Monday, May 19, 2014

"Agile and Entrepreneurial"

The link below is to a Defense News Interview with Stephen Hadley

Stephen Hadley, chairman U.S. Institute of Peace

His conclusion is that the are many new "actors" on the world front and there is a faster pace of change going on.  In short, there is nothing new.  What is new is that someone like Hadley would come out with a recommendation to have a more "agile and entrepreneurial response" to events like Crimea.

"Agile and entrepreneurial" is just another way of saying we need more contractors.  Hadley laments on one hand the failings of our budgetary and procurement systems but then really doesn't address how to fix those systems other than by going outside the system (he doesn't say that final part but by omitting any recommendations to fix the existing structure he certainly implies it).

Hadley then goes on to say how we really aren't going to see career civil servants and military professionals in the future.  What is needed, according to Hadley, is the ability to bring on the talented people when needed and then release them when they are no longer needed.  Sounds like either a call for a draft or more contractors, I'm still not certain which he has in mind.

What he misses is the need to develop career experts who have served for many years and understand the nature of their profession.  Picking and choosing when needed may make a good sound byte but one only need look at professional sports to see why this doesn't work.  The NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball have all star games where the best players of the year are assembled on a dream team.  The games are boring because these players, despite their superior abilities, have never played together as a team.  Worse, you can't have a bunch of all high caliber players and expect egos not to get in the way.  Leaders are only as good as the people willing to follow them.

Hadley also sounds like a throw back to the 50s and 60s when the US was at its height of wanting to install "democratic governments that aren't corrupt".  Other than post WWII Germany and Japan, can you please show me one case where US involvement in installing a democratic government has actually worked?

The problem is the United States is still a relatively new country dealing with other nations that often have existed for hundreds of years.  We don't have an appreciating for long standing feuds between different tribes.  We also change our political leaders too often to keep up with requirements of helping nations develop new leaders.  Look at Iraq.  We ousted Saddam Hussein, got him a speedy trial followed by a quick execution.  Now what do we have to show for it?

What is most concerning though is Hadley's mindset is not unique.  It permeates the beltway and there are many who support such nonsense because it is profitable.  What defense contractor is really going to tell the government there are too many requirements or that the mission won't really result in regime-change so long as their fees are being paid?

While the US is wringing its hands over a grossly large deficit and huge cuts to defense, our European allies seem to be taking a different approach.

NATO is also wanting to be more agile but in this case, they want to be "fitter and quicker".

"NATO planners are "considering the longer-term implications of Russia's actions" in Ukraine for the alliance's strategy and force posture, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, according to an alliance release. "More than ever we need to be ready, prepared, and flexible," he said on May 15 during his keynote address at the Bratislava Global Security Forum, where he announced NATO's plans to buttress its quick reaction and special forces capabilities to enhance deterrence. "We already have more planes in the air, more ships at sea, and more exercises on the ground. They are all defensive measures … in line with our international obligations and in line with a changed security landscape," he added. Rasmussen said that Russian defense spending has grown 10 percent in five years, while alliance members in Central and Eastern Europe have cut spending by "more than 20 percent,"--Reuters

Here again is opportunity for Russia.  The US is out of synch with our European allies that get Russia has just built up its military as a bluff.  Russia very much intends to use their military might to expand their territory.  The US thinks diplomacy alone will work since the use of military force in Iraq and Afghanistan failed.  Perhaps resorting to a military response to terrorism was the problem, not the military itself.  Russia is different.  It has a standing military and it is very modern and very large.  The US needs to stop cutting defense spending just to cut it.  It needs to also stop wasting money on huge procurement plans such as the F-35 and KC-46 that will take years to complete while incurring huge cost overruns.

A quick fix of resorting to contractors may seem tempting but it is fraught with diplomatic and political peril.  A case from history bears this out.

The French Foreign Legion is a military service wing of the French Army established in 1831, unique because it was exclusively created for foreign nationals willing to serve in the French Armed Forces.  The intent was the Legion gave the French government a way to send troops into foreign lands yet not risk political intrigue should the operation fail.  The French government would simply deny any knowledge since the Legionaires weren't French citizens.  

Contractors, such as Blackwater and KBR, function much the same way.  They are not US military therefore they can be sent into areas without risk to political or diplomatic efforts.  They are not part of the procurement and budgetary oversight.  They simply are paid for services rendered.  The problem is you really don't know who you are getting, there is no accountability to the US taxpayer, and often the presence of contractors (read, mercenaries) exacerbates internal turmoil rather than solves it.

Russia continues to exert its power while China continues to buy up what's left.  The "pivot" has done nothing to quell China's growing economic influence and increased spending on defense.  Our ability to influence Russia has dropped to a low not seen since the Soviet Union.  We continue to antagonize Iran and seem to have forgotten about Syria and Egypt.  Then in less than 2 years, a completely new administration takes over and who knows what that will mean.

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