This Sunday join us for our 5th Anniversary Show. No guests, no agendas – just us talking about what 2014 had to teach us, and looking towards what 2015 may have in store for everyone in the national security arena. This is a great time if you ever wanted to call in to ask either one of us a question on a topic you wish we would address … or just to say “hi.” Just be warned, we might ask you a question back. It’s what we do.
5pm EST. 4 Jan 14.
Okay, kids, here’s America’s newest fun game: “Name that 2015 Hotspot!”
The challenge is to pick 15 places which have the potential to become hell holes for their residents and which will involve the presence of U.S. military forces before the dust clears. Name a place and give a quick reason. The fact that a place is already a disaster does not exclude putting it on this list, but you do have to state why you think it will continue to be a troubled area. You can add places in the comments or send me an email and I’ll tack them on the list. It is perfectly okay to challenge things on the list. In fact, it is encouraged. Got more than 15? That’s okay, I had to use 15 to make it work with the year.
Contest ends whenever I say it does but no later than 6 January 2015. No prizes are to be awarded. Credit will be given to the most brilliant suggestions unless I steal them.
Here are 5 I came up with to get you started:
1) Nigeria: Potentially one of the richer countries in the world due to its mineral wealth, it suffers from incredible corruption and a nearly complete inability to get its house in order. Criminal gangs, tribal rifts, Boko Haram, pollution, grinding poverty, kidnap for ransom schemes are some of the issues. Just might turn into an even more failed state if it can’t get its eastern area under control.
2) Cuba: As the former Soviet empire proved, there ain’t no such thing as a “little freedom” for the oppressed masses. The Castro brothers have to die sometime, why not in 2015? With the right support from expatriate Cubans the place appears ready to – um- explode? Cuba seems to have lost all its old Commie sponsors. What will the U.S. do if China decides to help out 90 miles off the Florida coast?
3) Venezuela: Can you say failing state? A dysfunctional economy and an oppressive regime riddled with factionalism even in the army. There are opposition groups. Could get really messy, especially if oil prices stay down.
4) Russia: Putin needs a war to keep his power. Oil prices and the embargo (weak as it is) are killing the Russian economy. Somewhere in the Rodina there must be a crowd of reformers who really want to toss off the corrupt oligarchs and their man in Moscow. I guess the questions are whether Putin’s internal police are good enough to stifle freedom and whether the Russians who want to fix things can get any support among Russia’s youth.
5) South China Sea: The nasty Dragon covets all that water and the power it would bring. Bullying, lawfare and playing good China/Bad China games are in the Dragon’s bag of tools. The little Hobbit lands surrounding the South China Sea look to their east for support. Will/Can the U.S. and its allies help the Hobbits or do more dancing to push this problem off on the administration elected in 2016?
I am also going to put this up at my home blog EagleSpeak
The Islamic State, ISIL/ISIS/Daesh – whatever people may call them – are not a flash in the pan. Not quite insurgency, not quiet terrorist organization, not quite nation state – what they are is a presence that has resilience, trans-national support, and has a long range plan.
What is their background, how have they evolved, and how do they view the world?
Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Craig Whiteside, LTC USA (Ret.), Associate Professor of Theater Security Decision Making for the Naval War College Monterey at the Naval Postgraduate School. Craig came to the War College from Washington State University, where he was a PhD student in Political Science and taught American Government and National Security Affairs. Prior to returning to school, Professor Whiteside was a career infantry officer in the U.S. Army with service in the airborne infantry. He is an Iraq war veteran and served with the Geronimos of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry in Iskandariyah as the battalion executive officer during 2006-7. He finished his military service as the Professor of Military Science at Washington State. Professor Whiteside is currently working on his dissertation investigating the political worldview of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.
As we near Christmas,it is a season of surprises – and Midrats presents Episode 258: COIN, Cyber, and Lawfare: the continuity of war in to 2015 on 14 Dec 14 at 5pm:
With the coming of the new year, some things have not changes and the old challenges are still with us; most waxing – only a few waning.
This Sunday we have returning guest Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., Major General, USAF (Ret.), Professor of the Practice of
Law, and Executive Director, Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University.
We will cover the board spectrum of the evolution of Counter Insurgency, warfare in the cyber domain, and the ever-present impact of law on the conduct of war.
General Dunlap’s teaching and scholarly writing focus on national security, international law, civil-military relations, cyberwar, airpower, counter-insurgency, military justice, and ethical issues related to the practice of national security law.
He is quoted often, correctly and incorrectly, but few have actually read his works in full – and even fewer know much about the man himself, Major General Carl von Clausewitz, Kingdom of Prussia.
Out guest for the full hour will be Donald Stoker, author of the new book, Clausewitz: His Life and Work. Stoker is a Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Naval War College’s program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
His previous book, The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War, won the distinguished Fletcher Pratt award for the best non-fiction Civil War book of 2010. Past winners include Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote.
First, let’s set the stage. Most of you have already read this;
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens today said the Navy is revoking Bill Cosby’s title of honorary Chief Petty Officer, originally presented in 2011. The Navy is taking this action because allegations against Mr. Cosby are very serious and are in conflict with the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.
Cosby enlisted in the Navy in 1956 and served for four years as a hospital corpsman before being honorably discharged in 1960 as a 3rd Class Petty Officer.
Let us put aside the sordid stories and unpack this a bit.
The Navy is taking this action because allegations against Mr. Cosby …
As far as we know, these are simply allegations, yes? So, we do not wait for justice, we do not wait for much of anything. The accusation is enough, I presume.
In isolation of the case at hand, I hold no brief for Bill Cosby, fully hoist onboard the reasoning and precedence we are accepting, and over the last few decades have accepted with a numbingly regularity – there are larger issues at work.
Where else does this habit manifest itself? We all know about the abuse of the IG system and the habit of firing senior leaders simply on the basis of an accusation. When we do that, we destroy careers decades in the making and even worse, besmirch the name of good people who, once found innocent, cannot reclaim their good name.
When truth, justice, and fairness are replaced by emotion, spin, and narcissistically therapeutic emoting in synch with the political mob’s Zeitgeist of the news cycle – what message are we sending to the Fleet, to our Sailors?
If thinking, feeling, and believing are now trumping what we know – then exactly what kind of organization are we? What are our Core Values again?
What are we honoring by presuming guilt, executing punishment, and then using that presumption to preach to the adoring public about our “honor.”
What courage is it to immediately throw someone under the bus before they have had a chance to address the charges against them? Why the hurry? Are we serving justice, or are we only out to protect ourselves, truth – unknown – be damned.
What are we showing a commitment to? Not to a Petty Officer Cosby who served our Navy at not the easiest time for a man of his background to serve. I’m not sure we are showing commitment to the values of justice as outlined in the Constitution we are sworn to uphold. I’m not sure we are even showing a commitment to the UCMJ. It seems that we are mostly concerned with a commitment to damage control against the Zeitgeist.
These public sacrifices to Vaal serve nothing and no one but the person who does the firing, to remove a irritation, to remove a distraction – not for any other higher purpose. That is a clear message; a message that is received.
What is our official Ethos? Let’s pull from the juicy center;
Integrity is the foundation of our conduct; respect for others is fundamental to our character; decisive leadership is crucial to our success.
We are a team, disciplined and well-prepared, committed to mission accomplishment. We do not waver in our dedication and accountability to our shipmates and families.
We are patriots, forged by the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment. In times of war and peace, our actions reflect our proud heritage and tradition.
Are we showing respect for the assumption of innocence of Cosby? Are we being dedicated to our Shipmates? Is punishing people by removing honors based simply by accusation part of our proud heritage and tradition? Really?
Is that the standard we are going to set? Is that the message we want to send to our people? You will be punished without evidence, simply because of accusation? We will crush you, and if innocent or the accusations are unproven – then that is your problem, as long as we are protected?
We are looking for reasons why our most experienced leaders are leaving after Command. We are wondering why we have so many refusing command that is offered to them.
Want to know why there is such an erosion in trust in senior leadership? Wonder why there is so little confidence? Want to know why a growing number of mid-grade officers don’t want that job?
Look at messages. Look at actions – not words – actions. Is truth a habit, a feature, or an inconvenience. Is not all honor we have set on a foundation of truth?
If we undermine that value of truth, does not the entire structure above it fall in to danger?
Here is a data-point to consider – an example where the actual ethos set on high drifts down to every layer of our organization. Even down to the keepers of our official memory. The chronicle keepers. Those keeping the bridge log.
They feel that there is nothing wrong with deleting history; ripping pages out of the chronicles; changing the bridge log.
Here is a screen shot from Thursday night of the URL: “http://www.navalhistory.org/2011/03/03/chief-cosby-front-and-center” read the address. Here is what you see.
What is missing? Well, with the Internet – nothing is deleted. Here is the cache:
Was this done by bad people? No. This was done by good people taking action based on the signals they are getting from higher up. That is where my bet is.
In the opening, I stated this problem started decades ago, for clarity sake, let’s draw a sharp mark on the calendar – one that is in living memory for anyone Year-Group ’91 or older, and legend to younger. We can draw that line 23 years and three months ago to the second week in September 1991; Tailhook.
That is where we saw senior civilian and uniformed leadership – who were there and active participants – shrink and cower while pulling the uninjured bodies of the innocent over them to protect them from the political frag pattern. Countless good junior officers’ careers were strangled in the cradle to protect those already past their prime.
For those who lived through it – that was the first break in the trust in leadership and our system many of us experienced. Following events have just emphasized that break in a bond that should be there, but isn’t – a break we see, talk about, and even do surveys trying to figure out.
This episode of memory hole utilization is just another data-point of an entire organization that has allowed this malignancy to take hold from bottom to top. Though modest, it cannot be discounted. It is the shaking rear-view mirror that is the result of the engine mount that is slowly giving away. You can ignore the shake and dismiss it as minor – which it is – but, you are also ignoring the cause of it; a growing problem that will eventually lead to catastrophic failure.
I have had a few people mention to me that this action is a response to an organizational circuit breaker popping in DC over a Petty Officer’s horrific Peeping Tom activity towards his ship’s female officers. If true, then we are letting the criminal actions of a 2nd Class Petty Officer indict the entire Navy as an organization tries so hard to be seen doing something, anything – and Bill Cosby, already abandoned my most, is an easy, defenseless, target of opportunity.
Again, is this in line with the truth, justice, or fairness? No. It is the reactionary result of thoughts driven by feelings of fear, believing that in some way, the organization you lead is as bad as its critics say it is.
Not the finest example of the human condition is our actions towards Petty Officer Cosby. One thing this episode has made clear; we have yet to recover from the leadership failures we saw in spades after Tailhook.
UPDATE: A point of clarification was brought up in comments. That website is not hosted by the U.S. Navy. It’s hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute. NHHC was invited to be equal partner on our site, and others as guest bloggers, among them Navy TV. It is at their discretion to delete/make private the posts.
In June 2014, President Obama declared his intent to execute “targeted and precise” military operations in Iraq, and later Syria, in order to aid the Iraqi military in the destruction of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). While the scope of those operations has evolved over the past several months, the identity of the forces—US naval ships, joint aircraft, and ground-based advisors—has remained constant.
In order to achieve the kind of “targeted and precise” military operations the president desires, drones and guided munitions will not be enough. Effective command and control is the crucial difference between success and failure. The skill of the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye aviator is integral to this success.
Speed and Information
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu declared, “speed is the essence of war.” Indeed, from ancient times to modernity, conflicts have been marked by a sharp increase in the speed of fires, effects, and maneuvers. While speed of platforms has driven technological change in the past, speed of information and reaction will drive the future of warfare in this century.
Along these lines, ISIS has proven incredibly adept. Their ability to harness social media and an indigenous intelligence network in Iraq and Syria has swollen their ranks. According to the Daily Beast, “on Twitter and in Facebook pages ISIS was making appeals as well as threats, attracting recruits and soliciting funding online.” After US air strikes in Iraq in August 2014, “ISIS responded with a hashtag campaign…threatening Americans with retribution for the airstrikes.”
ISIS is no ordinary enemy, and yesterday’s military tactics do not guarantee victory over such violent, furtive extremists.
American success in current and future operations hinges on skilled information management and command and control (C2). Military planners and operators must consider how each piece of information gets from one place to another on the battlefield, and how this information affects or is affected by the enemy. Finally, while we may consider extremist groups like ISIS to be “asymmetric enemies,” we must not discount our own asymmetric military advantages and the platforms that employ them.
Asymmetry and Decentralization
Asymmetric warfare is typically defined as “war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly.” History is rampant with examples of smaller, less well-equipped forces using unconventional tactics to defeat much larger, powerful militaries. It is often more difficult for strategists and military planners to take on an insurgency than a conventional force.
While German Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke was famous for claiming, “no campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy,” military forces are judged on how adequately they respond to changes to their plan. As advances in the technology of platforms and weaponry have increased the pace of our tactics, extremist groups like ISIS have taken advantage of our inability to quicken the pace of our information management.
In fact, rather than taking steps to improve C2 responsiveness, military planners and commanders have adopted measures requiring almost every possible interaction in the battlespace to be communicated and approved directly by military commanders. This centralization of authority is antithetical to combatting a nimble foe such as ISIS.
Military commanders are justifiably concerned with the public relations implications of operations by a large American military force against smaller extremist groups often interspersed with the local population. However, the drive to try to prevent mistakes through over-centralization has bred a toxic “zero defect” mentality and led to a Soviet-style, centralized military bureaucracy that unnecessarily slows tactical military operations, thus allowing smaller extremist groups like ISIS to thrive inside of our “OODA Loop.”
We do not have to operate this way. In order to achieve the kind of information management required to defeat groups like ISIS, commanders must be willing to delegate command and control responsibilities to competent subordinate agents. Fortunately, the United States military has the ability to perform the kind of tactical C2 required to accomplish this task. Platforms such as the E-2 Hawkeye are practiced and proficient in this area, and have proven themselves in more than two decades of overland conflict.
Send in the Hawkeyes
E-2 aviators are experts at employing the real-time, integrated warfighting capabilities of the Carrier Air Wing. The E-2 Hawkeye is the only airborne platform in the naval arsenal—and indeed, one of only a few joint assets—with the ability to fuse information and direction from tactical aviation, intelligence, and higher headquarters into actionable, responsive communications to ships, aircraft, and ground-based units alike.
In order to execute effective “targeted and precise” airstrikes, military commanders must have an exceptionally high level of battlespace awareness. While tactical aircraft such as the F/A-18 and F-15 provide ordnance, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft such as the MQ-1B provide real-time video, and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) provide close control of aircraft and ISR assets, only the E-2 Hawkeye consistently trains to and competently integrates all of these assets to achieve commander’s intent.
The E-2 and its cadre of aircrew have evolved to become the airborne integrator of both naval and joint combined arms. With reliable internet-based chat capability and more than two decades of direct interface with joint stakeholders at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center (CAOC), the Hawkeye has been instrumental in achieving commander’s intent during recent operations such as IRAQI FREEDOM, ENDURING FREEDOM, and INHERENT RESOLVE. Much more than an Air Intercept Control (AIC) platform, the E-2 is invaluable as the principal C2 platform for the CVW, CSG, and combined force commander.
Context, Command, and Control
Crucially, E-2 aviators provide commanders with battlespace context. They collect inputs from TACAIR, ISR, and ground-based platforms to help paint a more accurate picture of operations. E-2 aviators constantly synthesize information from all sources to help answer the critical questions, “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?”
Inside the aircraft, E-2 aviators communicate with tactical aircraft via Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) voice—both secure and non-secure—and Link-16 “J-voice;” they communicate with ISR assets via internet-based chat; they communicate with JTAC and other ground-based personnel via High Frequency (HF) and UHF voice, satellite communications (SATCOM), and internet-based chat; and finally, they communicate with the joint force commander and his watch-floor via SATCOM and internet-based chat.
E-2 sensors provide real-time Link-16 and blue force tracking data to commanders and watch floors. Aircrew utilize internet-based chat and SATCOM to provide constant updates to the aerial refueling (AR) picture, coordinate real-time changes to TACAIR and ISR tasking, and provide communications relay between tactical aircraft and the ground-based personnel they support.
For instance, an E-2 aviator can receive preliminary information, or “tipper,” of an enemy high-value individual (HVI) from an ISR platform via internet-based chat, pass targeting information to nearby tactical aircraft via secure UHF voice, and communicate both pieces of information to the appropriate CAOC watch-floor officers via internet-based chat and SATCOM in order to approve either a kinetic strike against the individual or the diversion of an ISR platform to the area to gather crucial intelligence.
As aircraft are diverted to the area, E-2 aircrew continue to maintain and communicate battlespace awareness, ensuring supporting aircraft remain clear of enemy surface-to-air threats, no fly areas, or other sensitive sites. They ensure the route of flight is deconflicted, supporting aircraft are all able to communicate clearly on a radio frequency, and any potential fratricide threats are minimized or eliminated.
The true value of the E-2 in operations against extremist groups is in their ability to quickly synthesize commander’s intent—such as neutralizing extremist HVIs—with tactical action. In recent operations, the E-2 Hawkeye is one of the only assets to communicate directly with all battlespace stakeholders on a daily basis. This can be an invaluable source of expertise and access for the combined force commander.
The Future Battlespace
For airborne C2 platforms like the Hawkeye, the truest measure of effectiveness is reach, not range. Aircrew are capable of effectively managing the battlespace from hundreds of miles away with radios, internet-based chat, and datalinks. With aircraft carriers routinely operating from hot spots in the Arabian Gulf, Northern Arabian Sea, and various Pacific locales, E-2 support is hardly limited by their basing aboard ship. Military planners must include E-2 operations as part of theater Special Instructions (SPINS) and operational plans.
In the fight against violent extremism, smart bombs are insufficient. In order to provide successful “targeted and precise” airstrikes, as well as future military operations against violent extremism, smart munitions must be combined with smart ISR and smart command and control to provide rapid, lethal effects without the bureaucratic delay of unnecessary centralization. By leveraging the capabilities of the E-2 Hawkeye with the expertise of its aircrew, military commanders and planners can take a definitive step in the application of American airpower in the fight against ISIS.
 “Remarks by the President on the Situation in Iraq.” WhiteHouse.gov. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/19/remarks-president-situation-iraq. 19 June 2014.
 Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Penguin Classics: New York, NY. 28 April 2009.
 Siegel, Jacob. “ISIS is Using Social Media to Reach YOU, Its New Audience.” The Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/31/isis-s-use-of-social-media-to-reach-you-its-new-audience.html. 31 August 2014.
 “Asymmetric warfare.” Princeton.edu. https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Asymmetric_warfare.html. Accessed online 18 November 2014.
I had a very interesting experience earlier this year co-chairing, along with Gen Larry Welch, USAF (Ret), the SecDef-directed Independent Review of the Nuclear Enterprise.
I haven’t seen too many posts on USNI Blog regarding our nuclear deterrent force or nuclear weapons in general, for that matter, so I thought this issue might prove interesting for some of our readers.
Several major lessons learned for me from this experience:
- If you have nuclear weapons, you need to consistently devote a great deal of high-level attention to their maintenance and sustainment as well as the maintenance and sustainment of the platforms that would deliver those weapons should the President so direct.
- It was obvious to me that, since the dis-establishment of SAC, we haven’t been able to establish the right organizational construct within DoD that would consistently and effectively accomplish #1 above.
- We can debate the efficacy and utility of nuclear weapons all we want – whether or not we should deploy a monad, a diad or a triad of nuclear delivery systems, or whether conventional deterrence of some kind can ever replace our current posture of having our nuclear deterrent as the foundation of our national security policy, but, and it’s a big but, as long as we have nuclear weapons – like them or not – we’ve got to invest the required resources in their “care and feeding” and the care and feeding of the people who maintain the warheads, the missiles, and the delivery systems.
There is no middle ground here, no ability to allow some sort of an elegant and systematic degradation that can be monitored and managed with intervention before lasting damage or a catastrophic event occurs.
We either execute this mission totally right, every day, or we will get it totally wrong.
The approach General Welch and I took was to review all past reports on this issue, and the responses to those reports, and then meet with Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and their commanders, at every level at the nuclear forces locations in the U.S. and at three Air Force locations in Europe.
Our methodology was to generate extensive opportunities to listen to those carrying out the deterrent mission and to hear from their commanders as well; they all clearly had a great deal they wanted us to hear.
We then applied the experience and judgment of the review team, a small group of subject matter experts – officer and senior enlisted, active and retired – to synthesize both what we found and what we heard in order to provide specific recommendations to address the issues we found and answer the Secretary’s specific question to us, “What do I need to do?”.
We delivered our report on 1 June. Since that time, we have seen extensive work at multiple levels across the Department of Defense with continuing direct involvement of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense to address the issues we discussed in the report. We are also seeing very welcome and much needed results delivered to the Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in the operating units.
We believe the major issue now is sustaining the engagement that is absolutely required at the most senior levels within DoD to re-establish both the enduring and appropriate level of attention and investment that will ensure the nuclear forces can effectively and safely carry out the deterrent mission, which remains the foundation of our national security policy.
The bottom line in our report is that the forces are meeting the demands of the mission, but with such increasing difficulty that any margin of capability to meet those demands has been consumed and our Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are routinely required to pay an unsustainable price to accomplish the mission.
The troops’ resolute determination to get the job done – doing, in their words, whatever it takes – has masked the true cost of mission accomplishment from their senior leadership, who routinely receive reports showing the required number of boats are on deterrent patrol, the ICBMs are on alert, and the bombers are available and ready if needed.
We found three overarching core issues in the nuclear enterprise that led to a wide range of specific issues and specific recommendations:
- There has developed a leadership “Say-Do” Gap where the declared importance of the nuclear forces to national security is not matched by leadership attention and support from the Department and Service leadership and from multiple levels down to field commanders. This mis-match has resulted in a range of issues from a perception that the mission and those performing the mission are not truly valued to critical manning shortfalls, deteriorating facilities and deficient logistics support.
- Over time, an incessant Demand for Micro-Perfection led to the expectation that there must be zero mistakes in every operational and administrative action. Hence the focus shifted from efficiently and effectively accomplishing the mission to the routine imposition of draconian measures to ensure there could be no mistakes. Said another way, avoiding criticism took precedence over efficient and effective mission accomplishment. This approach led inexorably to a widespread substitution of process and procedure for personal responsibility and accountability.
- This drive for micro-perfection also led to a culture that valued Inspection over Mission – that is, the focus of commanders and supervisors shifted from the mission to avoiding criticism from extensive, frequent, and enormously detailed inspections. The consequences to the unit and the commander of any adverse outcome from a large, multi-agency inspection team has been seen as so severe that preparing for inspections eclipses mission focus, at the expense of the Sailors, Airmen, and Marines performing the mission. This attention to avoiding the risks from small mistakes in inspections that do not have safety or mission impacts has actually increased the much larger risk to the effective and safe accomplishment of the mission itself.
Emanating from these three core issues, the review team addressed issues in a dozen activity areas.
As I stated earlier, we are seeing attention to the full set of issues with guidance from the top and execution at multiple levels throughout the various chains-of-command.
It is very important to note that most of the issues identified in our report and in the report of the Internal Review have been identified in past reports – these issues are not new ones. And with each previous review, leadership at the appropriate level initiated actions to correct the deficiencies, but the attention has not been sustained as needed to bring about lasting change.
This time, the senior leaders of the Department and the Services are directly and deeply involved so there is reason to hope that, unlike in the past, there will be the lasting and positive change needed to not only accomplish the nuclear mission, but to do so effectively and safely.
How do we build the future surface fleet to ensure our forces maintain the ability to access to all regions of the world’s oceans that our vital to our national interests?
Our guest to discuss this and the broader issues related to our surface forces will be Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).
A basis for our conversation will be his recent study for CSBA, Commanding the Seas: A Plan to reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare, where he articulates the operational concept of “offensive sea control” as the new central idea to guide evolution of the U.S. surface force. This idea would refocus large and small surface combatant configuration, payloads and employment on sustaining the surface force’s ability to take and hold areas of ocean by destroying threats to access such as aircraft, ships and submarines rather than simply defending against their missiles and torpedoes.
Prior to joining CSBA in 2013, Bryan Clark was Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Director of his Commander’s Action Group.
He served in the Navy headquarters staff from 2004 to 2011, leading studies in the Assessment Division and participating in the 2006 and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. His areas of emphasis were modeling and simulation, strategic planning and institutional reform and governance. Prior to retiring from the Navy in 2007, he was an enlisted and officer submariner, serving in afloat and ashore including tours as Chief Engineer and Operations Officer at the Navy’s nuclear power training unit.
Mr. Clark holds a Master of Science in National Security Studies from the National War College and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Philosophy from the University of Idaho.
The U.S. government loves metrics. Anyone who has ever worked for the government in any capacity is acutely aware of that. How many sorties were flown in one day? How many illegal immigrants were apprehended? How well did students do on exams? How many people signed up for health care? Metrics are found for things that aren’t easily measured – like the value of education – even if they are relatively meaningless.
So it appears with drugs. There is a wealth of metrics available regarding the “effectiveness” of drug policy, yet few appear to mean much. Air and maritime interdiction goals for drugs coming from Latin America, for example, appear almost randomly set, but then success is measured against those goals. The intent seems more to show that the United States is “doing something” than anything else.
Metrics are considered so important that the U.S. Coast Guard, largely responsible for the interdiction of drugs from Latin America, has its metrics audited by a private firm. According to this audit, the Independent Review of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Reporting of FY 2013 Drug Control Performance Summary Report, the metrics for Coast Guard interdictions, as part of Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S), are gathered from a six million square mile drug Transit Zone of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The search area for the Malaysian airliner that went missing in June 2014 was considered massive at 23,000 square miles. Therefore, the very size of the area of responsibility (AOR) where searches for non-commercial maritime and airborne assets are conducted makes it nearly impossible to accurately gather metrics.
Interdiction metrics are produced based on known product coming into the United States. However, given the AOR size, it is highly likely that known product figures underestimate the amount of product actually brought in. The inability to accurately know the amount of product trafficked is not lost on JIATF-S, as one of their top goals is to “achieve 100% domain awareness,” stating outright that they do not fully grasp the amount of illicit trafficking within the AOR. In other words, the area is just too large for complete coverage.
Adding to the errors at the interdiction level is often unequal “bale” and “kilo” sizes, making it challenging to fully and accurately weigh contraband (especially if it’s wet with fuel or seawater). So metrics indicating an increase or decrease of interdictions from one year to the next are based on, at best, estimation of underestimated figures.
For example, Operation MARTILLO, a 14-nation combined operation to deny use of Central America as a trafficking corridor, is an oft-cited success story of drug interdiction. Metrics are given in the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy.
[MARTILLO] resulted in the disruption of the trafficking of more than 132 metric tons of cocaine, 41 thousand pounds of marijuana, $3.5 million in bulk cash, 315 arrests, and the seizure of 107 vessels, vehicles, and aircraft. The pressures put upon trafficking organizations by Operation MARTILLO resulted in a 38 percent decrease in illicit air trafficking activity and decreases of 29 percent and 57 percent of the illicit maritime activities in the Western Caribbean and Eastern Pacific littoral routes, respectively.
These metrics, however, are drawn from known product figures, which may or may not be representative of actual product movement. Additionally, while known trafficking is considered reduced via air and littoral routes, this doesn’t mean the cartels have stopped operating. They simple change their routes and conveyance means. This “phenomenon” is not unknown to policymakers as they note traffickers will switch to unchallenged routes and become more creative in getting their product to market.
The 2014 National Strategy goes on to say that during FY 2013:
184 metric tons of cocaine were seized or disrupted in the transit zone out of a total documented flow of 646 metric tons, as recorded in the Consolidated Counterdrug Database (CCDB). This represents a 28.5 percent removal rate, which, while below the annual target for 2013 (36 percent), is consistent with the historical average of 25 percent over the past decade and well above the removal rate in 2012 (23.8 percent).
But what do these figures really mean?
Traffickers regularly toss overboard or destroy product if they are being pursued by the Coast Guard or Navy, hence the reference to “disruption,” and consider it the cost of doing business. So it appears that based on the amount of product the United States knows reaches the United States or is estimated to be destroyed before seizure, which given the size of the AOR is underestimated, still goals are set to bring that number down. Equally unclear is how these goals are set.
Why was 36 percent set as the target removal rate for 2013 rather than 40 percent? Why not 25 percent? Are the effects of budget realities and consequently how much money the Coast Guard and Navy is able to spend to sail ships or fly aircraft searching for traffickers taken into consideration? Regardless, even the goals set based on underestimated figures could not be reached.
Hypothetically, should these removal rates be reached, would all the issues associated with illicit drug use in America and the problems that come from trafficking magically go away? Will drug use in the U.S. stop? Terror and poverty found in communities that narcoterrorists thrive simply disappear? Addiction will not cease overnight, terrorist activities will not go away as organizations look to replace their income.
The United Nations points out statistical issues that exacerbate U.S. and global interdiction figures in its World Drug Report 2012.
Comparing absolute numbers of total cocaine seizures and manufacture could be misleading. To understand the relationship between the amount of annual seizures reported by States (694 tons cocaine of unknown purity in 2010) and the estimated level of manufacture (788-1,060 tons of cocaine of 100 per cent purity), it would be necessary to take into account several factors, and the associated calculations would depend on a level of detail in seizure data that is often unavailable. Making purity adjustments for bulk seizures, which contain impurities, cutting agents and moisture, to make them directly comparable with the cocaine manufacture estimates, which refer to a theoretical purity of 100 per cent, is difficult, as in most cases the purity of seized cocaine is not known and varies significantly from one consignment to another. The total amount of seized cocaine reported by States is also likely to be an overestimation. Large-scale maritime seizures, which account for a large part of the total amount of cocaine seized, often require the collaboration of several institutions in a country or even in several countries. Therefore, double counting of reported seizures of cocaine cannot be excluded.
Drug interdiction numbers appear a prime example of using meaningless statistics to show anything desired.
The American public demands action on the War Against Illegal Drugs – though the consumer of the drugs – and the violence, corruption and multiple other secondary effects illegal drug trafficking brings with it. And so the Coast Guard, the U.S. military through Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and law enforcement must respond. But based on the metrics so carefully compiled and verified, their efforts seem to result in little more than Whack-A-Mole campaign that the traffickers incorporate into their business model.
U.S. SOUTHCOM Commander General John Kelly, speaking before Congress in March 2014, talked about how budget cuts will make the situation even worse.
Because of asset shortfalls, we’re unable to get after 74 percent of suspected maritime drug trafficking. I simply sit and watch it go by. And, because of service cuts, I don’t expect to get any immediate relief, in terms of assets to work with in this region of the world.
So whatever effectiveness has been achieved is likely to decrease with budget cuts.
Further as well, if somehow all the drugs from Latin America could be stopped, the drug problem in the United States would not go away. A new supplier from another geographic region would quickly step in. While consideration of how to effectively fight drug problems in and that affect the United States is beyond the scope of this article, it is clear – just from the metrics – the current approach is not working.
The U.S. government has spent over a $1 trillion on the drug war, to little avail, with tens of billions budgeted every year. The metrics on exactly how much is spent are difficult to gather – like all other drug war related metrics – because funds are budgeted across so many different agencies. Beyond money, American military members and law enforcement officials have lost their lives in this war. Fighting transnational organized crime, drug cartels, is the prevalent problem addressed by the U.S. military in the Southern Command. Yet it is a problem, as currently framed and addressed, impossible to solve. The primary yield from the money spent and lives lost, is metrics.
 OIG 14-35, February 2014.
 Office of the President of the United States, National Drug Control Strategy: 2009 Annual Report (Washington, DC: GPO, 2009), p.29.