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Please join us at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) on Sunday 22 Sep 13 for Midrats Episode 194: “DD214, Unpacked Boxes and the road ahead”:

When a few years turns in to many. When all of a sudden you seem to be the oldest guy in the room. When you have but days of memories of your kids and in the blink of an eye they are a year older – eventually everyone on active duty reaches the point where it is time to pack the sea bag one more time and put it in the attic.


It is time to retire or leave active duty. Better or worse – it is time to go.

What are the paths someone follows to reach that point? What decisions and inputs lead to that point where you say, “It’s someone else’s turn.”

What are the important things you learn in the process of leaving going out that you wish you knew earlier? What are the myths about transitioning to the civilian world – and what are the no-kidding hard truths?

How do you interact differently with the civilian world? What must someone leave behind, and what are those things that if you want them or not, they will always be with you?

To discuss this and more on the subject of “what’s next” when you leave active duty will be out panel with returning guest Commander James H. Ware, USN (Ret.)., and former active duty Sergeant Marcus Penn, USMC.

Join us at 5pm on Sunday 22 Sep 13 or pick the show up later by clicking here.



Join us at 5pm Eastern on Sunday 8 Sep 13 for Midrats Episode 192: “No, I Won’t Shut-up and Cover”:

Is there such a thing as Military Intellectual Entrepreneurialism?

Large, sated, and complacent organization do not have a good track record of survival. Organizations of any size that nurture the mentality of small, hungry, and driven by creative destruction and friction based on competing ideas – that is the path to success. Always has been, always will be.

How do we get that attitude to permeate the military? How do we harness the power of an entrepreneurial mindset to build a better national security and defense structure?

As we just start to enter another period of resource limitation in the face of an ever changing international security landscape – do we take advantage of the need for change, or do we buckle under our own moss-covered and hide-bound habits?

To discuss this concept for the full hour, as well as the upcoming Defense Entrepreneurs Forum 12-14 OCT will be our panel:

- LT Ben Kohlmann, USN – Founder of Disruptive Thinkers, F/A-18 pilot and member of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell, Co-Founder Defense Entrepreneurs Forum.

- Capt Anthony Hatala, USMC – AV-8B Harrier Pilot, C-130 Harvest HAWK Operator, Founder Military Traveler, Co-Founder Defense Entrepreneurs Forum.

- MAJ Nathan Finney, USA – Armor Officer, US Army Harvard Strategy Fellow, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Foundation for Strategy Development

- Capt Jeff Gilmore, USAF – C-17 Pilot, AMC eFlight Bag Program, co-founder MilitaryLounge

Join us live at 5pm Eastern U.S. or listen later by clicking here.



Considering the current fiscal climate and pressure to reduce defense spending, policy makers and military leaders are looking for innovative ways to reduce operating costs. The Pentagon is not alone in this endeavor and the entire federal government is undergoing similar belt-tightening efforts.

One approach directed by the President’s Office of Management and Budget in its Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Guidance is the increased use of evidence based decision making as a way to reduce costs and improve program effectiveness. This aligns well to the old management axiom “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” and should be applied to the ongoing effort to Reduce Administrative Distractions.

When one compares defense acquisitions to product development in the private sector, the amount of oversight and administration in defense programs are significant factors in the cost-per-unit disparity. Every private American automobile, aircraft and ship manufacturer would certainly be bankrupt if they had to contend with the excessive oversight each defense program must endure.

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Join us this Sunday, 21 July at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) for Midrats Episode 185: Getting “Next” Right with John Nagl:

So, which is it? Do we forget our history and are therefore doomed to repeat it, or are we always preparing to fight the next war?

As we finish up the final chapter of our participation in Afghanistan after well over a decade, and reflect on the changes in the arch of the Muslim world from the Atlas mountains to Mindanao – what do we need, intellectually, to retain for what is coming “next?”

With one eye on historical patterns and another on developing economic, demographic, and political trends – what do we need to do to man, train, and equip the armed forces to be best positioned to address what we think we will face, but flexible enough to meet what we don’t know?

Our guest for the full hour will be John Nagl, Lt Col USA (Ret.), PhD, presently the Minerva Research Professor at the US Naval Academy, previously the President of CNAS.

Dr. Nagl was a Distinguished Graduate of the United States Military Academy Class of 1988 who served as an armor officer in the U.S. Army for 20 years. His last military assignment was as commander of the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor. He led a tank platoon in Operation Desert Storm and served as the operations officer of a tank battalion task force in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nagl taught national security studies at West Point and Georgetown University and served as a Military Assistant to two Deputy Secretaries of Defense.

He earned his Master of the Military Arts and Sciences Degree from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and his doctorate from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

He is the author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and was on the writing team that produced the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. His writings have also been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, among others.

Join us live on the 21st or, if you can’t make it, pick the show up later by clicking here.



bowl-of-white-riceMid-week brings up a few issues that we should be watching as the budget battles and the new SECDEF’s restructuring starts to shape facts on the ground.

First off the bat is the best news of the week from SECDEF Hagel. Some may say it is pocket change, but it really isn’t. More than anything else, this sets the tone and has out front who should already be there. Good start and hopefully generates some desired 2nd-order effects. Via Craig Whitlock at WaPo;

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that he has ordered a 20 percent cut in the number of top brass and senior civilians at the Pentagon by 2019, the latest attempt to shrink the military bureaucracy after years of heady growth.

Hagel’s directive could force the Pentagon and military command staffs to shed an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 jobs. That’s a tiny percentage of the Defense Department’s 2.1 million active-duty troops and civilian employees, but analysts said it would be a symbolically important trimming of the upper branches of the bureaucracy, which has proved to be resistant to past pruning attempts.

Exactly. We went through PTS and ERB while the senior levels floated at anchor. If done in conjunction with Staff restructuring, significant efficiencies on the admin side of the house at least will be in order.

Late Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman George Little estimated that Hagel’s order would result in total savings that “could be in the range” of $1.5 billion to $2 billion over five years. In a statement, he said that the number of job cuts was yet to be determined and that they wouldn’t begin until 2015.

In 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered a three-year freeze on staffing in his office, the Joint Staff and the military combatant commands. But a recent analysis by Defense News, a trade publication, found that the size of those staffs nevertheless has grown by about 15 percent.

You can buy a lot of training for $2.1 billion in 5 years. We’ll take it.

That is the official side – and when you start taking away people’s parking spaces and personal staff – that will create a bit of friction down at the Potomac Flotilla tactical level.

On the unofficial side, the real fireworks will take place when, and I believe it will, as the concept raised by Zachary Keck at TheDiplomat continues to set its roots;

… the different services within the armed forces have long been treated with near perfect equality.

That’s at least one implication of the Golden Ratio principle of defense budgeting, whereby the three different services—the Army, Navy (including Marines), and Air Force—receive a constant and nearly equal share of the defense budget. As Travis Sharp, one of the most outspoken critics of the Golden Ratio, explains: “Since fiscal year 1948, the Army, Navy, and Air Force have on average received 28 percent, 31 percent, and 33 percent, respectively, of DOD’s annual budget. Hot war, cold war, or no war – the allotment of the services’ budgets has remained relatively constant over time.”

However, with the post-9/11 wars winding down, a potential future peer competitor emerging, and austerity taking hold, the U.S. no longer needs nor can it afford to continue obliging the military equality of the Golden Ratio.

For one thing, the shift to the Indo-Pacific, as well as the declining utility of large ground forces, eliminates the strategic rationale of holding the three armed services in equal esteem, at least when it comes to the allocation of resources.

Now THAT is something that will keep a lot of people busy for the rest of the decade.



Jim WiseThe U.S. Naval Institute and the military history and literary world lost a great man in July, Captain Jim Wise. He was 82.

After graduating from Northwestern University, he became a naval aviator in 1953 and served as an intelligence officer, going on to command various naval intelligence units until he retired in 1975. He later held several senior executive posts in private-sector companies. Following that, he began to dabble in writing.

Jim was working on Stars in Blue, a book he was writing about celebrities in the U.S. Navy with Annie Rehill, when the phone rang at home one day. His wife answered, and the caller said he was Paul Newman. “Oh, sure it is,” she said, and handed the phone to Jim. Turns out it was, indeed, the multi-Oscar winner, a Navy veteran who called to tell Jim he found a photo of himself on the deck of a ship he served in.

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Welcome to America’s Syria Policy, the China round. Having made the public announcement of support to the rebels, only two feasible policy options remain for the United States; these examples arise from two moments in history, existing together on a razor’s edge of success in a smorgasbord of disaster. We either take a page from the Kuomintang-Maoist balance during the invasion by Imperial Japan or from the footnotes of America’s opening of China in the 1970′s.

Beyond the Syrian Sub-Plot

To much of the leadership of the Maoists (CCP) and the Kuomintang (KMT), both members of the Second “United Front”, the invasion by Japan was merely a precarious backdrop to the continued struggle for the face of China’s independent future. In the words of their leadership:

The photographer cropped out the knives behind their backs.

“70 percent self-expansion, 20 percent temporization and 10 percent fighting the Japanese.”

-Mao Zedong

“The Japanese are a disease of the skin, the communists are a disease of the heart.”
-Chiang Kai Shek

Even while the battle with Japan raged, Chiang-Kai Shek and Mao’s soldiers exchanged fire behind the lines of control. The conflict was partially a vessel by which the KMT and CCP collected foreign aid and built local influence/human resources for the final battle between the United Front’s membership. The limits of treachery within the Chinese alliance were often what each party felt able to get away with. China’s fate, not the rejection of an interloper, was the main prize.

The Syrian civil war has become such a major sub-plot; the two major parties, the Assad regime and the rebellion, are dominated by equally bad options: an extremist authoritarian backed by Hezbollah and Iran, and extremist Islamists backed by Al-Qaeda. Syria is beyond her “Libya Moment” when moderates and technocrats were still strong enough to out-influence extremist elements in stand-up combat with the regime. Like the KMT or CCP, the United States must now concentrate on the survival of what little faction of sanity exists within the war, as opposed to the war itself.

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Episode 181: Summer Solstice Melee 06/23 by Midrats | Blog Talk Radio:

Yakont system

Here is your chance; its the end of 2QCY13 and you haven’t heard the topic you wanted on Midrats yet?

There is a question you would like to hear the hosts grapple with about maritime and national security issues?

Or, are you just interested in discussing the latest developments in unmanned systems, pacific pivot, budget battles, Russian relations, China intentions, and more?

On, above, and under the sea – we’ll cover it today for a full hour free for all. The phone lines will be open and we’ll also take questions directly from the chat room.

Come join us.

Join us live at 5 pm or download the show later by clicking here

Image: Russian made “Bastion” mobile shore-based missile complex (MSMC) with “Yakhont” unified supersonic homing anti-ship missile (ASM) from here. Components of this system have reportedly been provided to Syria, along with other weapons.



An implementation directive for Better Buying Power 2.0 was recently released by OSD (AT&L) Mr. Frank Kendall. Better Buying Power (BBP) 2.0 provides refined guidance to the acquisition community on how the Armed Services should approach meeting Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Carter’s guidance on ensuring affordability while increasing productivity. This effort will ultimately improve defense spending outcomes to deliver better value to the taxpayer and warfighter. I applaud what I have read in the memorandums and believe the DoD will be successful in time. However, as I have come to understand the Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative, I believe that I would be negligent if I did not bring up, what I consider to be, a basic flaw to making Better Buying Power 2.0 successful. That basic flaw is the DoD’s understanding and acceptance of risk associated with Better Buying Power 2.0. More importantly, a cultural change is required to enable BBP 2.0 to be successful. Personnel will have to be accept change in the acquisition process and the career uncertainty associated with increased risk associated with affordable, timely capability acquisition. The cultural change will require leadership backing, time, and support to be successful.

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Last night I got to visit with a good friend who is about to retire. We spent most of the visit talking about her post-retirement project, which was fitting for Memorial Day: the day after her retirement ceremony, she is embarking on a cross-country bike ride to meet with and interview Gold Star Mothers. The purpose of her ride is to focus on the families and the sons and daughters they lost, to give a voice to the memories that they have, and to remember. She’ll ride from state to state, and as she completes each day or more of riding, she will meet these families and conduct interviews. The interviews are not so much formal interviews as they are a way for these families to share their memories of their sons and daughters so that others will get to know them too. She’ll see baby pictures and scrapbooks, watch videos and hear stories. And in the process, and in her subsequent work on the subject, she will get to know some of those we have lost and—more importantly—will keep their memories alive.Gravestone of PFC George Dittmann, USMC

It’s going to be exhausting and draining, and I am humbled by the enormity of her project.

We forget so easily—and yes, those of us who have served tend to forget less easily than others, but we all forget at some point—the enormity of the loss and sacrifice that so many have endured. As a nation, we pay tribute on our appointed “holiday” days. And then life goes on for most.

As a child, I often heard the story of my great-uncle George, who enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War II and was killed in action during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was the youngest of seven children, the baby of a big, Catholic family in New Orleans. Family legend has it that when he was 17, the Marine Corps recruiter told him he was too short to enlist, and he desperately wanted to be a Marine, so he went home and stretched himself out by holding onto the claw feet of the bathtub. Sure enough, within a year, he was miraculously tall enough to enlist, so he shipped out and ended up on Iwo Jima.

Private First Class Dittmann was present for the flag-raising on Mount Suribachi, but just over two weeks later, he was killed. My great-grandparents received the telegram notifying them of his death. Painfully, shortly after that, the mailman brought a letter from George, written shortly before he was killed. Today, my grandmother remembers with incredible clarity the pain of that time. I’ve only seen two pictures of him, and to the best of my knowledge, that’s all that the family had when he died, barely 19 years old.

Things are different now in some ways: technology has changed that. If he had been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, the details of his death might still be fuzzy, but his pictures, videos, and cell phone messages would still be around. But in other ways, nothing has changed. The grief, the painfully empty space, and the loss are all the same. Memorial Day should make people remember, but only if they have forgotten. Memorial Day in the Washington area is a series of cookouts and sales and pool parties and parades. And oh, that’s right, a day to remember those we have lost. For my great-grandmother, and for all of the mothers, fathers, siblings, children, husbands and wives left behind, Memorial Day is not a single, lone day. Memorial Day is every day, every hour, and every minute for the rest of their lives.



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