CJCS Dempsey concludes we gain nothing and risk a lot helping Syrian rebels, understanding how AQ will continue to drive our national security strategy, getting ready for FY2014 contract competition – all in today’s defense news headlines.
While violence rages in Egypt, Administration influence wanes, Afghan civilian casualties grow, NSA debacle expands, DoD struggles with sexual assaults, and DARPA awards its Upward Falling Payload contract, all in today’s defense news headlines.
collected by Ed Ledford
August 17, 2013
FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM
1. Maryland – the kinder, gentler D.C. Contributor Charles Simmins covers SatelliteToday.Com’s analysis of Maryland’s business boom: “The state’s access to Washington, D.C., is one of the greatest attractions for firms doing business in Maryland. Hughes’ Defense and Intelligence Systems told SatelliteTODAY that the quality of graduates produced by the University of Maryland has been a key factor in the four decades that the company has been in the state. A 2011 expansion by Boeing was cited by the state’s Secretary of the Department of Business & Economic Development as being based upon the local quality of life and the abilities of the local workforce.”
2. Retrospective irony – we should have seen it coming. In the wake and bow wave of NSA spying, remember how enamored many of us were with the intelligence community’s super computers. Contributor D.B. Grady wrote, “The intelligence community doesn’t get enough credit for its contribution to the information age. When government and industry were still only tepidly considering the weird and alien concept of ‘computers,’ the IC was charging forward, having immediately recognizing the utility of processing power and its possible applications. Today, the spy world continues pushing the limits of what computers can do. Here are a few famous supercomputers used by the intelligence community.”
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. Unraveling in Egypt. Observers anticipate that the violence in Egypt will only grow worse – at least in the short term – and some analysts have uttered the words “civil war.” NPR.Org reports, “At a mosque near Cairo’s Ramses Square . . . about 700 people have barricaded themselves inside, refusing to come out for fear of arrest and further violence . . . . Police and military forces have surrounded the area and the situation is tense. . . . The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a week of rallies against Morsi’s ouster. Meanwhile, groups that support the military government are calling for counter-demonstrations today.” From Aljazeera, a few of the day’s images in “Bloodbath in Egypt.” From Reuters, “. . . after a day of carnage . . . . Egypt ever closer to anarchy.”
2. In Afghanistan, they got him. Australia avenges the green-on-blue attack in Uruzgan nearly two years ago. LongWarJournal.Org’s Lisa Lundquist reports, “Yesterday the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, announced that Australian forces had tracked down and killed a former Afghan National Army soldier who was involved in an insider attack nearly two years ago in Uruzgan province. The rogue soldier, Mohammed Roozi, was hunted down earlier this week by a joint Afghan / Australian / International Security Assistance Force unit in the northern province of Takhar, far from the Australian base in Uruzgan where the green-on-blue attack took place in November 2011. . . . According to General Hurley, Australian troops never gave up searching for Roozi. Hurley also stated that his forces are still trying to track down other green-on-blue attackers, including Hek Matullah (or Hikmatullah), who killed three Australian soldiers at a base in Uruzgan in late August 2012.”
3. Also in Afghanistan, civilian casualties rising. VOANews.Com reports, “Officials in Afghanistan say militants have killed at least 17 people in three separate locations. . . . Civilian casualties have spiked this year because of the increased violence. The United Nations said in its mid-year report that casualties were up 23 percent compared to the first six months of 2012.” Radio Free Europe adds, “The UN report said 1,319 civilians died and 2,533 were injured as a result of conflict in the country from January to the end of June.”
4. AFRICOM’s CJTF-Horn of Africa trains Burundi National Defense Force troopers. U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Norris from CJTF-HOA Public Affairs reports, “Marines and Sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 recently completed a four-week logistics operations engagement with more than 80 Burundi National Defense Force soldiers in preparation for future deployments supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia, an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations in Somalia. . . . the exchange was successful because of the mentors’ experience and expertise and the Burundi soldiers’ dedication to learn new techniques.”
1. $10 billion in the cloud on the Interior Department table. Indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts leave the door wide open at the Interior Department. NextGov.Com reports, “A slate of contracts to provide cloud computing services to the Interior Department could add up to $10 billion . . . . 10 vendors will compete with each other to win 10 specific contracts to provide cloud goods and services, Interior said in the statement Wednesday. Each of those contracts has a maximum value of $1 billion for a total possible value of $10 billion for the entire slate of contracts.” At the trough, Verizon, AT&T, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Smartronix, Unisys, Aquilent, Automonic Resources, CGI, GTRI. Let’s eat!
2. Upward Falling Payloads? DARPA’s on it. DailyFinance.Com reports, “Sparton Corporation (NYS: SPA) was awarded a Phase 1 contract for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Upward Falling Payload (UFP) program. Sparton, under the UFP program, will design a system intended to live on the sea floor and release payloads. This enablement would represent a game changing capability for mission commanders.” What, exactly, is an Upward Falling Payload?: “The Navy’s ‘Upward Falling Payloads’ could hide in the ocean depths until needed, then launch to quickly create a distributed presence across a maritime region.” Cool . . . unless you’re a whale.
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. Audit reveals NSA’s innumerable privacy breaches. WaPo’s Barton Gellman reports, “The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008 . . . . Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.” Finally, Congress is stirred: “New revelations from leaker Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency has overstepped its authority thousands of times since 2008 are stirring renewed calls on Capitol Hill for serious changes to NSA spy programs, undermining White House hopes that President Barack Obama had quieted the controversy with his assurances of oversight.”
2. No aliens named Roger at Area 51. TheAtlanticWire.Com breaks the exciting news – there is an Area 51, but, unfortunately, no Martians. Philip Bump writes, “Newly declassified documents, obtained by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, appear to for the first time acknowledge the existence of Area 51. . . . The project started humbly. In the pre-drone era about a decade after the end of World War II, President Eisenhower signed off on a project aimed at building a high-altitude, long-range, manned aircraft that could photograph remote targets.” See related from AP: “UFO buffs and believers in alien encounters are celebrating the CIA’s clearest acknowledgement yet of the existence of Area 51, the top-secret Cold War test site that has been the subject of elaborate conspiracy theories for decades.”
3. Moto-X gets a hot, detailed review. Finally, Google’s influence on Motorola comes through. VentureBeat.Com’s Devindra Hardawar reports, “It offers the most comfortable Android phone experience I’ve seen yet, with hardware that shows iPhone levels of obsession and features that you can’t find anywhere else. And it’s readily accessible for just about anyone, even though it still manages to be plenty innovative. . . . Perhaps the most important thing about the Moto X is how it completely moves the conversation away from mere specs and toward how we actually use our devices.”
1. Code name “Poppa Panda Sexy Pants.” Brig. Gen. Jeff Sinclair joins mentors in the ongoing mockery-inviting parade of horribles. WaPo reporter Craig Whitlock does a deep-dive into Sinclair’s court-martial: “Congress and President Obama have demanded a crackdown, alarmed by a recent string of scandals and frank admissions by military leaders that they have systematically failed to address the problem.” PBS.Org’s “Newshour” transcript adds context: “there’s a focus on kind of care and support for the victims. What there needs to be a focus on is to lock up sexual predators. And nothing addresses that. They haven’t grappled with those issues at all.”
2. NSA’s Un-witting Watusi. World’s best intelligence agency claims ignorance – it’s an oxymoron, with emphasis on moron. The Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman reports, “The NSA’s director of compliance, John DeLong, repeatedly said in a conference call with reporters that the 2,776 violations reflected no willful effort to violate Americans’ privacy. . . . however, ‘a couple’ of willful violations in the past decade. He didn’t provide details.”
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. Get the NSA back to Church. TheAtlantic.Com contributor Conor Friedersdorf argues, “The time is ripe for a new Church Committee, the surveillance oversight effort named for Senator Frank Church, who oversaw a mid-1970s investigation into decades of jaw-dropping abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies. . . . For more than a decade, the NSA has repeatedly engaged in activity that violated the law and the Constitutional rights of many thousands or perhaps millions of Americans.”
2. “How Obama Lost His Influence in Egypt.” TheDailyBeast.Com contributor Josh Rogin argues, “The Obama administration seems powerless in its effort to persuade the Egyptian military to halt the violence against civilians that has resulted in hundreds of deaths this week. The crisis lays bare the diminished U.S. influence on the Egyptian military compared to only two years ago.”
3. Civil war in Egypt would be catastrophic. Contra Costa Times editorial board argues, “Egypt is not just another country ‘over there’ in the Mideast; it plays a vital stabilizing role in a very unstable region. What happens there will have impact throughout the globe.”
Purge the generals
What it will take to fix the Army
BY DANIEL L. DAVIS
Today, and consistent with these patterns, senior Army leaders are poised to reorganize the service into one that is smaller and less capable than the one that existed at the end of the Iraq War in 2011, and just as the threat environment is becoming more unpredictable and potential adversaries more capable.
Events have granted us a short window of time in which we might address the problem. America is drawing down after two intense wars, while the potential threats of the future are not quite upon us. Seven decades ago, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Marshall surveyed an officer corps similarly ill-suited for the tasks to come. He forced into retirement scores of generals, clearing the way for the ones who would help win World War II.
Today’s times, like Marshall’s, call for a reformation of the general officer corps.
A Bad Track Record
Gallup polls show that American trust the military more, by a wide margin, than any other institution in the United States. Many people — from private citizens to members of Congress — view the military’s senior leaders as something close to infallible.
But a clear-eyed look at their actual track record shows a crying need for change. Over the past two decades, Army generals have consistently insisted that various acquisition, organizational and even combat efforts were on course despite substantial and frequent expert testimony to the contrary. They rejected alternative courses of action that independent analysis suggested might have produced superior results, and reaped failure after expensive failure.
A short and by no means exhaustive list of such failures might include the RAH-66 Comanche armed reconnaissance helicopter (launched in 1991, canceled after $6.9 billion), the XM2001 Crusader mobile cannon (launched in 1995, canceled after $7 billion), and the Future Combat Systems (launched in 2003, canceled after $20 billion). FCS in particular was notable for senior Army leaders’ efforts to ignore or suppress the results of simulations, tests and analyses that highlighted problems and ultimately predicted failure.
Today, we have the Ground Combat Vehicle program, which was launched amid the wreckage of FCS and has, despite official proclamations of confidence, already seen two delays that have pushed production out to 2020 or so. There is also the Joint Tactical Radio System, launched in 1997 as the heart of the effort to bring a robust network to the battlefield. In March, the Government Accountability Office reported that the 16-year-old program had yet to demonstrate in a realistic environment that the Rifleman variant could use one of its three critical technologies or that the Manpack variant could use any of its four critical technologies.
The Army has done little better in efforts to modernize the decades-old divisional structure. In the late 1990s, senior leaders launched the Advanced Warfighter Experiment, a set of war games ostensibly meant to guide the reorganization of combat formations for new challenges. In fact, these senior leaders had already chosen their path: reduce formations’ striking power, then try to compensate with better communications. Even though AWE’s simulations, command post exercises and field exercises exposed serious weaknesses in the concept, the Army dispatched a pair of three-star generals to tell the Senate Armed Services Committee about “compelling experimental success.” And when the Army proceeded to impose the principles of the AWE on its divisions, combat power suffered just as the experiment had predicted. As demonstrated in both Iraq and Afghanistan, additional soldiers assigned to various headquarters did not negate the need for front-line troopers to engage the enemy.
In 2004, Army generals reorganized the new “modular” brigade combat team by stripping away one of its three maneuver battalions. Defying internal Army analysis that predicted a less-capable force, the leadership attempted to offset the loss of infantrymen, tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and artillery with larger headquarters elements, technology and more intelligence capability. After spending nearly nine years and reportedly $75 billion on the reorganization, Army leaders are now trying to reverse course by returning the third battalion to the BCT.
This sad pattern extends into combat operations, as well. Since 2004, senior American military leaders have consistently made claims of combat success in Afghanistan. In the face of substantial evidence to the contrary, they repeatedly argued that the Taliban were being defeated and the Afghan National Security Forces were steadily improving. After I chronicled these claims in a February 2012 essay in AFJ, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told reporters at a Pentagon news conference that he had read the article but remained confident in DoD’s assessment that the war was on the right track. The general, who was then the commander of NATO’s Joint Command in Afghanistan and who now directs the Joint Staff, said the Taliban had been “unsuccessful at even reaching the level” of past violence and would fail again in the coming year.
Unfortunately, Scaparrotti’s confidence turns out to have been misplaced. In April, the independent Afghanistan NGO Safety Office released its report for the first quarter of 2013. Flouting the general’s expectations, the reports states that “the opening dynamics of 2013 all indicate the likelihood of a return to 2011 levels of violence [the all-time high]. Though grim, this assessment only represents a further escalation in the perpetual stalemate that has come to characterize the conflict.”
When the New York Times tried to compare the ANSO report to official U.S. accounts, it discovered that the American military, “which last year publicized data on enemy attacks with meticulous bar graphs, now has nothing to say. ‘We’re just not giving out statistics anymore,’ said a spokesman, Col. Thomas W. Collins.”
After each of these failures, one might expect the Army and program leaders to have suffered censure. Instead, the opposite seems generally to have been the case. The leaders of failed programs and other efforts received prestigious medals, promotion to higher ranks, and plum follow-on jobs; others retired and went to work for defense contractors, often with companies that had profited from the failed acquisition effort.
Going Wrong Again
With such a record, it should come as little surprise that our senior uniformed leaders appear to be going wrong again. They are poised to create a smaller, less capable combat force just as the future operating environment grows more dangerous and our potential future adversaries grow more modern and proficient.
Before a nation’s defense establishment can craft an effective strategy, it must conduct a comprehensive analysis of the operating environment the future force may operate in. It must be able to reasonably assess the quality and nature of a given area’s economic, ecological, agricultural and demographic foundation, and make educated guesses as to where those categories will trend in the coming years. Such an analysis must also take into consideration the military forces operating in that same area: What are their capabilities, what doctrine governs their fighting forces, how are they modernizing, and how might they match up against friendly formations if conflict were to break out?
It has become typical to dismiss the possibility of state-on-state war, but the likelihood is high enough to warrant military planning for it. In December, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence published “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds,” an effort to “stimulate strategic thinking by identifying critical trends and potential discontinuities.” Among its main points was that “demand for food, water, and energy will grow by approximately 35, 40, and 50 percent respectively owing to an increase in the global population and consumption patterns of an expanding middle class.”
The report predicted: “Many countries probably won’t have the wherewithal to avoid food and water shortages without massive help from outside.” But an even greater factor is affordable crude oil, key to every aspect of economic development. Evidence suggests global production may not meet that need. Nor can the United States realistically look to near-term energy independence, despite recent media reports citing numerous oil advocacy groups who say it may arrive as soon as 2020. In reality, many factors make this unlikely, including global production fundamentals and limits to domestic tight oil production.
If current trends hold — global exports continue to shrink, China and India continue to increase their demand — and U.S. production of tight oil and gas do not perform as hoped, competition for food, water and energy will eventually depress economies across the globe. The danger of social unrest will rise apace. Moreover, the DNI report says, it is unclear whether the world’s financial system is resilient enough to withstand a “global breakdown” in the face of “stalled economies or financial crises.” All in all, there is a significant possibility of the kind of pressures on national governments that have in the past led to state-on-state war.
I do not advocate armed conflict with the People’s Republic of China, nor do I hold that such conflict is inevitable. To the contrary, I strongly suggest that we engage Beijing in the diplomatic and economic spheres to foster mutual understanding and the common good of our nations and those of other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Any sort of war would be destructive for all involved. Based on China’s recent declarations of their military intentions, however, it is wholly appropriate to ensure that our country is prepared for reasonable contingencies.
In April, the Chinese government laid out the focus of its military reformation in a white paper titled “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces.” “The Asia-Pacific region has become an increasingly significant stage for world economic development and strategic interaction between major powers,” the document said. “The U.S. is adjusting its Asia-Pacific security strategy, and the regional landscape is undergoing profound changes.”
To meet these changes, the paper says, the People’s Liberation Army “is engaged in the building of new types of combat forces. It optimizes the size and structure of the various services and arms, reforms the organization of the troops so as to make operational forces lean, joint, multi-functional and efficient. The PLA works to improve the training mechanism for military personnel of a new type … and strengthens the development of new- and high-technology weaponry and equipment to build a modern military force structure with Chinese characteristics.”
Over the past decade, the Chinese leadership has taken concrete steps toward these aspirations. In “Chinese Lessons from Other People’s Wars” (Strategic Studies Institute, 2011), Martin Andrew explained that the PLA no longer relies on large-scale artillery fires and masses of infantrymen. Since 2000, he notes, the Chinese have been “in the midst of a transformation from essentially an infantry-based force into one designed around combined arms mechanized operations. A decade into the new century, the PLA is redesigning its forces into battle groups, using modular force structures and logistics to support operations in high-altitude and complex terrains, conduct out of area operations, and develop the core for its vision of a hardened and network-centric army.”
Recent articles in Chinese professional journals confirm that the PLA conducts combined-arms joint field exercises that in some cases involve two mechanized divisions, air force and naval assets. These exercises combine computer simulation, field units equipped with laser gear (as the U.S. uses in its maneuver training centers) and live-fire ranges. Some of these exercises have taken place over hundreds of kilometers, akin to the Reforger exercises U.S. forces once conducted in Germany.
In short, during a decade in which the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have been focused almost exclusively on counterinsurgency and small-unit warfare, a new generation of Chinese military leaders has deepened its understanding and application of conventional warfare.
Cuts Planned, Not Changes
Against this backdrop, let us now examine how the Army’s senior military leaders are posturing the force. The 2013 Army Strategic Planning Guidance says the force is “preparing to meet the demands of the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and the emphasis on building partner capacity and shaping the security environment as directed by the new Defense strategic guidance.” It says such preparation will take the form of reinvigorating “existing capabilities, develop new capabilities for the changing environment, and adapt processes to reflect the broader range of requirements.” Ultimately, it says, “[t]he breadth of missions the Army must fulfill requires changing priorities in the way it organizes, mans, trains, equips and sustains to ensure that it is an agile, responsive, tailorable force capable of responding to any mission, anywhere, anytime.”
Unfortunately, the document’s amorphous language makes it difficult to ascertain how these concepts translate into actual plans and capabilities for the Army. There is little in the way of explaining what missions the Army will need to be prepared for beyond the bumper sticker of “across the range of military operations.”
And regardless of the answers to those questions, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno warned he may be unable to accomplish even these uncertain objectives. In Feb. 12 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Odierno said: “If nothing is done to mitigate the effects of operations under a continuing resolution, shortfalls in our funding of overseas operations, and the enactment of sequestration … the Army will be forced to make dramatic cuts to its personnel, its readiness, and its modernization programs, hence putting our national security at risk. … If not addressed, the current fiscal uncertainty will significantly and rapidly degrade Army readiness for the next five to 10 years.” He followed that up April 23 by saying that if budget constraints were not eased, he would have to cut at least 100,000 troops more than currently projected.
Few expect fiscal conditions to change soon, and so it appears the chief is prepared to respond by producing a smaller, less capable version of the Army that exists today.
What is needed now is real change, not mere cutting. In 1997, Douglas Macgregor, then an Army lieutenant colonel, published the first of two books on defense and Army reorganization. In his books, Macgregor (with whom I fought during Operation Desert Storm as part of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment) proposed to reorganize the Army into truly plug-and-play deployable modules that would be synchronized with the plans and capabilities of the Air Force and Navy. A reorganization along these lines could create a force that would add fighting strength, cost substantially less to operate, be more sustainable over the long term, and be more strategically and operationally responsive to the Joint Force.
The ideas are powerful enough to have moved a succession of senior Army leaders to pay them lip service — adopting “modular” and “adaptable” formations, for example. Yet the essential building blocks of the Army have remained unchanged: The force is still composed of combatant commands, followed by a corps-level three-star command, a two-star division command, continuing down to brigade and below. Even the weapons are the same: the M1 Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, 155mm self-propelled howitzer, Multiple Launch Rocket System, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters and iterations of command-and-control networks. In terms of tactical and operational effectiveness in combat operations, virtually nothing has changed.
Given the increasing conventional capability of our potential adversaries, the rising possibility of a chaotic future operating environment, the growing likelihood of an extended period of constrained budgets, and the statements made by our senior leaders that our Army will become smaller and less capable in the coming years, a substantive change in the composition and culture of the senior leaders must be undertaken.
I am not alone in sensing a pattern of failure at the top. In May 2007, Army Lt. Col. Paul Yingling argued (“A Failure of Generalship,” AFJ) that our military failures in Vietnam and the first four years in Iraq were “not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officer corps. … If Congress does not act, [avoidable military defeat] awaits us.” Five years later, Tom Ricks expanded on the theme (“General Failure,” The Atlantic), writing, “Looking back on the troubled wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many observers are content to lay blame on the Bush administration. But inept leadership by American generals was also responsible for the failure of those wars. A culture of mediocrity has taken hold within the Army’s leadership rank — if it is not uprooted, the country’s next war is unlikely to unfold any better than the last two.”
The question today’s civilian leaders must ask themselves is this: Can America’s future interests best be served by those who have the track record, described above, of the past two decades, or by revitalizing the senior leader ranks via reform?
It is never easy to change national institutions. Inertia and the powerful constituencies that benefit from the status quo can be counted on to resist change. Current conditions offer a window in which change may be possible. First, the budget reductions mean that regardless of what anyone wants, change is coming. Second, the war in Iraq is over and our combat role in Afghanistan will be ending next year. Third, there is a new defense secretary who has at least declared a need for reform and, according to Army Times, there is soon to be a new Army secretary. Thus, in a time of inevitable change and manageable near-term combat risk, the civilian leader of DoD has the opportunity to bring in a new leadership team and make wide-ranging reforms.
The following changes should be considered:
Replace a substantial chunk of today’s generals, starting with the three- and four-star ranks. This is likely the most controversial step, yet also the most necessary. It is unlikely that today’s top leaders — who are products and benefactors of the existing system — have the appropriate motivation or buy-in for substantive change. New leadership is required. In particular, the Army needs a visionary leader at the top with the experience, moral standing and iron will to lead the charge against those who will resist and obstruct such reform.
Fix the promotion system. To change the performance of the general officer corps, there must be a reform in the way officers are selected for promotion. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, has recently indicated he might change the evaluation system of general officers, but his suggestions are too minor to deliver substantive change. The new “iron-willed” leader must develop the parameters and objectives of this reform, which should, at a minimum, be based on demonstrated superior performance, holding leaders accountable for what they do or fail to do, and fostering a new culture that encourages prudent risk-taking and nonconformist thinking.
Shrink the general officer corps. In 1945, about 2,000 general and flag officers led a total of about 12 million citizens in uniform. Today, we have about 900 generals and admirals and 1.4 million troops, and the ratio of leader-to-led has accelerated upward in the two decades since the end of the Cold War. In an age of unprecedented communications technology and with the education and training opportunities for today’s soldiers, this is indefensible. Many general officer billets are redundant and should be eliminated; others can effectively be filled by colonels or even lieutenant colonels.
With appropriate reform and new leadership, there is every reason to expect that the Army will continue to secure America’s national security interests even in an era of constrained budgets and an increasingly chaotic operating environment. AFJ
FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM
1. A big sandwich, and everyone has been taking a bite. Editor Lindy Kyzer’s blog about 30 days ago pretty well predicts the trends in the security debate: “Of the 20 investigators who have been convicted of fraud, it’s an even split as far as who’s done the lying (contractor or government employee). Abuse isn’t solely in the hands of private contractors. While unreasonable deadlines and antiquated reporting procedures may incentivize shortcuts by contractors, government employees face the same things. If, perhaps, a reduced likelihood of being fired for failure.”
2. Want to be a spy? From the vaults, D.B. Grady reminds us, “Honesty is the best policy, whatever your past. . . . Investigations are thorough, and you need to assume that they will find out everything about you. This includes juvenile records—‘even those that are sealed, purged, burned, rocketed into the sun.’ Complete disclosure is essential, because it’s the investigators’ jobs to determine if you’re susceptible to blackmail. Some past transgression won’t necessarily disqualify you; lying about it will.”
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. Money driven strategy. DefenseNews.Com reports that drastic defense budget cuts are forcing DoD to redraw Combatant Commands. Marcus Weisgerber explains, “The Pentagon is considering a major overhaul of its geographical combatant commands, possibly realigning oversight within hot-button areas of the world and eliminating thousands of military and civilian positions, according to defense sources. . . . Regional experts agree the Pentagon could reorganize its combatant commands to better align the headquarters with long-term strategic goals.”
2. Mexican standoff, Egyptian style. Committed to Morsi, his supporters are dug in and swear their not moving until the ousted leader is reinstated. Police in Egypt are ready to oust them, too. AP’s Aya Batrway reports from Cairo, “Supporters of Egypt’s ousted president have dug in at their two Cairo sit-ins after security officials said police would besiege the entrenched protest camps within 24 hours – perhaps as early as Monday morning. The development sets the stage for a possible confrontation between the military-backed government and the thousands gathered at the protest sites in support of ex-President Mohammed Morsi.” According to Reuters’ Michael Georgy, “Officials had said police would move at dawn to disperse the camps in what could prove a bloody confrontation with those seeking Mursi’s restitution, but by midday they had not done so.” Aljazeera reports that protesters are battening down hatches and shoring up their lines. Stay tuned – looks like there’s gonna be a showdown.
a. “Afghanistan’s Poorest Are Bearing the Brunt of the War.” Time.Com’s Mujib Mashal and Dasht-e-Qala report from Kabul, “Nearly 12 years into the war, the mission for the Americans and their international allies (operating in a joint coalition known as ISAF) has shifted: the coalition forces mostly stay out of the field, letting Afghan soldiers assume the brunt of the fighting. Western officials hail the security transition as a success on the grounds that ISAF casualties have reduced significantly. June, the bloodiest month for them this year, saw 27 soldiers killed. But on the Afghan side, about 300 soldiers died in the same period — a reported 22% increase from the same month last year. This, combined with a monthly attrition rate of over 3% — British officials report the rate of recruits leaving the Afghan army is around 63,000 every year, or more than a third of the current size of the force — paints a gloomy picture.
b. In Afghanistan, Afghan Local Police under more UNAMA scrutiny. Khaama.Com reports, “According to reports, UNAMA has requested the government of Afghanistan to have strict observation of the background and history of those individuals who are being recruited in Local Police forces. Afghan Local Police forces have been accused of human rights violations and other violent actions. The local police forces are recruited by the interior ministry of Afghanistan, and are separate from the Afghan National Police (ANP).”
c. Committed to Afghanistan – don’t let the forces heading out the backdoor fool ya. AP’s Patrick Quinn reports from Kabul, “The top U.S. and coalition commander in Afghanistan stressed Saturday that the signing of a stalled bilateral security agreement between America and Afghanistan was needed to send a clear signal both to the Afghan people and the Taliban that the international community remains committed to the country’s future stability even as foreign forces withdraw.”
4. Two more Al Qaeda Arabian Peninsula hit by drones. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, “The US launched yet another airstrike in Yemen, killing two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in a strike on a vehicle in southern Yemen. . . . The strike, which took place in the southern province of Lahj, targeted a vehicle as it traveled ‘on a mountain road late on Saturday evening,’ Reuters reported. The vehicle was ‘believed to be carrying arms and its occupants were suspected members of al Qaeda.’”
5. Happy Eid al-Fitr. McClatchyDC.Com reports from Baghdad, “At least 64 people were killed and nearly 200 injured in a series of bombings in Iraq during weekend Eid al-Fitr celebrations, Interior Ministry sources said. Other sources put the casualty tolls at 91 dead and some 300 injured in the attacks, mostly against Baghdad districts that are predominantly Shiite, sources said.” Peace be with you.
1. Fall & Winter Defense Contract outlook. WaPo’s Ashley Bergander gives us the season’s pregame: “Several noteworthy Defense Department contracts are up for competition this fall and winter. All three contracting programs are being re-competed, and incumbent contractors are expected to take part in each competition.”
2. POTUS, Putin, and Contracts. $1.1 billion going to Russian arms industry. TheAtlantic.Com contributor Sonni Efron gives 10 good reasons to dump the Ruskies: “Even if Obama breaks up with Putin, he can’t take the ring back; Moscow won’t give refunds for aircraft DOD has already paid for. But we needn’t rush to buy Afghanistan 15 more choppers it can’t yet fly.”
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. NSA thumbs its nose to Congress: backdoor battle over a year old. TheGuardian.Com’s Spencer Ackerman reports, “In letters, hearings and one big legislative push last year, senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have tried to close what Wyden calls a ‘backdoor search loophole’, to ensure that communications from Americans that inadvertently turn up in NSA databases are promptly purged. And they have tried to stop intelligence officials from publicly saying they can do no such thing when, behind closed doors, the officials acknowledge to the Senate intelligence committee they have that authority.” See related at TheGuardian.Com, “Spy agency has secret backdoor permission to search databases for individual Americans’ communications.”
2. Calm down . . . new iPhone just over the horizon. VentureBeat.Com’s Matt Marshall gives us the 411 on the gadget: “The most heavily anticipated phone is the iPhone 5S, which will feature the next generation operating system, iOS 7, and is expected to have a new fingerprint sensor to boost security and offer other interesting features. The biometric security feature comes in part from a company AuthenTec that Apple acquired last year.” See related, “Apple’s ‘iPhone 5S’ rumored convex home button.”
3. Get the most out of your iPad. Telegraph.Co.UK discovers, “More adventurous users have . . . discovered some hidden features that are perhaps not so obvious and have shared them. Here we provide give you a quick tour of the best hidden features of the iPad and show just what it can do.”
1. Getting on the Peace Train. WaPo’s Sari Horwitz reports that common sense is breaking out in the Department of Justice as it falls in behind Sanjay Gupta, Washington state, Colorado, and others in the pot parade: “Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is set to announce Monday that low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no ties to gangs or large-scale drug organizations will no longer be charged with offenses that impose severe mandatory sentences. . . . The Justice Department has not said how it will respond to the measures in Colorado and Washington, leaving state and local officials confused about exactly how to proceed. A Justice Department spokesman said the matter is still under review.”
2. “He let out a little ‘Oooooh.” How POTUS puts and parties. WaPo covers President Obama’s escape to Martha’s Vineyard: “Taking a break from wrangling over immigration reform and planning for federal budget debates, the president began his first full day of vacation with a midday round at Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs. He was joined by aide Marvin Nicholson and White House chef Sam Kass, with Robert Wolf, a former UBS Americas chairman and one of Obama’s principal Wall Street allies, completing the foursome.” A new dance – POTUS’ Putting Pogo.
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. “Obama giving up some executive power.” TheDailyBeast.Com’s Michael Tomasky argues, “I think it’s pretty remarkable that a president, any president, announced, without absolutely being forced to, a series of steps that relinquish some degree of executive power. . . . I’m hardly jumping up and down that the National Security Agency is going to have a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer. But two of Obama’s other recommendations might have some bite.”
2. Putin’s political prisoner. USNews.Com’s Daniel J. Gallington argues, “Just in case you’re curious, or for that matter to confirm your worst suspicions, there was no way that the Russians (and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin) were about to allow perhaps their greatest intelligence windfall in history – that being NSA leaker Edward Snowden – to slip through their fingers. So they didn’t allow it, and they won’t. Instead, Putin gave Snowden ‘temporary asylum’ in Russia or some other such nonsense status – and a ‘job,’ to keep him there. Will they exploit him? Sure, and my guess is that he won’t be able to leave until they get all he knows, one way or another.”
3. Snubbing Putin – what can it mean? Reuters’ Ian Bremmer argues, “By snubbing Putin when he did, Obama will allow Secretaries of State and Defense John Kerry and Chuck Hagel and their Russian counterparts to work back up from this low-water mark when they meet this week. If he had waited to snub Putin, it would unwind any progress that might come out of the current meetings. Obama clearly understands there is more room for productivity among senior diplomats than between the heads of state, where the relationship has always been icy, and any shortcomings are higher profile.”
4. Al Qaeda – it’s getting worse. So argues CNSNews.Com contributor Patrick Goodenough: “The al-Qaeda terrorist threat against America is “getting worse, not better,” it’s “deceptive” of President Obama to suggest otherwise, and a lack of U.S. leadership is contributing to the problem, two senior Republican lawmakers charged on Sunday.”
2. NSA Jobs.
3. NSA Transparency.
1. Big fish winning in sequestration. Contributor Diana Rodriguez reports, “. . . Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, showed significant increases in earnings and stocks. Even with the ever-increasing government budget cuts, constraints, and cancellation of contracts, the bigger and wealthier defense contracting firms are seeing profits due to their ability to wait out contract and budget holds. This ability gives them an advantage over smaller companies who don’t have the same fiscal cushion or resources to sustain them.”
2. Money and trust in short supply, so intel sharing suffers. One less of GWOT was share, share, share information. Contributor Chandler Harris explains how budget challenges are creating an every-agency-for-itself culture catalyzed by Snowden-esque fears: “Intelligence community information sharing is increasingly difficult as agencies batten down in the face of budget cuts. . . . the leaks by Edward Snowden and other high profile leaks may have had an impact on the way these information-sharing projects move forward.” Along those lines, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins “acknowledged the challenges ahead in changing the Defense Department’s tactics, techniques and procedures and integrating that culture on a cyberspace landscape with numerous networks.”
3. Tech-masochist-exhibitionist heyday. For those who don’t yet believe the NSA is looking through your drapes, contributor D.B. Grady offers 5 ways you can invite them on in: “Spy agencies have long been known for the programs they secretly install on your computer. (Or on Iran’s computers, at least.) But you might be surprised to know that the U.S. intelligence community has also made available an assortment of free spy software, apps, and databases designed for everything from keeping your children safe to locking down your operating system. The best part is that you won’t even have to buy General Alexander a beer after.” Nicely said, D.B.
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. In Egypt, “’the moment we would rather avoid.’” Aljazeera.Com reports from Cairo, Morsi-supporters continue to protest generally peacefully, but interim prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi warns, the ruling government’s time is running out: “The government has said it held off from breaking up the protest camps in Cairo out of respect for the holy month of Ramadan . . . and to give foreign mediators to find a peaceful solution. . . . ‘The government wants to give the protesters, especially the reasonable ones among them, a chance to reconcile and heed the voice of reason . . . .’”
2. In Afghanistan, ANA brings the hammer down in Logar. Khaama.Com reports, “Afghan defense ministry officials on Friday said around 200 militants mostly foreigners were killed during the operations in eastern Logar province of Afghanistan. Defense ministry spokesman, Gen. Zahir Azimi said that the main operations in Azra district have ended, and Afghan national army is currently conducting search operation.” Note – no mention of coalition assistance in the operation. Also, Taliban prefer Karzai’s brother to Karzai and Sweden’s 40% aid increase to Afghanistan.
3. Same-sex spouses coming into the fold. AP’s Lolita Baldor reports, “Same-sex spouses of military members could get health care, housing and other benefits by the end of August . . . In the new draft memo, Hagel says the department intends to treat all married military personnel the same and ‘make the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of sexual orientation.’”
4. In AFRICOM, “Exercise Africa Endeavor 2013 Kicks off in Zambia.” U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs reports, “Africa Endeavor’s primary objective is to increase the command, control and communications capacities of African nations by encouraging interoperable tactics, training and procedures, and creating documented standards that support interoperability. This allows African nations to provide critical support to the African Union and African Standby forces involved in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peacekeeping missions.”
5. Bring in the drones. ForeignPolicy.Com contributor Elias Groll dissects the drone war in detail: “The drone war is back. Amid fears that al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Yemen are plotting a major attack, U.S. drones reportedly launched three strikes in the country on Thursday alone, killing 12 suspected al Qaeda militants. In fact, the Obama administration is arguably waging its most intense drone campaign ever in Yemen, with nine suspected drone strikes in the last 13 days and six in the last three. The concentrated bombing is all the more striking considering that just days ago the State Department was shuttering nearly two dozen embassies around the world in response to what seemed an amorphous terrorist threat.”
1. Anti-counterfeiting rules challenging contractors. NextGov.Com’s Aliya Sternstein reports, “Many contractors admit they will be unable to immediately comply with a rule, taking effect by March 2014, that would require contractors to either develop a new system for detecting counterfeit electronic parts or forego payment. . . . a Senate Armed Services Committee two-year investigation uncovered in excess of 1 million suspect electronic parts in the Pentagon supply chain. The suspected bogus components were found in mission computers for a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile, military aircraft and other key systems. The infractions were traced to China more than 70 percent of the time.”
2. Excluding engines . . . . AviationWeek.Com announces that the Pentagon is excited to get F-35s at under $100 million per copy, engine and retrofits not included: “The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have agreed to a handshake deal for the latest two lots of F-35 airframes, and based on cost projections the program for the first time is targeting a unit price under $100 million, excluding engines and retrofits. . . . A breakdown of additional prices such as the F135 engine and projected retrofits reveals a far higher cost.”
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. POTUS instigates forward movement in the surveillance debate. Armed Forces Press Service Cheryl Pellerin covers President Obama’s press conference, during which POTUS “announced four steps that he said would move the public debate forward about classified government surveillance programs that gather data about the telephone records of Americans and others. . . . the president said he has consulted with members of Congress, asked the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review tensions between counterterrorism efforts and American values, and directed the national security team to be more transparent and pursue reforms of laws and practices.” See also AP’s “Surveillance Debate Intrudes into Obama’s Agenda” and McClatchy’s “Obama wants more oversight on government surveillance.”
2. Space going commercial, with successes. Many of us (a few of us?) faintly remember watching the first moonwalk on black and white Zeniths. Now, NASA’s Commercial Pilot Program (CCP) is making acceptable progress. AviationWeek.Com’s Mark Carreu reports, “Despite potential funding troubles, a new sense of optimism is surrounding NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) to transport crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017. . . . The Apollo-shaped capsule has met eight of 19 milestones outlined under Boeing’s $460 million NASA Commercial Crew Integrated Capability agreement . . .” In case you don’t remember the first moon walk.
3. Sikorsky removing the weakest link – people. DefenseNews.Com contributor Aaron Mehta introduces Sikorsky’s Matrix suite, “a collection of software algorithms designed to introduce a higher level of autonomy in airborne vehicles. . . . The goal of Matrix is to create the option of removing a human controller entirely from the equation, with the software taking in situational data and information, processing it and making decisions on how the aircraft should proceed.”
4. Snowden effects on security professionals. ClearanceJobs.Com research featured in NextGov.Com. NextGov.Com’s Brittany Ballenstedt explains, “many of those security-cleared pros fear the repercussions that may result from the Snowden case, including a possible slowdown in the clearance process . . . . ‘It’s important to remember the government focused on speeding up the clearance process in part to stop losing qualified applicants that withdraw due to wait times,’ said Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com. ‘At a time when the government is hurting for qualified cybersecurity professionals, the clearance process is critical. Our cyber talent is mainly in private industry and bringing that talent into government positions is difficult at best.’”
1. POTUS and the surveillance shimmy. TheGuardian.Com, POTUS’ favorite rag, reports, “Obama said that revelations about the National Security Agency’s activities had led Americans to question their trust in government and damaged the country’s reputation abroad. But he made it clear that the programs themselves would remain in place. . . . ‘It makes sense to go ahead, lay out what exactly we are doing, have a discussion with Congress, have a discussion with industry, which is also impacted by this, have a discussion with civil libertarians, and see if we can do this better.’” But, if we cannot do better, that’s ok, too. The shimmy?
2. Passive-Aggressive Putin. Reuters’ Timothy Heritage reports, “Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram on Thursday to his old sparring partner, former U.S. President George W. Bush, wishing him a quick recovery from heart surgery. It may have been coincidence that the Kremlin released details of the telegram a day after Barack Obama pulled out of a planned summit with Putin, but little is left to chance in Russian politics.” See Vanity Fair’s take, and expansion.
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. How to deal with the terrorist franchise. Time.Com contributor Fareed Zakaria argues, “. . . the best policy in the long run would be to shift the struggle over to locals, who can most effectively win a long war against militants in territory they know better than any outsiders. It also shifts the struggle over to Muslims, who can most effectively battle al-Qaeda in the realm of ideas.”
2. “Keeping Whistleblowers Nervous.” TheAtlantic.Com’s Amitai Etzioni argues in an excellent read, “some ‘chilling’ of the leakers is called for if we are going to have any state secrets left.”
3. Arab Spring plows fertile fields for Al Qaeda. ForeignPolicy.Com’s Marc Lynch argues, “What is less often appreciated, however, is the extent to which the Syrian jihad has helped bring al Qaeda’s ideology into the mainstream of the Arab world. Its struggle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has given it a major role in a cause that is now central to Arab concerns.”
1. Shark week.
3. Not gonna happen.