'm becoming convinced that the next President will be another Clinton or Bush.  It's not about how much money either candidate can raise but rather which candidate big money is willing to back.  To the big money, it really won't make any different which one (Clinton or Bush) wins as they are much more alike then they are different.

I arrived at this conclusion is a rather round about way.  First was this headline from the Air Force Magazine's daily update, "Defense Secretary Ash Carter restated his support for President Obama's threat to veto the defense authorization and appropriations bills if they use the overseas contingency operations provision to boost Pentagon spending while keeping budget caps on domestic programs."  The story continues, "Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said: "I find it unimaginable we would send tens of thousands of troops to the region, but tell their families we won't support them." He also asked if Carter had analyzed the impact on national security from not getting the $37 billion being added to OCO. Carter said he agreed America can't have the world's finest fighting force without adequate resources, but said, "I haven't changed my view that we need a long-term stable budget," instead of the "herky-jerky" approach of one-year OCO increases. "I hope we can come together on a multi-year approach." (Air Force Magazine)

The next headline I came across was from the Daily Mail, "U.S. military being forced to scale back drone bombing missions in Syria as pilots are facing burnout from video-game style warfare they are waging 7,000 miles away".  Basically drone pilots are burning out from 12 hour shifts of staring at what are essential game consoles compounded by the cognitive dissonance of then going home to their families each night as though they aren't really at war.

The third item was from the BBC about the role Bulgaria is playing is receiving and granting asylum to refugees escaping Daesh.  What gets lost about the war with Daesh is how many thousands upon thousands of refugees have fled into nearby Turkey and Bulgaria which perhaps present the most compelling case of how much the Obama doctrine has failed the region.

Looking at three seemingly unrelated headlines I also began to ponder the increased sorties being flown against China by the US Navy and the announcement last week of plans to stage more US tanks and other heavy equipment in Eastern Europe.  It seems to be all contradictory.  Cutting the defense budget while simultaneously fighting Daesh and increasing tensions with Russia and China.


I can only come up with one conclusion, Mr. Obama (as a lame duck President) is laying the groundwork for either Clinton or Bush to have a clear slate to declare war.  As Major General Smedley Butler said in his book War is a Racket, "Out of war a few people make huge fortunes." The big money that is going to push either Clinton or Bush into the Oval Office doesn't give a damn about their domestic agenda or politics. No, the big money wants in on the money to be made if the US goes to war with China or Russia.

Why then cut the military you say? Because it allows the gaps in military strength to be filled with contractors. When I was in Qatar eleven years ago, I would say half of the personnel at Al Udeid were contractors. That's where the money is going to be made, selling contracts for everything from food services to flight operations and everything in-between.

Obama can't declare war, it's not in his charter from the higher ups. He has to be seen as a peace broker (while keeping the embers of war glowing). Pulling the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan were not just to end the war but the set in motion future events that could be used to justify new wars. For example, Daesh was only able to establish its stronghold in Iraq due to the absence of a credible military force. (Contrary to Mr. Obama's criticisms of the Iraqi military, it wasn't just their fault. The US knew damn well the Iraqi Army was in no condition to fight a determined foe, yet Obama pulled the troops out while pretending to the US people that this was a good thing).

As I'm typing this, the news is full of the latest mass murder in South Carolina. Some punk-ass racist killed nine African-Americans. Despicable but unfortunately this will keep most Americans from following the real Game of Thrones that is going on in Washington.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Getting together with friends

The last few weeks I have been spending time with friends that I don't often get to see.  As whenever old friends get together, we reminisced and caught up with each other.  One theme though seemed to permeate each conversation, namely the feeling that something major is going to happen and it will not be a good thing.

By way of background, most of the friends I was with were either military or first responders giving their observations and concerns even more insight.

Some see the arising tensions between Russia and China leading to a potential high-tech attack using either cyber or even electro-magnetic pulse (EMP).  The summer months put a great strain upon the power grid and the Eastern Seaboard is an especially vulnerable system.  It would not take much for a cyber attack, or even a plain old physical attack, to bring the grid down.

Strong winds back in 2008 left most of the southwestern part of Ohio without power for over 2 weeks. Imagine what a pre-mediated cyber attack might do.  No power means no AC or refrigeration.  A lack of power shutdowns cell phone towers and computers servers. Food and medicine will go bad.  The old, sick and young will face severe health challenges if they can't relief from the heat.  Even though hospitals have back-up generators, you can't pump fuel if there is no electricity.

An EMP blast takes the above the scenario and compounds it by shutting down everything that uses solid-state circuitry including trains, planes and automobiles.  While it is nice to think of an EMP blast as a declaration of war, if the eastern seaboard is thrown into the first episode of Revolution it won't really matter.  No one is going to be able to call-up the Marines and even if they do, the Marines are going to be able to get to where they need to go.

Others see the recent placement of tanks and missiles in Eastern European as a provocative move by Team Obama that is certain to raise the hackles of Mr. Putin.  None of my friends see this leading to Russia backing-down, rather it seems to be an ill-planned move to stand-up to Russia only to resulting in escalating tensions.

While executing a poorly thought-out plan to contain Russia, Team Obama is executing and even more tenuous plan with China.  One misstep on either side could start a war.

Team Obama ignominiously blames the failure to reign in Daesh (ISIS) on an Iraqi Army that isn't prepared to do what it needs to do to win.  The allegation of incompetence completely ignores the culpability of the White House, especially under Obama.  Mr. Obama couldn't wait to bring the troops home but in so doing, he created a power a vacuum that allowed Daesh to flourish.  Mr. Bush and Mr. Wolfowitz set the stage when the decided to completed dismantle the Iraqi military and start from scratch.  The US then is the real reason the Iraqi Army is ill-equipped to fight Daesh.

Team Obama also set the stage for the the ascendency of Daesh by the Obama-Clinton doctrine towards the Arab Spring, especially Syria.  Assad seems more entreated than ever and now we have Daesh recruiting Americans to become operatives.  Lovely.

None of my friends view these events as signs of stability and peace but rather more chaos and uncertainty.  European allies are continuing to rethink their commitment to NATO and defense spending.  Japan is becoming increasingly geriatric as one of my friends quipped.    Up and coming powers such and China, Brazil and India have written the US off and the US is too mired in internal issues to foster new alliances.

The only thing I would add to this is the 2016 Presidential elections.  There is a huge Republican field that has yet to differentiate themselves from one another and Hillary is still trying to figure how to be in front of the cameras without sticking both of her feet in her mouth.  No one looking in from the outside is going to be very impressed and I'm not sure most Americans are either.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

War with China?

What if the war with Daesh (ISIS) is merely a diversion?  The question occurred to me over the last few weeks as reports of more and more executions by Daesh seem to go on without interruption despite Mr. Obama's assurances that we are not losing the war.  Saudi Arabia is dropping more ordnance than ever on Daesh forces in Yemen.  The US Navy is staunchly staring down the Iranian warships looking to created trouble off the shores of Yemen.  But it all seems to be much to do about nothing.

Mr. Obama and his staff seem to have also largely ignored an increasingly aggressive Russia that continues to send aircraft to challenge US and NATO interceptors.  It is fair to assume that Russian submarines may also be playing fast and furious with US and NATO warships.  So it seems unlikely that the "war" on ISIS  is to divert attention from US actions to reign in Russia, especially with the news recently that Russia has partnered with Iran to build another nuclear reactor.

The only place the US has not taken a back seat is with China regarding some artificial islands.  The US is increasing military overflights despite China's continued warnings to back-off.  The US position is that if China is allowed to stake a claim, it could endanger international shipping.  This claim seems far-fetched as the islands are not near international shipping lanes.  The Chinese are most likely going to use the islands to establish military bases but again, these are not in foreign countries (unlike the US).

Could Mr. Obama and his puppet-master Valerie Jarrett have decided to secretly control an expanding China through military force and use a false-flag war with ISIS to keep the media and public away from their real goal?  It would explain the quiet increase in military spending and recruitment while not increasing troop strength in the Middle East or formally denouncing Russia's aggressive air incursions.

I have wonder on this blog several times about the so called "Pivot Toward Asia"and now the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the Republican controlled Senate just rolled over for.  Mr. Obama and Valerie Jarrett may be ready to encircled China with more than just economic partners.  They may be trying to make a show-of-force to get Beijing under control.  I hope this isn't the case as China has been working on their strategy for well over 30 years while Obama/Jarrett have had a fraction of that time.  Team Obama's track record in foreign policy has been underwhelming but at least up until now, they haven't challenged a nuclear power.




Friday, May 22, 2015

The interesting case of the sole superpower

First Syria showed that even when a US President issues a "red-line", nothing much happens even if you cross it with chemical weapons.  Then Russia discovered that you could really put the needs of a Russian minority in a sovereign nation (Ukraine) over the protests of a US President.  Then Iran weathered two different US Secretaries of State (Clinton and Kerry) to maintain their goal of developing a nuclear weapons program and now have no problem rejecting international inspection of the nuclear facilities or permitting access to Iranian nuclear scientists.  Oh and let's not forget Iran had no qualms about sending their warships up against ours in Yemen.  Now China has issued warnings (at least 8 according to CNN) to US surveillance aircraft to "Go away" from international waters around the new contested artificial islands.  Over these signs, no more like billboards, that our potential adversaries no longer fear US actions we have Mr. Obama assuring us that the loss of Ramadi is only a "setback" and assures us that we aren't losing to ISIS.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry (with able assists from Valerie Jarret and Mrs. Clinton) have largely contributed to why the US is no longer seen as a superpower but they are not completely to blame.  The actions leading to the downfall of the US actually has roots in one of the greatest victories of the former superpower.  William Astore wrote a piece titled, "A Military Without Limits" in which he offers a compelling argument that a US military that no longer has the Soviet Union to keep in check has become ineffective.  The Soviet military offered a check & balance to the US military industrial complex.  Just as the Soviet Union could not just go wherever it wasn't already, the US military could only go so far without incurring retaliation from the Soviets.

Then two things happened almost simultaneously.  The US handily stomped Iraq into the ground in less that 100 hours during Desert Storm (after a six month build-up it should be noted).  Later in that same year the Soviet Union fell.  The US had won two wars in a single year but with it came the realization that no one was left that could challenge the US.  Desert Storm had proven that precision bombing had finally become a reality and softened the Iraqi forces up to where US ground troops literally ran over the top of them.  The US military could truly now claim "anywhere, anytime".

With no real opponent in sight, and with the same Cold War structure and inventory of nuclear weapons, the US military would need to eventually find another opponent.  It find it in Al Qaeda and actually went back on itself to fight another counter-insurgency war (which the post-Vietnam military had vowed wouldn't happen again).

We now have a military that has been exhausting its personnel and equipment for 13 years against in an "asymmetric"war yet at the same time, senior military officers want to buy the next generation weapon systems (F-35 for example).  The US military had drawn down much of its overseas presence in Europe and the Pacific at the end of the Cold War but it ramped up the staging of news bases throughout the Middle East and former Soviet Republics.

But the problem in waging counter-insurgency wars is that often fighting one group (Al Qaeda) tends to lead to the creation of other groups (ISIS) before the first group is destroyed.  Unlike fighting established militaries, insurgency groups can disappear and reform at the blink of an eye leaving formal military organizations such as the US with nothing to show for the efforts.

Presidents  George H. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama have all played an part in using what is still largely a Cold War structured US military to fight insurgents.  Not only have the insurgents remained around but now other formal militaries are getting the bright idea that they just might win if they pick a fight with the US.  Strange times indeed.