Archive for May, 2011

Congressional Quarterly is reporting that Senate Democrats have found their target number for defense cuts as part of their defecit reduction plan to counter House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has yet to present a fiscal 2012 blueprint to his committee, but we are learning early details regarding what the expected defense budget cut might be.

Conrad’s deficit-fighting plan is expected to be included in a fiscal 2012 budget resolution that he hopes to release for a markup May 18.

His latest draft calls for cuts of $900 billion from defense and $300 billion from non-security discretionary spending over 10 years.

Bryan Callon of Captial Alpha Partners, LLC who does intelligence analysis of the Defense budget for investors (and whose services are fantastic), offered some context.

Playing with numbers suggests that a $900 billion cut to defense could be achieved by simply holding spending flat – in current dollars – from a 2013 level of $560 billion.

Effectively, in the $900 billion plan that will reportedly be proposed by Senator Konrad, the DoD budget would get cut roughly $125 billion from FY2013 – FY2016 proposed numbers in the Presidents FY2012 outyear budget plan, but as spending levels returned to real growth of around 3% annually, the DoD budget would take a cut of around $775 billion from FY2017 – FY2021.

Assuming a flatline at $560B for FY13 numbers, the current DoD Proposed Outyear Topline from FY12 – FY16 after all existing cuts and based on proposed defense spending that flatlines in FY15 and FY16 might look as follows, with the net cut number on the right:

FY12 – ~$553B
FY14 – $571B (-$11B)
FY14 – $586B (-$26B)
FY15 – $598B (-$38B)
FY16 – $611B (-$51B)

$775 billion in the out years might look similar (but very imperfectly, it won’t add up perfectly because of estimates I used) like this:

FY17 ~(-$70B)
FY18 ~(-140B)
FY19 ~(-161B)
FY20 ~(-183B)
FY21 ~(-205B)

The big difference in the out years is because real growth is expected to return to the DoD budget in FY17 under existing plans. Whether the budget cut is $400 billion or $900 billion, that is now exceeding unlikely.

That is an example of what $560 billion at FY2013 level over 10 years would mean based on the current Presidents budget and Senator Konrad’s proposal.

Thinking about defense cuts another way, the $400 billion defense cut over 10 years by the President is the floor and the $900 billion cut over 10 years proposal by the Senate Democrats is the ceiling. As for the House Republicans, their plans for government spending cuts largely avoid defense cuts as a topic, with most press releases related to FY12 budget this session focused on current events like the cancellation of the EFV, the death of Osama Bin Laden, and social issues in the military like DADT and DOMA.

I find the lack of engagement by House Republicans very disappointing, because the President’s proposal for a “Roles and Missions” debate that coincided with the $400 billion defense budget target appeared to open the door for House Republicans to steer the DoD budget debate towards a strategic conversation in the DoD. Instead, National Defense Strategy is being driven by a budget cut debate focused only on top line money figures.

Posted by galrahn in Policy | 6 Comments


May 2011


Updated, see bottom of post.

Information Dissemination, my home blog, is currently unavailable due to “maintenance” according to Google. From what I understand by this report, every Blogger blog is currently unavailable. According to news reports, this is related to a bug in code migrated last night – which did happen because I was awake at the time and remember getting locked out.

I have filed a complaint with Blogger asking a few questions, which reveals why the discussion is appropriate for the USNI Blog.

USCYBERCOM Blacklisted Blogger Today?

Blog Address:
Browser(s) Name/Version (ex: Firefox 4, Internet Explorer 8): Firefox 4
Geographical Location (ex: San Francisco / USA): USA
Long description of problem:

I write a milblog hosted on a blogger server. At approximately 3:00pm today USCYBERCOM blacklisted Blogger. At approximately 6:00pm today, my Blogger website went offline.

According to one base operator, “The DNS Site that hosts your domain name is more likely being blocked because of posting malicious traffic or higher level security reasons by advisory of DoD [CYBERCOM/NCDOC].”

The Washington Post is reporting tonight a website for Chinese dissidents hosted by Blogger was claimed to have been hacked by the Chinese government.

So a Blogger website was hacked, all of Blogger is being blacklisted by the Department of Defense for “higher level security reasons,” and now Blogger is down for “maintenance?”

Would appreciate clarification why USCYBERCOM has blacklisted all of Blogger for security reasons. This isn’t good for either of our business.

– Raymond Pritchett

I believe Google when they say Blogger is down due to maintenance problems, and believe what is happening in regard to my lack of blog administrative access tonight is purely coincidence.

What I do not understand is why USCYBERCOM would blacklist all of Blogger, not only but any website running on a blogger host, for no other apparent reason than one Chinese dissident website was hacked. Is USCYBERCOM really so paranoid that if the Chinese government hacks a single website, USCYBERCOM will figuratively cyber nuke access to an entire cloud? If that turns out to be true, the Chinese appear to be deep inside our OODA loop at US Strategic Command, and speaking as a US citizen, I find the DoDs cybernuke reaction quite embarrassing.

Did USCYBERCOM make a mistake when blacklisting all Blogger hosted websites, or was it intentional?

Did USCYBERCOM inform Google of the security problem that led to Blogger being blacklisted? We aren’t talking about some mom and pop hosting shop, this is Google.

I understand and respect the role and responsibility of USCYBERCOM is to defend Department of Defense computer systems from security threats, but I am a little troubled that the DoD would blacklist millions of websites on the internet in what appears to be in response to the Chinese government reportedly hacking a single website on a Google server.

To me, that would seem to be an excessive overreaction by USCYBERCOM.

Update: Some are noting Blogger had a backup restore last night resulting in loss of data. That is a Blogger issue, and has nothing to do with DoD access blocks.

I am hearing that several DoD locations that could not reach Blogger last night can this morning, and the problem was related to a bug in a web content filter policy update for some specific software. That is good to know, if true. It is unclear why USCYBERCOM would be associated with the issue in requests last night, although it may be that as a DoD networks policy shop the organization issues the specific software update alerts, and that somehow added confusion.

I think the bug highlights the dangers of overarching government security on the internet. In this case, a bug in a normal, everyday automatic operation in otherwise stable software made a huge configuration change, and the result was the blocking millions of website. Blogger is social media, not exactly a major economic engine, but the danger comes should a bug accidentally block access to say – the Amazon cloud – for example.

It reminds me of the government internet killswitch debate. It is hard to believe that a network as resilient as the internet would have less risk if there existed a mechanism that completely disrupted the resiliency of the internet. Is the economic risk to the internet higher or lower with a government controlled killswitch, or single point of failure, depending upon how one looks at it?

In many ways I see the challenges of securing networks much like the challenges of security from terrorism, and by that I mean that the solution lies in active and passive defenses, selective offensives, but most critically – resiliency to disruption. It is unfortunate that the resiliency piece does not appear to have the most influence in security policy decisions at the political level.

Posted by galrahn in Cyber | 15 Comments

Just one week after the killing of our most sought after enemy by our country’s premiere assaultmen the headlines have turned predictably back to what (sadly) matters most to far too many Americans…back to National Football League infighting, and reality television, and 5 dollar gas and Lindsay Lohan, and on and on and on.

Just one week after history has altered course into an irreconcilable unknown with our most lethal enemy since World War II – the Islamist – more attention is spent in the collective daily consciousness on meaningless self-indulgence than on asking the question our grandparents so circumspectly posed after Hitler fell and Hirohito’s Japan remained: What now?

The times are indeed grim when our violent land wars are fought by less than 1% of a population that cannot even identify where their fellow countrymen are doing the fighting and killing and bleeding and winning on their behalf. This sort of thing makes me sad.

And then I think of Brian Blonder.

On the tenth of this May there was no more magnificent stage in all the world than the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Though this sacred place holds only nominal natural elevation, it seems high enough, I think, to peer into our national soul. And so when a man goes there, his heart races. And his breath shortens. And his muscles tighten. And his eyes water because this is our American Everest.

It was on this stage – at the foot of our nation’s highest moral terrain – that Brian Blonder received the second highest award given for valor in the face of danger for his actions during an all-day firefight against Taliban insurgents Aug. 8, 2008, during the battle of Shewan, Afghanistan in which he led Marines and Sailors and innovated and persevered and dealt death to more than 50 Taliban fighters and drove the rest from that terrible village in the southern Farah province.

It was aside our American Everest that those attending were reminded, if only for the duration of the ceremony itself, why this nation will endure after all – not because of Yankee versus Red Sox baseball, or free speech, or an independent judiciary (though all of that is quite important, indeed) – but because of the United States Marine Corps, and the weight carried by a few words displayed on a large sign in the foreground of the ceremony concerning the title, Marine…

Earned. Never Given.

The victory in Shewan that day by an out-gunned Marine platoon had everything to do with ‘earning it’ and this incredible defeat of a fierce enemy was not only a function of the tremendous leadership of Captain Byron Owen and Gunnery Sergeant Brian Blonder but also of their men’s unbridled courage and lethality. It was a day that required extraordinary Marines perform extraordinarily. And so they did. And so they won.

Brian Blonder will tell you he just did his job. But that he could have done better here. Here. And here. And he’ll tell you his Marines just did their job as well. Then he’d just assume have a sip of black coffee and a pinch of Copenhagen…and set out on a long run with a heavy ruck into the mountains. Alone.

That sort of quiet-professionalism might just be expected from one of Tennessee’s native sons. Tennessee, a state which produced more soldiers for the Confederate Army than any other state, and more soldiers for the Union Army than any other Southern state, has a reputation for producing hard men built for war…but more than this, Gunny Blonder, who would no doubt rather be training in sweaty utilities than standing at attention in sweaty dress blues, understands that the 10th of May wasn’t about him at all. The 10th of May was about what he represented so well in battle: The United States Marine Corps.

And so these days when the thought of how few Americans have ever heard of Farah Province, Afghanistan or seen Arlington for themselves makes me sad…

I think of Brian Blonder.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Platoon Sergeant, Force Reconnaissance Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Marine Corps Forces Central Command (Forward) on 8 August 2008 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Gunnery Sergeant Blonder was leading a dismounted patrol through the city of Shewan when his platoon came under intense rocket propelled grenade, mortar and machinegun fire that destroyed a vehicle and trapped several Marines in the kill zone 150 meters away from the enemy. Gunnery Sergeant Blonder exposed himself time and again to heavy fire as he coordinated the suppression of the enemy so that the Marines could be recovered. Later in the battle, Gunnery Sergeant Blonder personally led a flanking attack on the enemy trench system through countless volleys of machinegun and rocket propelled grenade fire. He continued to press the attack as the platoon penetrated further into the trenches in order to defeat the enemy. Gunnery Sergeant Blonder’s tactical ability, superior marksmanship and aggressive fighting spirit inspired the platoon to continually advance on the enemy despite being highly outnumbered. He was a driving force during the eight hour battle and pushed the platoon to gain and maintain the momentum against the enemy until they were destroyed. Gunnery Sergeant Blonder’s valorous actions helped reduce a major enemy stronghold as his platoon killed over fifty enemy fighters, destroying several Taliban cells and opening the highway in Shewan to coalition convoys. By his bold leadership, wise judgment, and complete dedication to duty, Gunnery Sergeant Blonder reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus presents the Navy Cross to Gunnery Sgt. Brian M. Blonder during a ceremony at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., May 10, 2011.

4 years ago NAVADMIN 147/07 began the process of transitioning the Individual Augmentee process away from “Welcome Aboard, you’ve been selected to go on an IA” to “OK, you have time in your career path, we can send you on a GWOT Support Assignment”. Given the pathetic manner in which many commands had handled the IA assignment process (as well as the pathetic manner in which Navy had apportioned IAs to manpower claimants) the GSA was heralded as a good thing that allowed officers and Sailors to plan and removed the burden from commands to provide short notice fills from already decreased ranks.

The program was set up in three phases…but not much has been publicized since NAVADMIN 171/10 changed the name from “Global War On Terror Support Assignment” to “Overseas Contingency Operations Support Assignments”. The promise to do away with short notice tasking for long established requirements remained – but has not been realized.

Since the IA (like “NOB” and the “PRT” a name change can only go so far in Navy culture) has become such a ubiquitous part of the Navy the level of acceptance has gone up, the level of open disgruntlement has gone down and the visible level of Flag involvement in the program has disappeared.

Which must be how requirements like this are allowed to pass through five separate 4-star commands to get approved.

 LINE NUMBER: NE-4387-0001/ PLATOON LEADER / O2-O3 / UNRESTRICED LINE OFFICER, WARFARE QUALIFIED/ with a current Secret clearance and a PRD of at least 12/2012. Report date 10/3/2011 for 270 days in theater (estimated return date 9/30/2012). Duty location Afghanistan. Position Description: Postal Platoon Leader tasked to provide customer service and postal finance support for up to 6,000 personnel consistent with theater mail policies and priorities. Services include money orders, postage stamp sales, special services and package mailing.

Seriously? IAs support an Army that three years ago hadn’t deployed a third of it’s Soldiers and two years ago had learned to massage those numbers so that “being in a unit with deployment orders” counted the same as being deployed which still left 25,000 soldiers who had never deployed. And within that 25,000 (because that’s the smaller number) the Army is unable to find someone qualified to handle the mail? And needs a warfare qualified Navy officer to do it?


I understand that the Navy has a cultural bias against saying No to missions and tasking. But. A warfare qualified postal officer?


When you play chess, you learn that you don’t win because of what you did right. You win because of what your opponent did wrong, that the person who wins made the least amount of mistakes. Many commentators are taking about how the US got Bin Laden. Dr. Barnett over at Time’s Battleland Blog mentions Boyd’s take on Sun Tsu, “Interaction permits vitality and growth, while isolation leads to decay and disintegration”. The credit for this isolation is given to the US by the constant pressure we placed on Bin Laden in our efforts to find him. But, one thing I am stuck by, is the lack of mention of Bin Laden by anyone, on either side, for the majority of any of the wars.

Since the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan and ran South of the Durand line, our strategy in Afghanistan has not focused on Bin Laden. Since that time we’ve focused on rebuilding two countries, and termed our enemies as those who are against stable and viable States. The moves we have decided to make have only been in terms of isolation by proxy. Our ability to articulate our goals and the benefits of a liberal system of governance have not been exceedingly successful. We did not isolate Bin Laden. Bin Laden, his ideals and his own strategy did that.

We originally went after a small group who wished to see grand political change from India to North Africa and used the United States as their narrative’s foil. Before 9/11 the perceived size and ability of Al Qaeda was not considered a threat. From the hysteria of 9/11 our perceptions changed and our enemy seemed much larger and more capable. As we got onto the ground first in Afghanistan, then into Iraq, the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula we found that not everyone who uses violence and quotes the Koran thinks the same way Bin Laden does. Those who we war against today, have much more local aims than Al Aqaeda does and only align themselves with a more popular organization for clout.

We’ve found that “Global Jihad” has an inherently local flavor. The groups and organizations we fight against form strategic partnerships based upon very specific criteria that do not readily lead to a Caliphate, as the notion of a Caliphate is not something many will rally around. The central failing of Bin Laden has been that you can’t talk to people about radical political change across much of the Eurasian and African landmass when they still worry about feeding their families and the security of their neighborhoods, let alone regional security and clear political hegemony. Bin Laden’s dreams fall flat, even with a central enemy to rally around. We didn’t isolate Bin Laden in any meaningful way. The images of Bin Laden looking like Howard Hughes are fitting not in that he was stuck in a building. But, that he was looking back over recordings of when his message was still viable.

How many right moves have we made, and how many wrong moves have our enemies made? But, the question is more than that, isn’t it? We’re playing a game of chess, where we’re also switching opponents. Bin Laden made a lot of wrong moves. But, what of the rest of the players? There’s a lot more isolation to be done. The war isn’t about geopolitics as much as it used to be, we enter the middle game.

The Commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, ADM John C. Harvey, Jr., spoke at the USNI-sponsored Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach. He used the Navy’s recent experience with the joint force as a way to emphasize that the joint force is only as strong as the foundation upon which it is built: the strength and capabilities of the individual service branches. But he also spoke about the Navy’s recent experience to demonstrate a the challenge of balancing meeting Combatant Commander’s needs with ensuring the readiness of the force.

That the U.S. Navy has essentially been at a wartime tempo of operations for years now is not new. The price of that tempo of operations is known to be burning through the service life of platforms faster than anticipated, missed maintenance and proficiency training in core competencies. An average of some 50 ships a year cross redlines in order to meet operational demands. The Admiral made a point of the fact that the Fleet Response Plan’s intention of improving operational availability and surge capacity had been successful, but that the Combatant Commands began to gobble up not just the expanded availability but the surge capacity intended for a major wartime scenario. His point was to emphasize the need institutionally to balance the needs of the joint force with the imperative of the naval service to sustain the fleet for the long term, especially since there is no prospect of the navy having extra room in its shipbuilding budget to replace existing platforms early.

Part of this is institutional. Part of this is being more honest with ourselves and the Combatant Commands about what we can and cannot provide without crossing redlines that should be respected short of major wartime scenarios. But with no prospect in the near future of a reduction in demands by the Combatant Commands, part of the solution must also be how the Navy fulfills operational requirements.

In this context, I caught a news article reiterating the intention to move a carrier to Mayport, Florida by 2019 at the cost of more than half a billion dollars (if things happen on time and on budget). As if our problem is the strategic dispersal of the fleet when we already have carriers home ported at four different locations (counting the forward-deployed USS George Washington in Yokosuka, Japan). I’m not a sailor, but I have often wondered why there has not been more investment in overseas facilities (I tend to think about Australia in particular in this context) to expand the quantity of forward deployed assets. The concept of operations for the Littoral Combat Ship remains to be proven but the rotation of crews and lower-level maintenance being conducted at forward facilities (or perhaps by tenders) seems something worth revisiting on a wider scale.

Posted by nhughes in Navy | 4 Comments

To guarantee joint forces that are globally competent, confident, adaptable and agile in the future, the United States cannot continue on the path it has been while fighting the war against terror in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

That was the message delivered by Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., head of U.S. Fleet Forces, at the Joint Warfighting Conference 2011 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The three-day conference, sponsored by the U. S. Naval Institute (USNI) and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International (AFCEA), aims to answer this year’s overarching question: “How Do We Leverage Successes of Joint & Coalition Warfare?”

“We generated that surge capacity” fighting the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and “immediately began to consume it,” Adm. Harvey told a crowd of about 1,100 during a lunchtime address. “Surge capacity has become routine delivery.

“We have to hit the reset button.”

Read the Full Text of Admiral Harvey’s speech

Read the Rest of the On Scene Report

Most recently, the question has been asked by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, on today’s segment of his show, GPS. With retired Air Force General and former CIA Director Michael Hayden as his guest, Mr. Zakaria asked the question whether, given Osama bin Laden’s massive compound in Abbotabad, the suspicious activity surrounding that compound, and its location in a heavily military town just a couple miles from Pakistan’s Military Academy, is the statement of the Pakistani Government to the effect that they didn’t know bin Laden’s whereabouts a credible one?

General Hayden’s reply was telling. His take was that such an assertion was not, in fact, credible. “Strained the limits of credulity” was Hayden’s phrase. General Hayden did, however, hint obliquely at the real problem that exists within Pakistan. That is, that Inter-service Intelligence (ISI), and in some cases, the Pakistani Army, are both to perhaps a much greater extent than realized, powerful entities independent of the Pakistani government. Significantly, the Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Army, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, is the former Director General of ISI, and his record in that position is checkered, to say the least. Whether this lack of government control is a situation that is embarrassing to Pakistan, or whether it provides a convenient “plausible deniability” for Musharraf’s Zardari’s government, or allows Islamabad to play both ends against the middle, is unclear. All may simultaneously be true to a greater or lesser extent.

The exploitation of the intelligence bonanza from bin Laden’s compound could answer some questions, namely how deeply involved in sheltering bin Laden the higher ranks of the Pakistani Army and ISI might have been. Either way, the situation presents a considerable problem for the Obama Administration, as it did for his predecessor. President Obama and his national security team should follow the advice of General Hayden from this afternoon’s interview with Mr. Zakaria, and “go where the facts lead them”. I hope they will do just that, and must believe they will.

Whatever the public statements of the Obama Administration regarding Pakistan and its role in bin Laden’s protection, one has to look carefully at what those statements DO NOT say. For there can be little doubt that the suspicions that began with Colin Powell’s trip to Islamabad in the wake of 9/11, suspicions regarding the reliability of Pakistan as an ally and of Pakistan’s complicity in sheltering and assisting Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents, have been more than justified. Behind the scenes, that suspicion was the reason that the Obama Administration likely informed Pakistan very belatedly, if at all, regarding the May 1st operation. Which, given Pakistan’s divided sympathies and duplicity in the War on Terror, was the key call to ensure mission success.

Navy maintains, through the Maritime Administration, an Inactive Fleet ostensibly for reactivation in time of need. There are collections of retired ships in the James River in Virginia; Beaumont, Texas; and Suisun Bay, California and a number of other locations.

Over the past decade the number of ships in the Mothball Fleet have been dwindling – the known costs of reactivating the ships are high and the slow pace of the fleets reduction is a product of environmental concerns. Recognizing that the fleet will soon be a memory, a group of photographers went aboard the ships in Suisun Bay to document their existence. A presentation and photography exhibition will be made on Saturday May 7, 2011, 7:00-9:00 pm at Workspace Limited, 2150 Folsom Street in San Francisco.

These photographers used connections with MARAD to get aboard the Suisun Bay ships. Perhaps it’s time to more formally document these remaining ships in their various nationwide locations – a book with pictures of the ships now contrasted with pictures of them in their glory while in commission. USNI is the perfect organization to lead a project like this and it’s membership has all the resources.

(Hat Tip to The Scuttlefish)

Posted by M. Ittleschmerz in Navy | 5 Comments

This morning, let’s wish Happy Birthday to perhaps England’s greatest and most decorated military hero. No, not the Duke of Wellington. Nor Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. Not Lord Nelson, nor Viscount Slim, Haig, Mountbatten, nor Montgomery. None of them.

Happiest of Birthdays to Colonel Sir Harry Paget Flashman, VC KCB KCIE CdLH MoH, born this day, 1822. The erstwhile bully of Rugby School went on to unlikely fame (if not fortune) in Afghanistan in 1842, the Sikh War, the 1848 revolution, the Crimea (where he participated in the Charge of the Light Brigade), the Indian Mutiny, John Brown’s Harper’s Ferry raid, both sides of the American Civil War, Maximillian’s Mexico, Little Big Horn, Natal (at Isandlwana), the Peking Legation, and a few other places. The tall, dark, handsome soldier left a trail of accidental heroism, scandal, and empassioned paramours across just about every continent.

Each and every account of his adventures is worth the read.

Happy Birthday, Flashy.

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