Wednesday, November 25, 2015


We all have biases, some of which were learned in geography class.  When most Americans learn about geography, the textbook has a map that looks something like this,

It is an unspoken message reaffirming that the US really is the center of the world.  This map is one found in countless US textbooks for school children but in addition to being ridiculously out of scale, it creates a geographical bias in our citizens.  Mr. Obama and his inept foreign policy staff are just as blind to this bias as are most Americans.  The geographical bias is also why most Americans don't understand just how dangerous the world became the other day.  Now look at this map,

Reality hasn't changed, just the focus point of the map.  If you study the map, you will see that unlike the US, Russia is surrounded by nations that have invaded it.  Here is a short list of countries that have invaded Russia or the Soviet Union;

1382 - Mongols (Golden Horde)
1571 - Crimea
1609 - Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
1707 - Sweden
1812 - France, Austria, Prussia
1854 - Britain and France
1904 - Japan
1915 - Germany, Austria-Hungary
1918- Allied Intervention in Russian Civil War (Britain, Canada, Japan, Greece, Poland, France,   Serbia, Romania, Italy, China, India and the United States)
1938 - Japan
1941 - Axis Powers (Nazi Germany, Italy, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Finland)

That's pretty much every country along Russia's border.  Unlike the watered-down, politically correct history that our common-core students are fed today, Russian school children are taught that most countries bode ill will towards mother Russia.  No one has learned that lesson better than Mr. Putin.

Turkey (which was the home of the Ottoman empire until the beginning of WWI) doesn't trust Russia anymore than Russian trusts the former Ottomans.  When the Su-24 flew into Turkish airspace, the Turks did not hesitate to shoot down the Russian jet, killing at least one crew member.  (According to Russian websites, the Turks also shot down a Russian helicopter sent in to rescue the down pilots.)

We are seeing a replay of Czarist Russia versus Ottoman Turkey played out against the Syrian war.  Mr. Putin's retaliation for the shoot down was swift and brutal.  Mr. Obama and his lackey Mr. Kerry are ill-equipped to deal with this situation because it deals with old wounds.  Worse, it is being played out against a background of the first caliphate being established in 14 centuries.  Mr. Putin is fighting for the safety of mother Russia and the Russians will view his actions in that way.

The Turks on the other hand have viewed Russia's increased military presence in their region with suspicion.  The lack of a hard-line response has convinced the Turks more than ever they are on their own.  Remembering that Turkey is still a NATO member, the real question then becomes what will the rest of NATO do should the Russians and Turks continue to shoot at one another?  Somehow Mr. Obama's determination to right the world through attending a summit on global warming in Paris seems even more out of step with reality than it did just 48 hours ago.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Food for thought today,

It is believed that in the midst of a fight, a bull can find his own area of safety in the arena. There he can reclaim his strength and power. This place and inner state are called his querencia. As long as the bull remains enraged and reactive, the matador is in charge. Yet when he finds querencia, he gathers his strength and loses his fear. From the matador’s perspective, at this point, the bull is truly dangerous, for he has tapped into his power.” ~Tara Brach, Ph.D.

It was kismet today that I should read that after hearing our President remind us not to panic during the holidays, to go about our days as normal but with a heightened since of vigilance.  That's how in Mr. Obama's mind we will defeat ISIS.  I have a problem with the sound-byte, self-help crap Mr. Obama put out today for while he is correct that we should continue to go about our day he cavalierly dismisses people's fears and offers no real suggestions for Americans.

Let's look at the recent Ronda Rousey fight for example.  For those that don't follow the UFC fighter, she was the undefeated bantam weight champion until last week.  Rousey was so dominant a fighter that no one, including herself, thought she could be beaten.  Lo and behold, an unknown fighter came along and not only defeated Rousey but literally put her in the hospital.

Rousey let Holly Holm, the fighter that won and is now the champion, take control of the fight.  She chased Holm around the ring for nearly 2 rounds, exhausting her energy while being unable to attack Holm.  Rousey let her rage and desperation take her away from her normal fighting strategy and straight into a devastating kick from Holm that broke Rousey's jaw and knocked her out.

Americans have become enraged and reactive of late, either because of the recent confrontations between police and black Americans or the attacks by ISIS.  Mr. Obama's comments completely ignore this reality and offer no chance for Americans to find their "querencia".

It is too easy to become convinced by news reports and social media that things are hopeless.  Worse no one is offering people something to do to counter these feelings other than Mr. Obama's patronizing remarks to go out and shop and enjoy some football games.  He is right that we can't let these events alter our lives but to pretend nothing is going on is ridiculous.

We have to accept that we cannot control anyone but ourselves.  Each of us has to find our "quenceria", a place of calmness where we can gather strength to fight what lies ahead of us.  This isn't some new age attempt to find "nirvana" but rather a practical application of what we all learned a long time ago in grade school.

Remember fire drills?  Teachers admonished us to remain calm and proceed quietly and in an orderly fashion to the outside.  The best way to survive an emergency is not to ignore it as Mr. Obama's comments suggest but remain calm and proceed in and orderly fashion.  Remain alert, remain vigilant but don't become so afraid or enraged that you react instead of acting with a purpose.  

I read an account of the Paris attacks where one young man watched as the attackers opened fire.  The young man became so terrified he decided to hide rather that try to fight.  To me, the terrorist won without even firing a shot at the young man.  The way to win against the terrorist is to arm yourself not with a knife or gun but with a resolve that "they" won't win.  Learn now how to quiet your fear and rage so that if you have to act, you act calmly but decisively so that "they" don't win.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jingoists and altruists

The ISIS attack in Paris last Friday has already created a polarization of the American public over an event that just a few days ago had united so many.  The media is helping us to divide us further over the issue of Syrian refugees all the while avoiding terms that explain what is truly going on.

On one side, we have the jingoists who do not want any more refugees and are terrified that the US will be the next Western nation to suffer an attacks from ISIS.  In opposition to the jingoists, we have the altruists who feel we cannot ignore the plight of Syrian refugees for the sake of a potential threat.  The media, with much assist from Facebook and Twitter, are fanning these flames without any analysis of how we got here and where we may actually be heading.

The jingoists and the altruists are both right and wrong.  If we go back to Hurricane Katrina, we can see the dilemma of moving people from their home and plopping them into a different area.  Those "displaced citizens" (FEMA would not allow the term "refugee" to be used) found it difficult to assimilate into their new locations.  The food was different.  Even though they were Americans, the displace citizens found themselves separated by a common language.  Many had medical conditions or drug decencies but with no records or connections, they became frustrated and angry.  Finally most could not find work because they had no proof of their skills, education or work history (which had all been destroyed by the hurricane).

Imagine what Syrian refugees are going to face.  They will face all of the challenges as did those displaced by Katrina but with the added burden of being foreigners in a foreign land.  They are Muslim which makes it difficult to assimilated into any non-Muslim community.  Their diets are different and most American supermarkets don't sell foods familiar to them are that are consistent with Muslim practices.  As if all of this is not hard enough, they of course will have to deal with the bigotry, racism and fear of Americans who think all Muslims are terrorists.

Mr. Obama is trying to do the right thing in helping the refugees but the heavy-handed approach and secretive measures being taken show that Washington is once again about the create a bigger problem than it started with.  Case in point, when Salvadoran refugees where brought into the United States decided to locate them in one of the largest Hispanic communities in the West Coast…East Lost Angles.  What no one in Washington bothered to notice is that East LA is of Mexican descent who did not like the Salvadorans (much like Northerners look down on Southerners).  The Mexican gangs of East LA began to terrorize the Salvadoran refugees.  The corresponding backlash from the Salvadorans led to the creation of MS-13.

If the US does not learn from this example, we could see the same thing happen again with the Syrian refugees.  Even if none of the refugees are sympathetic to ISIS, the bigotry and lack of assimilation into their new communities will foster the same resentment amongst the refugees or their children that led to the creation of MS-13.

While the jingoists and altruists continue to attack one another, an inconvenient truth is going unaddressed.  The reason we have Syrian refugees in the first place is because Hillary, as the Secretary of State, convinced Mr. Obama to fan the flames of the Arab Spring and oust al-Asad from Syria. (I truly believe it was all Hillary which is why Mr. Obama is sticking his policy of taking more Syrian refugees in the face of withering opposition.  He feels responsible but can't admit that to the public.)

 Hillary foolishly thought that Syria would topple as quickly as the rest of Northern Africa.  But none of the other nations of North Africa had the backing of Russia and that miscalculation on her part has left the world with a much bigger problem than ISIS or Syrian refugees.

The jingoists have been celebrating the French and Russian airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria in retaliation for the Paris attack.  But what few in the West have noticed is Russia has upped their game.  Whereas the French and American airstrikes have been using fighters to drop bombs, the Russians have brought their Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers out to drop bombs.  This is the first time, according to Sputnik News, the bombers have been used in combat.  To the casual observer, the deployment of old Soviet era bombers may not seem significant but their use parallels another time when a country in the midst of a civil like Syria reached out to another country with military might.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Spanish nationalists requested the support of Hitler's Nazi Germany, specifically the Luftwaffe.  Not only did Luftwaffe pilots move troops and supplies from Morocco to Spain, they also supported the Spanish Nationalists advance on Madrid and the Siege of Alcazar.  It is very likely that Hitler used this as way to distract other countries from the re-miitarization of Germany.  In supporting Spain, Hitler may have seen an opportunity to create another country friendly towards Nazi Germany that could be used in helping to disrupt France and Britain.  Hitler most likely used the involvement in the Spanish Civil War as a way of keeping Mussolini and Fascist Italy from being aligned with other western powers.

Looking back at the Spanish Civil War, it becomes more concerning how Russia has successfully increased its military might in the region under the pretense of fighting ISIS.  Russia is not supporting the US policy as much as it is supporting Syria.  Putin has successfully nullified Hillary's attempt to oust Asad and has now strongly allied Iran with Syria. Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry can't figure what to do next without making matters worse.  The Turks aren't blind to all of this and may end-up picking a fight with Syria and Russia, regardless of what NATO, the EU and the UN say.  It wouldn't take much for this to ignite a major conflict.

So the next time you feel like calling someone out because they don't share you view of how to treat the Syrian refugees, stop and think about what is really going on about you.  You might be then more tempted to hug your fellow American rather than call them names.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

An interesting week

A very interesting week to say the least.  First the US Navy fires two nuclear capable missiles off of the coast of Los Angeles.   A few days later, it is leaked that Russia has a nuclear-armed drone sub  that the  US Navy isn't certain they can detect.  Then a few days after that, we learn that the US Air Force is flying B-52s within 12 nautical miles of the contested Chinese islands.  The week ends with 138 killed in France by ISIS (using the old tried and true tactic of Kalashinkovs and bombs).  In response, France has sealed their borders.  Germany continues to erupt into violence over the huge influx of refugees.

Like most people, I stand with France during their time of trials and tribulations.  The fact that France, not Britain, has been the longest standing ally of the US gets over-looked sometimes due to the French proclivity since WWII not to always follow the same hard-line stance as the US and UK.  Nonetheless, the French have supported the US against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  The question now is will Mr. Obama finally denounce radical Islam?

Too many conservative pundits are quick to accuse Mr. Obama of a lack of action.  Quite on the contrary, Mr. Obama has demonstrated a decided trigger-happiness even Mr. Bush did not possess.  This is why I accuse Mr. Obama of being a wimp, he acts much like the kid that was picked-on in school who wakes up one day as an adult with the power he always dreamed of.  Just like a wimpy kid though, Mr. Obama reacts in wimpy little strikes thinking everyone will now fear him.  Instead, it just gives the bully more reasons to act out.

Everything this week is the result of Mr. Obama and his wimpy foreign policies.  He authorized the test firings as a show-of-force (not thinking it through that Russia will now have to up their game).  He ordered the B-52 overflights, triggering even more tension with China.  His failed policies with Syria led to the creation of ISIS.  His failed reaction to ISIS created the crisis in Syria leading to the flood of refugees in Europe that now are creating havoc.

The worst part though is how quickly everyone is likely to forget this when the elections happen next year.  Hillary was at the helm of the State Department when these debacles were sent into motion.  But just as the American public has already forgotten why the Black Lives Matter movement started, we will become focused on something else forgetting why 138 French lives were taken.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

State of the Air Force

The Air Force is the smallest is has been since it was first created nearly 70 years ago.  In addition to stop-loss, the Air Force recently has frozen any new civilian hires.  Facebook has been filled with images of signs at Base Exchanges encouraging prior-service personnel to consider rejoining.  As one four-star recently remarked, the Air Force is now almost too small to succeed.

There are many causes for the state of the Air Force today.  Too much emphasis on a corporate culture versus a true warrior culture.  Too much emphasis on "doing more with less" instead of adhering to the true mission values.  Too much emphasis on the latest gadgets over airmen.  Any of these warrants a separate essay as some other writers and bloggers have done.  For me, the state of the Air Force today begins with two men from two different eras, Curtis LeMay and Merrill McPeak.

Curtis LeMay saw the USAF having two distinct parts, strategic and tactical.  To LeMay, the strength of the USAF was in its ability to project power through long range, strategic strikes.  Two-thirds of the nuclear triad are controlled by the USAF and those two-thirds (ICBMs and manned-bombers) were the sole purview of Strategic Air Command (SAC).  SAC was the key in LeMay's mind to the whole reason the USAF existed as a separate service.  Even the Navy with its carrier battle groups and its ballistic missile submarines could not strike as quickly and deeply in enemy territory as could SAC assets.

So absolute was LeMay's belief in the superiority of strategic forces, he laid claim to the one other capability truly unique to the USAF, long range air-refueling.  By controlling the tanker fleet SAC held the rest of the Air Force, including the fighters of the Tactical Air Command (TAC) and air lifters of the Military Airlift Command (MAC), to their ops-tempo.

LeMay's view of the USAF created the need for large bases with large wings and lots of manpower to execute the mission.  The strategic/tactical USAF was a huge behemoth and as long as the Cold War went on, there was little reason for it to shrink. It would also be why the Base Realingment and Closure (BRAC) would years later have such a target rich environment.

The supremacy of strategic over tactical would continue to dominate Air Force doctrine long after LeMay's retirement as Chief of Staff in 1965.  But as often happens when you have a leader so absolute in his vision, his polar opposite is created in his midst.  The polar opposite to the LeMay US Air Force would be Merrill McPeak.

LeMay's strategic-centric Air Force would find its litmus test in Vietnam, at the same time a young Merrill McPeak flew fighters.  Instead of strategic airpower, air-to-air combat and close air support missions ruled the day.  For McPeak, he would see the world in a complete opposite to LeMay's.  Tactical aircraft, especially fighters, did the lion's share of the work in Vietnam, not the heavy manned bombers favored by LeMay.

McPeak's experiences in Vietnam caused him to resent and later rebuke the supremacy of SAC.  Especially egregious to McPeak was the dependency TAC had on SAC tankers.  In effect, TAC couldn't go anywhere without SAC's say so.  No tankers meant no long range deployments for the fast movers, something that ate at McPeak for his entire career.

Then two things happened to finally break LeMay's strategic versus tactical legacy.  The first was McPeak became Chief of Staff in October 1990.  McPeak also got to see his view of fighter-supremacy validated in Desert Storm (a nuanced interpretation since it bombing missions, not air-to-air, that made a quick victory possible).  The second event was the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.  With a Soviet power to prepare against, SAC lost relevancy.

McPeak may be remembered more for his hideous uniform redesign, which made every look like airline pilots, but his real legacy is his shift from the "strategic versus tactical" view of the world to "theater versus global".  McPeak renamed everything he could to get rid of the vestiges of the "strategic/tactical" Air Force of LeMay's era.  Instead, McPeak would introduce "theater" to replace "tactical" and "global" to replace "strategic".

Using different terms may seem trivial but to McPeak, it signified an order of magnitude shift in how the Air Force would function.  "Global" assets got the war fighters to the fight but it was the "theater" assets that would win the wars in the future.  Manned strategic bombers and nuclear ballistic missiles just didn't fit into this new paradigm and with the fall of the Soviet Union, why should they?

Fighters could deliver the precision bombing that the early bomber pilots of WWII and even Vietnam could only dream about.  McPeak represented what was often referred to as the "fighter mafia", those who knew their superiority based on the fact the flew fast-movers instead of slow-movers.  Nothing showed this bias more than when McPeak reinstated the leather flight jackets for aircrews but managed to not include rotary wing pilots (only they guys charged with picking-up the fast-movers when they got shot-down).

McPeak aped the corporate world and instituted "total quality management" (TQM) creating a whole subculture of trainers and facilitators to make the Air Force as efficient as corporate America.  As a result, each unit would have to develop a mission-statement.  Almost all of those mission statements had the words "world-class organization" or "global" in it.  Nowhere were the words "strategic" or "tactical"to be found.  The long range effect of this fascination with corporate America can be seen in the Air Force today.

Senior leaders are more bureaucrats than actual leaders of men and women.  There is no way a Curtis LeMay or Robin Olds would exist in today's Air Force.  Officers and NCOs have to plod through mind-numbing meetings under the pretense of developing "consensus" but in actuality, this meetings beat any innovation down and fosters group-think.

Look at the way the Air Force has reacted to sexual assault.  First it created another layer of bureaucracy of "coordinators" to run around and do briefings and conduct investigations.  Instead of making commanders and first sergeants more accountable, the Air Force has now broken the handling of sexual assault cases completely away from the chain of command.  This sounds good, even efficient, except it means the very people responsible for creating a culture that does not commit sexual assaults now have no vested interest in making sure their commands are successful.

All of this is occurring at a time when societal norms are chaining and more and more of the troops are suffering from PTSD.  Corporate America doesn't have to face these challenges while still flying jets and shooting the enemy.  But I digress, back to Lemay and his transformational language.

In eliminating all vestiges of LeMay's "strategic/tactical" vision, he unwittingly also started the demise of the Air Force by forgetting the one thing LeMay's vision understood.  The understanding by LeMay was that the Air Force was uniquely qualified to do something no other service could do.  McPeak's vision did not see a unique vision for the Air Force, instead by making the Air Force more corporate he de-emphasized the core mission of the service.

Why do I say that given that McPeak was first and foremost a fighter pilot (the warrior elite of the USAF)?  He emphasized corporate management techniques to the exclusion of developing a warrior ethos.  He rightly recognized the role of the Air Force in getting everyone to the fight but in so doing, he relegated the nuclear forces (the one thing the Air Force had that no one other than the Navy could do) to second-class status.  So would begin a slow descent into irrelevancy as we will see.

McPeak also took the tankers away from SAC (now renamed Strike Command) and placed them under Air Mobility Command (formerly MAC).  Tankers do provide some lift capability but their real role is allowing the Air Force to go anywhere by refueling aircraft.  Again a subtle change but one that added to making the Air Force less relevant.  Now the Air Force was becoming more about getting others to the fight and less about winning the fight.

The new, leaner Air Force was ripe for the BRAC commissions.  Big, Cold War era bases were scattered all over the world and big money could be saved by closing these facilities.  Unfortunately, it also meant the Air Force would start to get smaller as a result.  The world-class, global Air Force could do its job just fine, went the thinking, from stateside bases.  Fewer bases means fewer aircraft and fewer personnel.

McPeak's vision also fit nicely into the Clinton Administration's view of not actually waging war, just popping off a few cruise missiles whenever someone acted up.  If cruise missiles wouldn't do, you could just send a few fighters armed with precision weapons and do the same thing.  But wait, if unmanned missiles are just as successful (plus more cost-effective), why do you need manned aircraft?

The Global War on Terror would seem to be custom made for the post-McPeak Air Force.  Smaller, even more precise munitions had been develop allowing fewer aircraft to drop more ordnance, striking more targets per sortie.  Unmanned drones would first start by providing near continuous monitoring of the battlefield.  Then someone got the bright idea that if the drones could just shoot at the very things they were watching, that would be even more awesome!  Hence Predators and Reapers became the high-demand resources that Washington knows and loves.

In unmanned aerial vehicles McPeak's was vision of a lean, global reach power never better realized.  The Air Force could be on call 24/7, 356 days a year, without the need for the massive bases of the LeMay era.  Drone operators can operate from stateside bases with only the need for a minimal runway and maintenance facility for the drones to operate from.  Bases now could be smaller requiring fewer people.  Lean and efficient, just like the way corporations downsize to improve their bottom line.

Unfortunately the new leaner, more efficient Air Force is no longer unique amongst the services.  The end-strength of the Air Force today is the same as the US Marine Corps (which is not a separate service).  All branches of the US military operate drones so the justification to keep a separate branch is eroding.  Oh wait, the Air Force still flies fighters!  Air Force senior leaders are finally admitting that there are not enough F-22s and the F-35 is costing too much that there won't be enough to replace the legacy fleet.  The woes of the F-35 just keep coming such as requiring 27 hours of maintenance for every 1 hour of flight time and that's just routine maintenance.  That means even when all of the F-35s are fielded they will spend more time in the hangar than in flight.

The Air Force has in the meantime ignore its other assets.  It has taken years to get the new tanker designed and approved (after many scandals).  The C-17 is being flown into an early retirement with no new long range airlifter in sight.  The mighty A-10, the darling of the ground forces, is being forced into retirement with no replacement in sight (no, the F-35 can't do the same job).

Now we come full circle to LeMay, the US Air Force nuclear forces.  Scandals have plagued the long-forgotten missile wings.  Missile launch officers were discovered to be cheating on the proficiency tests on a large scale.  Bombers have been flown with armed nuclear missiles by accident and with no one realizing it until the aircraft had landed.  But perhaps the most egregious sin of all is that we have pilots now flying our primary bomber, the B-52, who are the grandsons of the first crews.  The B-52 is not scheduled to be retired anytime soon which means soon the great grandsons of the original crews could be piloting the great grandfathers.

There are no more LeMays or even McPeaks in the Air Force any longer.  A combination of the consensus-builing bureaucracy along with the current White House that has fired any four-star that doesn't agree with Mr. Obama has created this void.  With no real leaders left, and an environment the cannot produce any, the Air Force will most likely by brought back under the US Army.  It would make lean and efficient sense.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Migrant crisis pushing Germany towards ‘anarchy and civil war’

According to RT, things are not going well in Germany with the influx of immigrants fleeing the war in the Middle East (Article).  Granted RT takes a dim view of US foreign policy at the best of times, but this article should raise some eyebrows on this side of the Atlantic as well.

The immigrants currently flooding into Germany and Austria is a result of the failed Obama policy (with respect to Iraq and Syria) to erase the failed Bush policy (in respect to Iraq).  Austrians have become so alarmed that there has been a run on gun stores to buy shotguns (which don't require a permit) in reaction to the influx of immigrants (actually refugees but we don't seem to make that distinction anymore) into their country.  Hungary has completely shut their borders down with a wall (hmm?  Where have I heard of building a wall before?).

The US wants to take in one million refugees, somehow expecting this to NOT create a similar situation here.  No one seems to want to ask another question, such as why are the majority of the refugees male?  We are always looking for the next 9/11 type of attack but in reality, flooding a country with refugees (who may or may not also be part of ISIS) is a low tech way of breaking a country but overwhelming its infrastructure.

While this nonsense is playing out, Mr. Obama took at moment out from attending a Broadway play to criticize the whining of the GOP over the way CNBC moderated the debates.  "If you can't handle moderators, you aren't going to be able to handle the Russians," Mr. Obama smugly quipped seeming to forget how his disastrous policy with Russia and Syria has only made matters worse.  Mr. Obama's inept way of "arming" Syrian resistance fighters (who I ask again, aren't they the same as ISIS?) has only made ISIS one of the best equipped forces on the battlefield.

Now if Germany ends up in a civil war, what does that mean to the EU economy?  Mr. Obama is too busy pretending that he isn't a wimp to realize he has set in motion a likely scenario for WWIII.  Russia and Iran are now working together better than before and Obama wants to play navy war games with China.  Ugh!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What we can really learn from Russian air strikes

Participation by Russia in fighting ISIS was demanded by Obama and Kerry as some type of foreign policy power play but the results have not been what Washington hoped for.  Russia not only participated but brought overwhelming force causing Washington to look even weaker.  But there is even more to learn.

Russia was able to strike targets deep in Syria and Iraq without the benefit of several strategic bases or 13 years of pre-positioning.  The Russian military is no longer a slow moving behemoth from the old Soviet days and in fact has show as great, if not superior, ability to use US developed tactics such as cruise missile strikes launched from ships with greater accuracy and range than American strikes.

The sheer volume of firepower brought by Russia in such a short time has secretly caused much panic amongst US military planners.  US forces have grown accustomed to having the advantage when it comes to long-range deployment of forces, benefitted by the numerous bases built as part of the global war on terror.

In contrast, Russia has not built up bases yet was able to bring an astonishing amount of firepower to the war with ISIS.  True, Russia is closer than the continental US but even so the range of Russian aircraft and missiles has greatly increased.

The Russian navy has undergone the most dramatic change.  Instead of relying on Cold War style carrier task forces, which the US still clings to, Russia has developed state of the art cruisers with long range missiles.  The range and accuracy of these missiles have surprised US military experts and has caused Navy planners to re-assess their opinions of Russian naval might.

The kinetic strikes of Russian Navy and Air Forces have been impressive but it begs the question of what else has Russia improved?  Cyber and energy directed weapons are much harder to assess against an enemy such as ISIS but given the overall improvement of Russian military, it is logical to assume improvements have been made in this realm as well.

Russia has obviously repurposed their military to fight in the 21st Century while US forces seem to be stuck preparing to fight the next Desert Storm.  For example, the prohibitive costs associated with the F-35 means there won't be enough tails to support any major air campaigns.  The British has just discovered the staggering costs of replacing their Trident class submarines with many now calling for Britain to abandon the program all together.  Nuclear deterrence just doesn't mean what it used to.

Given all of this, the current gamesmanship the US is playing with China seems unnecessarily foolhardy.  China has not, as of yet, denied any sea lanes around the contested islands yet the US has sent a destroyer to "test" the Chinese resolve to enforce their claim to the islands.  China, like Russia, has been building up their military as well but unlike Russia, we have not seen Chinese military technology deployed.  It seems ridiculous to send a destroyer to test the resolve of China when we aren't certain what we may encounter.

Obama seems to be setting a course for the next President to have a conflict with either Russia or China (with an able assist from ISIS).

Monday, October 26, 2015

Subs snooping around data cables

Electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) is one of the ways preppers and doomsday conspiracists imagine the end-of-the-world happening.  In most of these scenarios, either a major solar flare or high altitude nuclear device detonation renders the blacks out all of the digital technology of the US.  To many, this seems far-fetched and dismiss the notion outright without considering other possibilities.

One of course is to use a much smaller EMP device to wipeout say Wall St.  Another way is via a cyber attack shutting down servers and digital switches, in effect a virtual EMP.  Yet sometimes in the age of blockbuster movies filled with tremendous explosions, we tend to predict apocalyptic scenarios when sometimes a good old-fashioned hammer works just as well.

According to the New York Times, the Russians may have been practicing their hammer swings.  Russian subs seem to be paying a lot of attention to US data cables that stretch across the oceans.  A well-aimed torpedo attack, or several well placed explosive charges, could do what the doomsday predictors have been imagining…a blinded and crippled US.

Russian subs have always been hard to detect and track.  Attack subs could either fire torpedoes at the cables or divers could place charges on the cables (if that hasn't already happened).  In either case, there would be no warning before the cables were cut.  Even in the age of cellular phones, much of the data still travels through fiber optic cables.  Taking out major networks with a physical attack is something that can't be easily countered.

Fiber optic cables also crisscross most of the US, traversing some very remote real estate.  A few well timed attacks on these cables could also render the US blind.

The take-away from all of this is we need to stop thinking that the next attack will resemble anything we have seen before.  It may be terrorists, Russians, Chinese or someone we've never heard of before.  But out dependence on digital communications, and its relative softness compared to other high-value targets, makes this a very likely scenario.  It also means that cyber attacks and hackers aren't the only threat, physical (or what military planners like to call kinetic) attacks require much less technical skill but are equally effective.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Inevitability Thesis

Daniel Chandler's "inevitability thesis" states that once a technology is introduced into a culture, what follows is the inevitable development of that technology.  In Europe and the United States, technology has been major factor in our cultures since the industrial revolution.  Technology has been at the forefront of increasing production while decreasing costs associated with production.  Sounds simply enough when you write it out but people still want to pretend that Chandler's thesis does not apply to them.  Two cases recently illustrate the fallacy of their beliefs.

First is the demands of workers at McDonald's to be paid a "living wage" of $15 per hour versus the current $8.10 per hour.  I'm not going to argue the merits or weaknesses of their proposition, only refer back to Chandler's thesis and the role of technology in our culture.  Technology may initially be developed with making things safer for workers (such as robots used for painting cars) but inevitability thesis takes over adding more technology and more technology which conversely requires fewer workers.  

Automats were an early example of using technology to reduce costs for restaurants.  Automats were early 20th Century innovations for New Yorkers to busy to wait for their food.  They simply went to the little window with the sandwich or salad they wanted, dropped a few coins in and they were able to immediately have their food.  While not truly automated they way we think of automated today (there were still people behind the windows preparing and stocking the windows), it was the precursor to the modern day fast food restaurant.

Automation in the form of robots have been a part of our culture since the early 20th Century.  Robots of today are able to mimic not only human movement but even human intellect and emotions.  Don't be surprised to see your McDonald's become more automated.  The once might McDonald's Corporation has posted a record 7 straight quarters of loss.  Technology versus wage increases is the most likely path McDonald's is going to choose to correct their negative growth.

Second, while reading about the trials and tribulations of McDonald's and it workers The Daily Beast posted an article entitled "G.I. Jane Grim-Gamer Drone Jockey:  'She Kills People From 7,850 Miles Away'".  It is a day in the life of piece on a drone "sensor" (the one who guides the missile as opposed to the pilot) ironically nick-named "Sparkle".  The article points out both through studies as well as "Sparkle" that increasing costs associated with the USAF drone-focused mission.  The virtual isolation of drone operators from the war and other warriors exposes them to much higher levels of stress and PTSD than first appearances would suggest.

The Air Force has managed to create create a McDonald's type of situation with drones.  You order a strike when you want, the way you want.  No more waiting for units to move into position while pilots spend hours ramping up their skills over the local terrain.  Drone operations don't require huge bases with thousands of support personnel.  Hell the drone operators even get to go home every night.  Or so it seems.

Much like the experience of corrections officers that get to go home every nigh from the prisons, they know the following day they are going right back into the belly of the beast so to do drone operators.  Worse, drone operators get to go home to the families and friends within hours of watching a target being blown apart by a missile they've just launched.  As the article points out, this has necessitated the Air Force to bring on a whole host of counselors to try to help drone operators operate the stress and emotion of conducting a long distance war.

Like McDonald's, the Air Force is also experiencing a type of negative growth.  There is still the demand for more drone missions but the Air Force is finding it hard to field enough operators to meet the demand.  The 18XX career field is a dead-end career by virtue of its own success.  Drones pilots and sensors are in high demand meaning they often can't change assignments as often as other career fields.  On active duty, PCS (permanent change of station) is the only way to get promoted.  The skills needed for the 18XX career field take too long to develop in comparison to the normal assignment cycle. The high demand, low density of the career fields means the drone operators remain at their assignment longer and miss out on new assignments and professional military education (PME) which are pre-requisites for promotion.

Compounded the poor opportunity with promotion with the high-stress of a job many still consider equivalent to a video game and you get the shortfall of personnel that the Air Force is currently facing.  The solution is going to follow a similar route to McDonald's, introduce even more automation.  Since much of the time for drone operations is spent merely observing the target, drones will be quickly introduced that will be able to handle this part of the mission autonomously, requiring a human element only when it comes time for fire.  Sounds great and saves a lot of money except that means the Air Force will need ever fewer people in the future.  The Air Force in is race to introduce more technology is also racing towards irrelevance.  Why do you need a separate branch just to operate autonomous flying machines?

If you read the article, "Sparkle" sounds like she has developed that "thousand yard stare" associated with other combat veterans.  She feels she can't relate to most men, and even other women, because "they don't know how hard the world is beyond our borders."  "Sparkle" is exactly the kind of operator the military wants and develops and her success is the very reason the 18XX career field are destined for obsolesce.  Robots can perform as many missions as "Sparkle" and her colleagues without burn-out.  Robots are 100 percent combat ready off of the production line and don't months or years of time to develop their skills.  Robots also don't require mental health professionals.

The "inevitability thesis" means we've already seen the final days of manned-combat.  Our culture is increasingly comfortable interacting with automated machines.  Robotic engineers are making robots more life-like so that it is easier for humans to interact with them.  While in the near-term this means fewer Americans will have to serve in combat, it means in the long-term we will have even less visibility of the consequences of future wars.  Atrocities will be committed with no one to witness or talk about it.  And I'm not sure there is a damn thing we can do about it.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

50 tons of ammunition

Just days after Mr. Obama announces that troops would be staying in Afghanistan, contrary to his campaign promise to bring all of the troops home, now CNN is reporting the US has sent 50 tons of ammunition to Syrian rebels.  Point of order Mr. Obama, what's the difference between ISIS and other Syrian rebels?  Lately the ability of your staff to be able to know the difference between rebels and terrorists is extremely situation-dependent (See Boko Haram).

Also the vast quantity seems suspect given the success of Russian air strikes against ISIS supply depots in just 24 hours compared to the 365 days of US led airstrikes.  While we are on the subject of airstrikes, isn't it just a bit hypocritical to have led ELEVEN other nations into conducting airstrikes yet protest and feign shock when Russia finally joins in…especially after your own Secretary of State demand their participation?

So who exactly needs all of that ammunition?

Perhaps it is just my cynicism getting the best of me but I would not be surprised to see this all end up with the US and Russia in a regional conflict in Syria as opposed to Ukraine.  Failing to entice Mr. Putin, there is also the US Navy led reindeer games going on with China (oh and at the cost of the US not having a carrier group in the Persian Gulf).

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A History Lesson

Mr. Obama is the last few months has famously, or infamously, has remarked how the military just isn't an option for solving problems in the Middle East.  He holds fast to the belief that the policies he and Hillary, and now he and Kerry, have formulated are successful.  Yet by any account, it was the Obama-Clinton policy of ousting Syrian President Assad that led to the creation of ISIS.  It was the Obama-Kerry policy that demanded that Russia do something to oppose ISIS.  The crisis was created by the very diplomatic solutions that Mr. Obama has clung to with a religious fervor that he is in full-blown denial as to its failure.

We won't hear much about this given last night's Democratic debates and the media's fawning over Hillary.  If we can't expect to hear much about the foreign policy disaster that created ISIS, we certainly aren't going to hear about why ISIS has been able to conquer and occupy territory.  Whether by intent or accident, the coverage of ISIS leaves key points of the analysis.  For example, why has ISIS (initially a rag-tag group that opposed the Syrian government) been so hard to defeat?

To understand the answer to that question, one needs to only re-read my first paragraph and add a little more to it.  ISIS was formed from a US-backed opposition group in Syria.  Whenever you see the words "US-backed opposition" you should start getting feelings of deja vu.  US-backed opposition groups throughout the last 60 years include;

Iran in 1953 (which placed the Shah of Iran in power)

Guatemala 1954 (back an opposition that was sympathetic to the United Fruit Company resulting in the deaths of over 100,000 Guatemalans)

North Vietnam 1954-58 (attempts to overthrow the Communist government, and well we all know how that turned out)

Laos 1957-73 (US backed groups to overthrow democratically elected Laotian governments)

Haiti 1959 (US backed Papa Doc Duvalier resulting in over 100,000 deaths during his reign)

Brazil 1964 (US backed overthrow Goulart results in throwing the country into 20 years of chaos)

Indonesia 1965 (US backed thug Suharto kills 500,000 to 1 million of his own people)

Greece 1967 (US backed overthrow of the government.  It could be argued that Greece's problems in 2015 began with at this time)

Cambodia 1970 (US backed puppet Lon Nol policies clear the path for Khmer Rouge to seize power 5 years later resulting in over the deaths of 2 million people)

Angola 1975 (US supports war in Angola at the behest of Kissinger.  The US supports UNITAS which in-turn the opposition to the Soviet Union and Cuba.  At least 300,00 Angolans are killed)

Afghanistan 1979 (US supports the Mujhadeen via their ally Osama bin Laden.  We all know how this turns outs)

Nicaragua 1979 (US supported opposition fails and the Sandinistas take over and all breaks loose for the next 10 years)

El Salvador 1980 (US backs military government which leads in-turn to death squads roaming the country killing over 60,000.  The refugees who fled this atrocity are brought to the US and housed in East LA.  The Salvadorian refugees and harassed and attacked by Mexican gangs.  The resulting opposition takes on the moniker "Mara Salvatrucha" or MS-13)

Iran-Contra 1981 (Remember the Sandinistas?  Yeah well the US decided to fund the opposition Contras by selling arms to Iran.  The fall-guy for this was a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel named Oliver North)

Panama 1989 (US invades Panama to oust Manuel Noriega.  Interesting note, he had been receiving funding from the US since 1966).

This list is by no means comprehensive.  The similarities between what is happening now in Syria and Iraq to what happened in Angola 40 years ago is eerily similar.  Now if you have not guessed, the "US" in all of these cases was the CIA.  The CIA is a stand-alone agency and does not fall under any one department, however due to the nature of their work overseas they tend to work closely with the State Department.  Whenever arms are sold by the CIA to a "US-backed opposition group", it has to be signed off by either the President or the Secretary of State.  Yes so the feigned surprise of Obama, Hillary and Kerry to the well-armed nature of ISIS is total bullshit.  ISIS has tanks  for God's sakes that we sent to the opposition to overthrow Assad.

And yet the press continues to support the Hillary bandwagon.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A long rant

This is going to be a long rambling post but I will still tie things together.

Let's begin first with an article I read the other day concluding that the US military is still might enough to defeat Russia, at least in a conventional war.  Many electrons were needless slain by the writer in pointing that the US has more, and in most cases, better stuff than the Russians.  Ipso facto, the US wins!  Unfortunately, the writer fell victim to the same flawed reasoning as many other military analysts do, namely superior numbers means victory.  To be sure, whenever one engages in battle you want to have superior force which often means superior numbers.  However, numerical or technological superiority alone does not mean an automatic "W" for the home team.

Look at the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1980s.  A vastly superior military in numbers and technology, on paper it looked like a victory for the Soviets.  However, the Afghanis knew how to utilize their terrain to greatly negate any advantages the Soviets had.  Or look at the US in Vietnam.  Another case of vastly superior numbers and technology losing to a more determined enemy entrenched on the homeland were also able to negate the US.

The first flaw with any analysis of US versus Russia is to first determine where such a war would occur.  Most likely the war would not be on the US or Russian homeland.  The likely scenario would be somewhere like Ukraine or Eastern Europe.  US public support may not allow Washington to send more than airstrikes negating any advantages other branches of the US military might bring to the table. More likely Russia would have more of a home-field advantage in such a war as opposed to the US.

But this is only the first problem.  The second and even larger flaw in most analysis is to assume that the war would resemble some type of "force-on-force" conflict.  The first Gulf War was more of an anomaly that large standing militaries will square off to clobber one another.  The current wars have been more regional conflicts waged more like guerrilla warfare than conventional war, albeit on nearly a global scale.

What analysts seem to have failed to grasp from the last 13 years of war is that nothing in the past resembles how the war will be fought in the future.  Some analysts early on adopted the term "asymmetrical warfare" to try to convey this concept.  But time has made the ridiculousness of this term though obvious.  Is there really such a thing as "symmetrical warfare"?  No one attacks unless they think they can win and they only attack when they perceive they have the advantage thus any conflict can be referred to as "asymmetrical".

If the US finds itself going against Russia in a regional or global conflict, it will not resemble anything the analysts have predicted.  Russia will not attack US forces in a linear, predictive way.  Instead, Russia will use every means to shut-down use military technology.  For example, Russia will use a variety of energy weapons (both short and long range), to shut-down or blind US targeting systems and communication nodes.  Russia knows if US forces are blind, they won't go in.

Drones are becoming the go-to system of the US military but drones are highly susceptible to both physical as well as electro-magnetic attacks.  The increasing dependence on unmanned systems by the US means Russia and others have surely focused on taking drones out of the picture.

A global scale attack won't begin with Bear bombers flying over the north pole or even Russian cruise missiles being launched from subs.  If the US and Russia square off on a global scale, expect the first shot to be cyber.  Shutting down US power grids and infrastructure via cyberspace would be crippling on a far greater scale than even a nuclear attack.  Citizens will panic enmasse.  The US economy would shut-down.  Even if the US military could still launch attacks, it won't mean anything because the American public will be too busy trying to survive.

Think about how losing your smart phone or internet connection causes disruptions to your day.  Now multiple that by losing communications and/or power across the entire country.  Yet the wimp who is the current commander-in-chief calls out Putin "weak" for Russia's airstrikes against ISIS.

Now the US Navy is being sent in to challenge China's claims to some artificial islands.  We already know that China regularly launches cyber attacks against the US.  What is the point of upping the game now?

So it come as no surprise that this same mentality of expecting things to be the way they've always been has crept into how law enforcement and the public have viewed school shootings.  In fact, the very term shows how limited our thinking is about the problem.  School shootings are in fact attacks on soft targets.  The majority of those attacks HAVE involved firearms, however before you pull out your NRA card or gun-control cards allow me to call your attention to another phenomena that has caught the national attention yet.

About two weeks ago, one of the local elementary schools here in my small town (not Cincinnati) received a bomb threat.  The school was dismissed and no bomb was found.  At the same time, several bombs threats were made at Dayton elementary schools.  Then on Thursday, a bomb threat was made to a different elementary school here in town again.

So far, indications are that these threats are being phoned in by teenagers but unlike incidents in the past, these seem to be coordinated virtual attacks by a group of teenagers.  There is no way to know in advance if the "bomb" is real or not so critical response plans have to be activated.  The results are same regardless as young children are scared and parents may not want to send their kids back to school.

Cyber attacks, unlike firearms or explosives, give no "tell" until the attacker launches the attack.  Depending on the sophistication of the attacker, it may be difficult if not impossible to trace the attack.  Regardless, the victims are still just as terrified as if the attack were real.  While the country further divides itself along the pro or anti-gun control, the real threat is mastering the art of cyber attacks.  It won't be long, if it hasn't already happened, before these cyber-terrorists figure out how to shut down power grids, disable traffic control systems, or use meaconing (interception and rebroadcast of navigation signals) to create even more havoc.  Even our cars are now susceptible with the addition of WiFi systems, it is even easier to hijack a car's system and shut it down.

So the next time you read some experts threat analysis, ask yourself a question.  Are they merely regurgitating past practices as scintillating analysis or have they really come up with how a threat will act in the future?  Remember, it's all about selling copy.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Russian strikes again expose US disarray

This morning on Yahoo News, we find out that you'd have to work pretty hard to find a more ineffective Secretary of State than John Kerry.  It was that long ago that Kerry demanded that Russia and Iran help fight ISIS.  As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for.  Russia jumped right in with air strikes and SHOCK!, they airstrikes seem to be more about helping President al-Asad remain in power versus helping US foreign policy.

Kerry should know better, he served in the US Navy during the Cold War.  The Russians, and formerly Soviets, are not about nuance.  If you needed a 1,000lbs of high explosives to take out a target, the Russians will use more like 10,000lbs.  The US has grown too accustomed to the precision strikes made famous during the first Gulf War.  Those look pretty for the public but in reality they tend to drag conflicts out.  The Russian approach is to go in fast and heavy.  For Kerry and Obama to think asking Putin to come in and help out with ISIS wasn't going to use this type of doctrine, means they should both give back their Ivy League diplomas in shame.

Mr. Obama looks even more ineffective with his Middle East doctrine foolishly praising an equally ineffective UN for its assistance in developing diplomatic solutions.  Iran got what it wanted and now has little incentive to join in the "fight" against ISIS.

The worst part of all of this is the Syrian people who get to live through all of the violence.  Thanks to Kerry and Obama, the US foreign policy in the Middle East has been exposed for the fraud that it is and Putin has swept in to fill the vacuum.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Nuclear holocaust?

There have been articles appearing for the last few days claiming "ISIS" is planning a "nuclear holocaust".  One such article was written by a German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer claiming to have spent 10 days with "ISIS".  His conclusions are pessimistic to say the least.  He does not believe the West is capable of stopping "ISIS" and only an Arab led effort will be successful.

Todenhöfer's article paints a fanatical group, or rather nation, bent on total genocide of anyone not following their strict interpretation of Sunnism.  While I have no doubt the people he met and interviewed were every bit as rabid with fanaticism as he portrays, I have a hard time understanding how all of that will lead to a nuclear holocaust.

I have no doubt that at least some of the male refugees entering into Europe are ISIS operatives and many more can be compromised through coercion.  Therefore, major attacks in Europe and the US (thanks to knuckleheads like Hillary and John McCain who want us to take in more refugees) will increase.  However, making the leap to a nuclear attack is the difference between sending a manned mission to the moon versus Mars.  Getting access to enough nuclear material to launch an attack is trickier than it looks in movies and television.  Radioactive material can be tracked from overhead (especially with large amounts).  Handling and detonation of said material is very technical and not for the average rabid fanatic.

That's not to dismiss the notion outright.  Of course with enough planning, determination and funding a group could devise a way of doing it.  But in the meantime, a lone gunman armed with a rifle and good supply of magazines is far easier to execute.  Use a squad of riflemen in an attack similar to that in Mumbai and there is really little the police can do.  The US is already at odds racially with one another because of police killings and serial killers.  What if ISIS decides to further manipulate the situation?

It will be interesting to see if the resolve of ISIS changes now that Russia has begun airstrikes.  Unlike Mr. Obama who loves talking to himself about diplomatic solutions involving the UN, Mr. Putin knows that with a group like ISIS you just need to "get Medieval on their ass".  Russia has proven they are not worried about offending anyone's sensibilities in executing their strategy.  ISIS is already persona non grata with the non-Sunni world so Russia has even less to fear from political backlash.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stupid shit

Stupid shit we are accepting without question;

1.  A 14 year old kid builds a "clock" that looks like a "bomb".  A society that now demands (and accepts) that teachers suspends kids for even drawing a gun, is now supposed to feel guilty for condemning this kid, all because he also happens to be Muslim.  I'm sorry, his religion has nothing to do with him building something that looked like a bomb yet the President has decided to invite the kid to the White House.  Huh?  Have we already forgotten this is the same shit Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris did and how that turned out?

2.  Obama pretends to be about getting rid of nuclear weapons, yet he has been spending billions on maintaining and modernizing the ones already in the US inventory.  Everyone accepts this duplicity by the President without question which is bad enough, but then no one questions his hypocrisy in pretending that Iran trying to build a nuclear weapon and is somehow more dangerous that those already in existence in the US and elsewhere.

3.  Dr. Ben Carson, in an obvious attempt to pander to GOP hardcore, professes his belief that a Muslim cannot be President.  Somehow every dipshit out there believes that a world-renowned physician (who was the first person EVER to separate conjoined twins), who has collaborated with other world-renowned physicians, would even have such a belief.  It's an obvious talking point some dumb ass fed him yet the world is in "shock".  Why?  We know the candidates are only regurgitating the talking points slapped on the teleprompter.  Get over it and for a country that has demonized an entire religion to justify two wars, isn't it just a bit hypocritical to criticize Dr. Carson?

4. The Pope comes to the US and is the first Pope to ever do so.  The Catholic faithful turned up in droves to hear the Pontiff admonish the US for not doing enough for immigrants.  A country that was built by scum from Europe and slaves from Africa (with a notable assist from Chinese slave labor in the West), and now an ever growing Hispanic population, somehow needs to do MORE for immigrants?!  The apologists are wringing their hands in shame somehow or other forgetting that the Pontiff sits in a walled city filled with vast riches (not including the Catholic cathedrals and basilica located throughout the world) that I've not heard him mention being sold to help pay for these immigrants.

5.  Looks the Pentagon is going to have another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2016.  Everyone will buy into the notion that we have to save money and closing "redundant, outdated, or unnecessary" facilities will save the Pentagon billions of dollars.  Except no one will bother to ask what exactly did the Pentagon do with all of the savings it had from the last round of BRAC (answer, the money was spent before we were even out of the first year of base closures).  In other words, its a crock.  Furthermore, BRAC is not the quantitative process that its proponents pretend.  As soon as a facility is listed on BRAC, the elected officials and community actives swing into action to try to save it.  If you have a powerful politician from the region, you may get spared.  If you get spared, the BRAC swivels to a less protected facility.  No one though will ask the right questions such as, how many bases do we really need?  What if we have to mobilize more forces?  Can any of these facilities be used in times of natural disaster?

6.  Now it comes out that the F-35 was never really meant to be an air-to-air fighter since it will use state-of-the-art munitions we've never heard of to take out enemy fighters (funny, it thought that's what the B-2 was doing).  That is why it doesn't have to outmaneuver fighters that were designed over 40 years ago according to its advocates (Pentagon).    Taxpayers continue to accept this stupid shit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Pentagon turns to the latest corporate fad

In the latest attempt to ape the fads of corporate America, the Pentagon is now promoting "Lean-In" groups to promote women in leadership roles.  "Lean-In" is based on a book written by Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook.  The Pentagon still hasn't figured out why more women are not in leadership roles and somehow hopes that having the sidebar "Lean-In" groups, the answer will magically appear.

Here is the tough truth that no one wants to admit, the military is the most hostile environment to promote "gender equality"because at its core, the military is about killing people and breaking things. In order to excel in the military, you have to embrace this warrior ethos with a desire as Conan the Barbarian remarked, "See your enemies crushed before you".

Even in the modern 21st Century, the role of women as mothers is venerated throughout society including the West.  The job of the military is odds with the role of mothers as nurturing, caring women who want to protect and raise their babies.  To rise to the top ranks of the military for an American women means long periods away from her children and leading the children of other women into combat and even watching them die.  These "Lean-In" groups will focus on glass-ceilings, sexism and the lack of representation "at the table".  None of those groups will address the basic problem, most women still want to be moms even if there are serving in the military.

All you need to do is look at how many women in showbiz or professional sports give up their careers, or at least pause them, to start families.  Women in the military are no different.  Even the most ambitious, career-driven female NCO or officer still feels the need to start a family.  Hidden in this most basic truth is the lie about "women make up 15 percent of the military" (article).  Of those 15 percent, how women get out to be with their families?  Even if the number is only 5 percent, you now have only women in 10 percent of the military available to serve long enough to become senior leaders.  Attrit another 5 percent for other reasons (medical boards, career changes, disciplinary reasons, lack of upward mobility) and you see 5 percent (or probably less) are available to even make it to senior leader (O-7 or above).

The "Lean-In" groups, or whatever the next corporate fad happens to be, cannot escape this fact.  Women are destined to be moms and a career in the military is often at odds with this.  It also impacts fathers, however the larger number of men in the military tends to mask this phenomenon.  Divorce also skews these numbers as most courts award custody of the children to the moms, allowing the dads to continue their career and forcing moms to often times get out of the military.

Now it is politically expedient to talk about opening all remaining combat roles (such as Rangers, combat controllers, pararescue, SEALs and force recon) to women.  It still won't change the fact women are designed by biology and culture to be mothers.  Women soldiers in Afghanistan often are called upon to enter Afghani homes as they are perceived as "maternal" and aren't likely to kill the children.  Female cops serve the same role with children who are the victims of child abuse.

That's why female warriors find it so difficult to make it in the military.  If they forego being mothers, they are not seen as "feminine" by their male counterparts.  Look at the movie "Aliens", Private Vasquez was more of a bad ass then her male counterparts, so it fell to Ripley (who we already knew was a mom) to establish a bound with Newt.  Even though many think of Ripley as a bad ass as well, she was really driven to kicking alien ass in order to protect her adopted daughter Newt.

I'm not a sociologist so I'm not sure if it is even possible for a military organization to exist and function successfully that also embraces the role of women as mothers.  And this just isn't some retired "guy" thinking this way, women also revolt at the thought of a women who would choose war over motherhood.  Look at how Hillary Clinton is using her role as a "grandma" to soften her image.  Choosing a career over motherhood is still a Hobson's choice for most women, often they themselves becoming their own worst critic.

Don't try to hide behind that propaganda of "Serving her country to protect her children" bullshit either.     The demands of being away from home a year at a time  rapidly dissuades even the most ardent female warrior of this notion (men too for that matter).  Missing birthdays, the first day of school, the last day of class, graduations, games, or just being home with your kids takes a lot of any troop but especially those that are also moms.

We need a much more frank and tough discussion about the role of women not just in the military but society as well instead of trying the latest corporate fad.  We should always value the role of moms and if we do, that means by default we have to accept fewer women will want to continue with their careers.  By extension, that means fewer women in senior leadership roles.  To change that means we have to devalue the role of moms in our society and then the question becomes, are we will ready to do that?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Obama's failed Syrian policy

Something has been bugging all weekend.  Something so crazy it almost doesn't make sense.  I sort of feel like when Dr. Johnny Fever quipped, "this is so crazy and messed-up, even I understand it!"

What has been bugging me?  It was a simple headline, "Kerry: Assad has to go, but timing can be negotiated" in the Times of Israel.  To me, that has got to be one of the stupidest damn things Kerry has ever said, and that's saying a lot.  The headlines itself is ludicrous, the Obama Administration has failed miserably with regards to Syria.  How the hell they expect to negotiate a time for Assad to step down is beyond me.  Clinton and then Kerry have been trying to get rid of Assad since 2011.

Think about that for a moment, Mr. Obama has been trying to push Mr. Assad out of office which means that the US either overtly or covertly supported the opposition to Assad (now known as ISIS).  ISIS is supposedly an even bigger threat than al Qaeda which means we should be looking for any help in defeating them, especially from someone who has intimate knowledge of ISIS.  Someone like say Assad.

Adding to the failure of ousting Assad was Obama's withdrawal of troops from Iraq.  A perfect storm was thus created allowing ISIS to rapidly expand and occupy territory.  Don't let the Obama Administration or their lackeys at the Pentagon fool you, no one actually believed the Iraqi Army was ready to take over responsibilities from the US troops.

All of the troubles started because of an obsession by the Obama Administration with the one leader to survive the Arab Spring.  Now Kerry wants to continue this ridiculous and untenable line of thinking.  Let's just say for the sake of argument that Assad does step down, who then becomes President of Syria?  And whoever that is, would they have the ability to resist ISIS?  More than likely, it would be someone who then s torture and secret police to maintain power.  Sounds a little like Iran under the Shah.

Speaking of Iran, Kerry now wants Iran and Russia to help convince Assad to step down.  First, I doubt Iran would be interested in having Syria experience the same US policy that led to the Shah being in power.  US history when it comes to ousting political leaders has been remarkably bad over the years.  There is no indication that it would be any different in Syria.

Second, why would Russia be inclined to oust their ally?  Syria has provided the Soviet Union and now Russia with a warm water port on the Mediterranean.  Adding another military facility would insure that Russian interests continue unimpeded by US or ISIS.

To all of which, Kerry and Clinton (as part of her campaign talking points) now want the US to take in 65,000 Syrian refugees.  Huh?  The Obama Administration abandoned and ignored the plight of the Syrians up until now.  Obama did nothing to help European allies who are being inundated by refugees fleeing the conflict his policies help create.  And what of those refugees, exactly who are they?  ISIS could easily pose as some of the refugees.

How crazy is all of this?  Obama's failed policy in the Middle East, headed up by Presidential hopeful Clinton and failed Presidential hopeful Kerry, created ISIS, left Iraq in a far worse state that it was under Bush, and now sees Europe bursting at the seems with refugees.  It makes sense only when you realize that Obama thinks that he and his administration are infallible and that there are no consequences for their mistakes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Immigration, the state of policing and drones

My rambling thoughts on what our Presidential candidates WON'T talk about.

As the next round of Republican debates fast approaches, the candidates are more concerned with trying to somehow stop Donald Trump rather than trying to convince people to vote for them.  It has gotten so one sided, Governor Bobby Jindal tried to regain a little of the spotlight by writing a sniveling little piece on CNN.  Really Bobby, the best you can do is call Trump a madman yet you said nothing about why you would be a better President?  Last time I looked, Louisiana is still struggling with the aftermath of both Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the BP Deep Water Horizon disaster (2011).

I'm not a Trump proponent, just disgusted with what passes for political discourse in 2015.  Trump and Bernie Sanders are polling way ahead of the establishment players because they are saying things that resound with the public.

Look at the situation with immigration in Hungary.  The Hungarian Army has been called in to seal their borders from hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring in from war torn areas in the Middle East.  What no one is noticing, except for of all people al-Assad, is the refugees are almost all exclusively male.  This means potentially large numbers of ISIS operatives are arriving as "immigrants" into Europe's open arms.  Now McCain and Obama want those same refugees to come to the United States.  I doubt we will hear any real discussion of this from anyone other than Trump.

Similarly, none of the Republican candidates (and the Democrats still haven't scheduled a debate) want to touch the issue of race and the state of policing.  The issue are interrelated and we are rapidly watching it divided us based on race.  Everyone, both black and white, tend to point to the shooting of Michael Brown last year in Ferguson, MO as to where things really changed.

However, I argue that what we are dealing with today is a legacy of the war on drugs.  Going back to Richard Nixon, who declared drugs as "public enemy number one", the US federal government has waged a "war" to arrest those who distribute, possess, manufacture, grow or abuse illegal drugs.  This sent into motion two disturbing trends that resound today.

First, the war on drugs sent police into the most crime-ridden neighborhoods, which were predominately African-American or Hispanic.  Drug crime is lucrative (for both sides really) and the dealers were able to afford better weapons to protect their business from marauders from rival organizations.  The police found themselves seriously outmatched in firepower during the early days and you began to see department switching first from revolvers to semi-automatic pistols, then later adding assault rifles and submachine guns.

That much firepower concentrated in a few neighborhoods inevitably will see violent, deadly confrontations between gangs as well as between gangs and police.  Rounds flying around from 7.62mm or 5.56mm rifles keep going until they hit something, often times innocent bystanders that had nothing to do with the crime being committed.

In response, citizens demand cops do more to reduce violent crime.  The cops oblige never truly realizing their actions to reduce crime and rid the streets of drugs means they are focusing almost exclusively on African-Americans.  A nasty closed-loop is established where the most cops are sent into black neighborhoods creating the highest number of incidents were police have to use force or deadly force to deal with the situation.

It is why "Black Lives Matter" has resounded in the black community leaving whites scratching their heads on the sidelines.  Blacks in these neighborhoods see cops only when their friends or relatives are being arrested or shot by a police officer.  Police officers working these neighborhoods develop a view that everyone is involved in criminal behavior and feel everyone in the community is out to get them.  Conversely, that sentiment is perceived by the African-American community that police are out to get them.

The war on drugs made political hay for elected officials which in-turn led to more legislation.  Mandatory sentencing was seen as getting "tough on crime" but all it really did was send more African-Americans to prison while forcing out violent criminals to make room for more prisoners convicted of drug-crimes (such as possession).  "Asset forfeiture" was seen as a way of disempowering major drug dealers by seizing their homes, cars and property.  Instead it became a way for drug task forces to fund themselves after Byrne Memorial Grant funds ran out.  In both cases, African-Americans took the brunt of these "get tough on crime" policies as police were already targeting black neighborhoods.

Crimes rates did in fact go down during the 90s and early 2000s but at the cost of turning many black neighborhoods into essentially war zones.  Police and blacks forms those neighborhoods targeted as a result of decreasing violence paradoxically found themselves in an ever increasing cycle of violent confrontations.  Cops, as a result, treated black suspects as "more violent and dangerous" since to do otherwise would have jeopardized their own safety, yet this is really a type of racism that has led to what we see today.

Flash forward to today, the headlines are making criminals feel more emboldened since they know cops are under a microscope.  Cops are shutting down rather that be the next poster child for the next shooting.  Crimes rates in Baltimore (where Freddie Gray died while in police custody) has soared.  People are getting concealed carry permits and purchasing weapons at a record rate.  The Black Lives Matter advocates meanwhile fail to the see irony that by continuing to call for the killing of police officers, they are creating the very environment they abhor, a violent lawlessness where blacks are seen as dangerous and violent (the same result again as was created under the "war on drugs").

Only a few people have recognized that the only way to change things is to reform how we do policing in the US.  Instead of creating ever more heavily armed officers looking to arrest at the slightest provocation, we should be looking at how police are used.  Instead of having large numbers of cops on the streets in the most crime ridden areas patrolling around looking for people to arrest, have them show-up like firefighters…when needed.  It is not as radical approach as one might think.  This is how policing is done much of Europe.

Back in April, four Swedish off-duty cops broke up a subway fight in New York city without guns or even injuring the suspect.  It was such a non-event for the Swedes that back home, everyone was shrugging their shoulders.  What was the big deal, that's what Swedish cops are supposed to do.  If they see something, they are supposed to help.  Compare that to the charge given to any American cop working in the city.

None of our candidates will touch immigration or the need to reform policing (other than maybe Trump) but this is what we need to have the next occupant of the White House deal with.

If this topic is too hot-button for a Presidential race, here is another one…drones.  These things are already getting out of hand with everyone from the federal government, police, local agencies and your next door neighbor flying these things around.  They are a danger to airliners (several incidents have already happened where drones have been in the flight path of airliners trying to land).  They are invasive (a man in Louisville, KY shot one down claiming it was spying on his sunbathing daughter).  Finally, they are dangerous.  Most drones use propellors to achieve flight so they are basically flying lawn mowers.  If they malfunction and get shot down, they can seriously injure or kill anyone they hit.

Speaking of malfunction, there is going to be a huge market for electronic devices that jam signals to or from drones.  Some more aggressive devices may allow people to take over control of the drone and either smash it into the ground or steal it.  Lots of chances of innocent people getting hurt as a result.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Intelligence Failure

Last Friday was the 14th anniversary of 9/11.  I saw a lot of remembrances posted on social media and few articles here and there on the news websites.  Many of the remembrances were poignant, remembering fallen comrades or family from that day or from the subsequent wars.  But what seems to be fading as we get further away from that fateful day is remembering what caused it.

No I'm not talking about al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or even radicalized Muslims.  For those who may not remember or have forgotten, according to the findings of the 9/11 Commission the events on that day were caused by an intelligence failure.  Agencies that all had most or part of the picture did not share the information with one another allowing the hijackers to complete their plan.

The whole purpose of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, US PATRIOT ACT, was to combine all of the right agencies to prevent this type of failure from ever happening again and thus was born the US Dept of Homeland Security.  After reshuffling 22 agencies, plus several hundred thousand employees, to form the new DHS, two glaring exceptions didn't make the new team…the CIA and the FBI.  So the two biggest intelligence gathering agencies in the US, along with the NSA and DIA, were not folded into the new DHS.  Basically, DHS was sent into a gunfight without any bullets.

But even if the CIA and FBI had been rolled in, things might not be much different if what former MI6 Chief Sir John Sawers says here is correct.  The CIA and FBI have increasingly shifted their focus away from "HUMINT" or human intelligence (spies) and relied more on more on technology.  Part of this is budget driven but part of it is a legacy from Robert McNamara and his "whiz kids".

McNamara and the "Whiz Kids" wanted to turnaround the management of the Department of Defense and the conduct of the Vietnam War through quantitative analysis.  Basically it meant taking the human out of the process and turning everything into data.  Hence McNamara's view that the success of the war could be tracked by "body count".   McNamara and his Whiz Kids forgot to consider that data was still being reported and collected by humans so fraud was rampant.

Even though Vietnam disproved "body count" as a way of assessing the success of a military campaign, quantitative analysis became the ideal way for the military and federal bureaucracy to hide behind numbers.  Intelligence became a fertile ground for quantitative analysis mavens.

Up until the end of the Vietnam War, intelligence gathering had been the forte of spies (human intelligence).  Spies were people who seemingly worked for the other side but in reality worked for us.  Spies would smuggle out plans, documents, hardware that the enemy had been working on for analysts stateside to dissect and analyze.  But the problem is it takes a long time to develop a spy.  They have to have a cover story, be planted into just the right spot and hope that they can feed stateside analysts with some real information.  Often this costly assets took years before they could produce something important.  To the McNamara's of the intelligence world, this was an antiquated and costly way of doing business.

Instead, McNamara and his friends wanted to see scientific methods and quantitative analysis used.  Hence the shift during the Cold War years from warm-blooded spies to spy planes and spy satellites.  These assets removed much of the human error that McNamara hated and were immediately available at a moments notice.

The problem with spy satellites is you only see or hear what the satellite sees or hears.  You get none of what is going on in the mind of the target.  For example, you can see troop build up and monitor the radio frequencies indicating there is an invasion.  But only a spy in the headquarters can tell you that this is all a feint by the target.  

Regardless, by the 1990s the CIA HUMINT programs were being slashed in favor of cyber and overhead surveillance.  Once the wars began in Iraq and Afghanistan, drones showed the overhead collection game wasn't just for the National Reconnaissance Office anymore!  

But even with the incredible advancements with drones, the ability intercept any data transmission at will, is always the same as before.  You cannot always gauge intent simply from data.  You need someone to tell you what they are thinking.

I've written about this before.  Say you do an assessment that says an attack will happen within two weeks.  You have imagery and chatter to back this up.  Your higher ups concur and the appropriate forces are activated.  Then on the day in question nothing happens.  Instead of saying, "Good job, we avoided an attack".  The analyst gets, "WTF with is wrong with you?  Do you know how many assets we wasted on your assessment?"  You won't ever get the attention of your higher ups again.

What doesn't happen enough is a retro-analysis of why that attack didn't happen.  Only a spy could fill in the blanks for you.  Was it a lack of political support or funding?  Did the opposition threaten to kill the leader if the attack went through?  Didn't a key player suddenly end up in jail?  Often you find answers to these questions in you quantitative analysis.  You need a spy.

Spies have another advantage over overhead collection (including cyber collection).  You have to target your drones, satellites and software to look for a particular threat.  A spy can find out about a new, unheard of threat much more easily and redirect their efforts accordingly.

Alas, the love affair with quantity over quality, continues to permeate the intelligence world.  The US is also losing its ability to recruit and train spies (since funding is being diverted to newer toys).  The problem is terrorism is increasingly carried out by small, unassociated cells using small weapons.  These tactics are much easier to disguise from the eyes of satellites and drones.  And as long as the group stays off the Internet, software programs won't find them.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Russia's increased presence in Syria

Yesterday CNN published "US warns Russia on military buildup on Syria" (article here).   CNN and the rest of the media outlets don't really do much analysis, merely regurgitate State Department talking points as to why Russia is in Syria at all.

First, Russia didn't just recently become involved in Syria.  The then Soviet Navy built its facility in Tartus, Syria in 1971.  The Soviets, and now Russians, have maintained a continuous presence ever since using it as a maintenance facility for Russian navy vessels operating in the Mediterranean.

Second, the CNN articles (along with the rest on Western media outlets) has Mr. Kerry taking a strong stance against Russia and tries to make it look like more Russian aggression similar to that in Crimea.  I am always leery of Russian actions that may lead to conflict with the US but in this case, CNN and others are showing their biases.

Russia has had a long relationship with Syria and the Syrian Ba'athist Party (of which Bashar al-Assad is General Secretary as well as President of Syria).  The US has long opposed the Ba'athist Party and al-Assad which is why then Secretary of State Clinton and Mr. Obama supported the Arab Spring back in 2011.  Clinton and Obama wanted to see al-Assad go the way of Qaddafi and Mubarak.  

Perhaps you remember the now infamous "red line" Mr. Obama used to warn al-Assad against using chemical weapons against the opposition?  Most people, myself included at times, point to this as just one of many examples of Mr. Obama's unwillingness to follow-through.  The real reason though may have simply been Russia had sent several warships and Russian Marines to Tartus.  Had a US strike go awry, it could have escalated things between Russia and the US at a time when the Obama Administration was still pretending relations were copacetic.  

The Arab Spring did not oust al-Assad, if anything it made his hold on power stronger.  It also increased Russian support of his government.  Now comes the little embarrassing part for the US and she-who-would-be President; the opposition group that the US supported (and which Russia opposed) became, what for it, ISIS!

CNN and the other Western media outlets do a good job of only relating stories from a pro-Obama standpoint.  Russia's increased presence in the region is to support al-Assad….which means they are there to strike ISIS.  So what's the problem?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Redesign of the Army and Army National Guard relationship

Read this morning "Effort to Bring Army, National Guard Closer May Result in Redesign" (article here).  In short, the Army is going through the same thing the USAF, USAFR and ANG went through in the 90s.

A little history lesson is order to better understand the issues.  Redesigning the relationships between the Army, Army Reserves and National Guard isn't just an issue for the components or even DoD.  The very structure of how the US ground forces (and by extension, the US military in general) is dictated by the Constitution.

The founding fathers knew too well that real cost of a large standing military is too often imposed on the people.  In 18th Century Europe, when large standing armies weren't at war they were billeted on private lands.  This meant that the monarch did not have to spend their money on feeding the troops.  The troops were free to hunt all of the game, seize all of the crops find on farms and in villages(along with any wealth or women).

The writers of the Constitution wanted to avoid this situation in America, the Second and Tenth Amendments being just two examples of how they tried to prevent it.  The Second Amendment in particular, contrary to the NRA, is about having a part-time militia that could be called up as needed.  This was both a necessity as well as a design back in the Colonial period.  The Colonies simply could not muster a large standing army to fight the British so they relied on a well armed citizenry.  But early Americans also knew war would eventual end and having a bunch of soldiers standing around was just going to deplete their supplies.

The Tenth Amendment is designed to keep the government in Washington (which the framers were worried could end up being just like the monarchy) from over extending its influence over the states.  The states are the real power of the United States.

The National Guard is the well regulated militia referred to in the Second Amendment.  The National Guard is the governor's military might to insure that Washington doesn't over step its boundaries (such as forcing martial law without the governor's consent).

The plan worked for the most part until World War II.  The amount of manpower and material required to fight both in Europe and the Pacific was enormous.  The cost of maintaining all of those troops and equipment was prohibitive yet you couldn't just get rid of it, hence came the role of the Reserves.  The Reserves are the part-time force of the various branches of the military.  This allowed for the extra tanks, planes, ships, etc. to be placed in a stand-by status (along with troops to operate and maintain it) should it be needed to fight the Soviets.  (The National Guard and Air National Guard are also part of the Reserve Components)  So much for calling up the Reserves!

The huge military command structures created during World War II remained in place even after the post-war drawdowns.  Much like any other bureaucracy, these military structures needed something to do so they articulated the need to maintain a larger number of troops on active duty (this need was conveniently supported by the huge standing Soviet military).  More troops needed to fight a potential war with the Soviets (and later China and North Korea) meant increased spending for the latest weapon systems.

But what to do with the stuff they already have?  Easy, give it to the Reserves!  This is why the ANG was still flying F-51 Mustangs when the active duty Air Force had already switched to jet fighters.  As time went on, the Reserves and National Guard were increasingly equipped with systems that were not compatible with their active duty counterparts.

Then Desert Storm caught everyone off guard.  A major campaign with ground forces maneuvering around the desert, the active duty forces did not have what they needed nor in the quantities needed.  So the Reserve components were activated to fill active duty shortfalls.  The USAF/USAFR/ANG handled this well but not because the active duty recognized the need to keep the Reserve Components compatible.  Rather, this was the result of former USAF personnel who had seen combat in Vietnam joining the Air National Guard.  They were dismayed and used the ability of being a part-time military to lobby lawmakers to legislate state of the art aircraft for the state ANG.

The USAF didn't pay much attention to the lobbying efforts until after Desert Storm.  The ANG was showing up to Operations North Watch and Southern Watch with newer and better maintained fighters than the active duty.

When OEF and OIF kicked into high gear, the ANG was flying more sorties because they had the right aircraft with the right avionics flown by pilots with more hours than their active duty counterparts.  The USAF/USAFR/ANG model had had over ten years of practice to get it right.

When the Army got ready of OEF and OIF, they differences between the USA/USAR/ARNG were stark.  It took Army National Guard units 90 days to mobilize to the CONUS mobility site.  Then it was another 30-60 days to re-accomplish what they had already done but this time under the auspices of the active duty Army.  Then it was another 30 days of orientation in-country BEFORE they could even start doing their jobs.  The system had been turned on its head.  Instead of keeping the ground reserves ready, the active Army had neglected them until they couldn't anymore.

So for the long lesson but now you can understand the article better.  What the article doesn't point out is both the US Army and US Air Force hate their National Guard counterparts because in order to call them up, they have to go through the governor.  This is really what the "re-design" is trying to get around.  The Army Guard is much more important to backfilling the active duty units than the US Army Reserves (which are primarily combat support).

The Army Guard has proven itself time and again in combat but the active duty Army still hates to think that they may not get the critical backfill just because some governor needs his troop for a natural disaster (that won't happen by the way, other units in the National Guard can backfill one another during disaster relief under the EMAC).

In short, the active duty Army has to figure out a way to maintain its OPSTEMPO in the face of continuing budget cuts.  The only way to do that is to somehow grab more of the National Guard for themselves.