Archive for the 'Homeland Security' Category

Five months after the much-dreaded sequestration went into effect, many defense analysts and military officials alike are worried about the negative repercussions of the drastic budget cuts on military readiness. In his latest commentary, the rightwing commentator Alan Caruba declared that “The U.S. military is on life support.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also argued in his Statement on Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR) that “sequester-level cuts would ‘break’ some parts of the strategy, no matter how the cuts were made [since] our military options and flexibility will be severely constrained.”

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel answers reporters' questions during a Pentagon press briefing on the recent Strategic Choices. Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., right, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Hagel for the briefing. (DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel answers reporters’ questions during a Pentagon press briefing on the recent Strategic Choices. Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., right, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Hagel for the briefing. (DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

To its credit, the SCMR seemed to hint at operational and structural adjustments underway by offering two options—trading “size for high-end capacity” versus trading modernization plans “for a larger force better able to project power.” Nevertheless, one important question which went unasked was whether or not the US Armed Forces alone should continue to play GloboCop.

The current geostrategic environment has become fluid and fraught with uncertainties. As Zhang Yunan avers, China as a “moderate revisionist” will not likely replace the United States as the undisputed global champion due to myriad factors. As for the United States, in the aftermath of a decade-long war on terror and the ongoing recession, we can no longer say with certainty that the United States will still retain its unipolar hegemony in the years or decades to come.

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According to the Yŏnhap News Agency last Thursday, ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin “confirmed…that he had requested the U.S. government” to postpone the OPCON (Operational Command) transfer slated for December, 2015. Citing from the same source, the National Journal elaborated further by saying Minister Kim believed that the United States was open to postponing the transfer because “a top U.S. government official leaked to journalists” Minister Kim’s request for the delay.

Chuck Hagel and Kim Kwan-jin

Ministerial-level meeting

There may be several reasons for the ROK government’s desire to postpone the OPCON transfer. First, the critics of the OPCON transfer both in Washington and the ROK argue that this transition is “dangerously myopic” as it ignores “the asymmetric challenges that [North Korea] presents.” Second, given the shrinking budget, they argue that the ROK may not have enough time to improve its own C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computer and Intelligence) capabilities, notwithstanding a vigorous procurement and acquisition of state-of-the-art weaponry and indigenous research and development programs for its local defense industries. Third, South Korea’s uneven defense spending, and operational and institutional handicaps within the conservative ROK officer corps have prevented South Korea from developing a coherent strategy and the necessary wherewithal to operate on its own. To the critics of the OPCON handover, all these may point to the fact that, over the years, the ROK’s “political will to allocate the required resources has been constrained by economic pressures and the imperative to sustain South Korea’s socio-economic stability and growth.” As if to underscore this point, the ROK’s defense budget grew fourfold “at a rate higher than conventional explanations would expect” due to fears that the United States may eventually withdraw from the Korean peninsula. It was perhaps for these reasons that retired GEN B. B. Bell, a former Commander of the United States Forces Korea, has advocated postponing the transfer “permanently.

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Join us at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.) on 21 April 2013 for our Episode 173: The War Returns to CONUS:

The events of the last week in Boston has brought back to the front of the national consciousness what, for the lack of a better description, is known as The Long War.

The threats we face are both domestic, foreign, and increasingly a mixture of both. Communication and transportation has created a breed of transnational threats that are not new, and whose causes, resources, and threat vectors are not as opaque as some may try to make them.

Starting out and working in, what are the lessons we should emphasize to mitigate the ongoing threat? As we continue in the second decade after 9/11/2013, what are we doing correctly, what still needs to be done – and what things are we wasting time and money on for little gain?

To discuss, our guest for the full hour will be Steven Bucci, Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

Listen live at 5pm (or you can listen later) by clicking here.



As stories of a massive manhunt through Boston and of the still-unfolding drama surrounding Monday’s events capture the attention of every news network, I am struck by our collective reaction to Monday’s attacks. Yesterday morning, the Washington Post’s editorial page carried a number of letters to the editor concerning the Boston Marathon bombing. One letter in particular jumped out: the author worried that Americans feel too safe these days and have grown too complacent, and as a result are less vigilant; she concluded that what this country needs is heightened security and additional precautions, since our current system didn’t prevent the attacks from happening.

In a similar vein, I got hit with an unexpected question Monday night: am I still planning to run the Marine Corps Marathon this fall? The question gave me pause. I’ve run Marine Corps as often over the years as deployments and children allowed, and ran Boston once some years ago (I remember that finish line spectacularly well, mostly because I barely crossed it). The family often comes out to watch, and the team I run Marine Corps with has accumulated a strong cheering squad and support group at the finish. But what would the reverberations of Monday’s events be? Would people want their families to be there after what happened in Boston? Would I? And would I feel safe running it?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. Yes, yes, and again, yes. Absolutely, I’ll run the Marine Corps Marathon, as will thousands of others. We will run it with pride, anger, and disgust, directed at those who spread fear within our borders. What happened Monday is exceedingly rare here, and in that we are beyond fortunate; Boston should remind us of that. What happened is abnormal, horrific, and yet so often, in so many places that are not America, people are numb to it. Not here. Our defenses and security measures are imperfect; we cannot see and catch all. But when a bad apple gets through and inflicts harm upon fellow Americans, we react. We abhor. And we bear witness. Monday’s events had news outlets tripping over each other trying to get the facts out; four days later we can still see the same ubiquitous slow-motion video clip of the explosions everywhere we look. The analysis is too much, perhaps even voyeuristic, sensationalistic. But that’s far better than the alternative, and it keeps us aware.

My immediate reaction to the letter I initially described was primarily an instinctive hatred for the unwelcome image of this nation gripped by fear. We should always be improving security, and we should always be alert. We should embrace our families, and fear for their safety. Yet part of what makes this country amazing is that there will still be marathons, and there will still be spectators at the finish line. We will continue to fly, to travel, and to gather in large numbers in public places. We will continue to be shocked when terrorists attack here, obsessive in the aftermath, and naïve in our beliefs that we can really keep terrorism out of our borders. What scares me most of all is the image of an America where those things cease to happen.



In a recent post at AOL Defense, I examine Congress’s role in the problem of excessive overhead within the Department of Defense. Because of a series of legislative actions dating back to 1947, the bureaucracy within the Department of Defense has grown unwieldy and draws scare resources away from the warfighter. Given the current fiscal problems facing the nation and the American public’s waning support for defense spending, now is the time to reconsider some fundamental issues pertaining to the organization and management of the military forces of the United States.

From the start, a goal of the National Security Act of 1947 was to make the military more efficient and effective. The first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, wrote to President Truman after the Key West Conference in 1948 stressing the need to integrate policy and procedures throughout the military in order to produce an effective, economical, harmonious businesslike organization.

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Join us Sunday 24 Mar 2013 at 5pm Eastern U.S. for Episode 168: “USCG and the Arctic” on Blog Talk Radio:

There is a fair bit of talk about the rush for the arctic for economic and strategic reasons – and where there is international interest on the seas, the nations involved need to think about what is the best way to secure their interests.

While the initial thought might be Navy – is the natural answer really the Coast Guard? If the USCG is the right answer, is it trained, manned and equipped for the job?
What does it need to do in order to fulfill its role – and why may it be the best answer to the question – who will show the flag up north?

Our guest this Sunday for the full hour from 5-6pm EST will be U.S. Naval War College Associate Professor James R. Holmes. As a starting point for our conversation, we will use his latest article in Foreign Policy: America Needs a Coast Guard That Can Fight: As the Arctic becomes an arena for conflict, the United States’ forgotten naval force will need to cowboy up.

Join us live or later by going to Midrats on BTR or picking up the show later from our iTunes page (lately there has been some delay in getting the show to iTunes, though, and the link may require iTunes).



In the Navy, our concept of an organization is dominated by the “chain of command” and the quintessential “org chart,” both of which are vertically focused. These concepts do a good job of telling us who we work for, and who works for us. However, they serve little purpose in outlining with whom we should work. These relationships are horizontal in nature and help us navigate the seams of an organization, seams which are readily apparent in a traditional, vertically-focused “org chart.” While vertical relationships are key to authority and responsibility, effective innovation, planning, and execution are typically dependent on horizontal relationships.

The Chief Petty Officers’ Mess is well known for establishing horizontal relationships. Chiefs utilize relationships established during CPO 365 and within the Chiefs’ Mess to solve problems and accomplish the mission. In essence, the effectiveness of the Chiefs’ Mess is based in large part on these horizontal relationships. These horizontal relationships need not be limited to the Chiefs’ Mess, however. Command members at all ranks, officer and enlisted, can and should seek to establish these relationships in order to make themselves and their command or organization more effective.

A good example is the somewhat recent emphasis on the N3/N2 (Ops/Intel) relationship, linking the operator to the intelligence professional, and vice versa. The result has been greater synchronization between these supporting entities. Another example is the establishment of the Information Dominance Corps (IDC), which seeks to establish a close working relationship between information-focused communities. Regardless of where these information-focused professionals work in an organization, a roadmap for their horizontal relationships has been pre-established by the formation of the IDC. The possibilities for horizontal relationships are truly endless, while the potential value in establishing and utilizing these relationships is immeasurable.

Establishing a horizontal relationship takes little effort. Warfare qualification programs, command functions, social events, and command organizations, such as the First Class Petty Officers Association, all encourage the establishment of horizontal relationships. Getting out of your work space and interacting with your peers is another method. Share each other’s roles and responsibilities and seek to identify overlap, and common or supporting efforts. Then establish a relationship and ensure you leverage it whenever necessary or feasible.

Horizontal relationships need not be limited to your own command or organization. Establishing relationships with other commands or supporting staffs can be beneficial as well. Horizontal relationships can also be established within a wider community, leveraging the collective thoughts of a large, diverse group. Tools like the IDC Self-Synchronization website enable establishment and utilization of such relationships.

So the next time you think about the chain of command or look at an org chart, focus on the horizontal vice vertical aspects of the organization. Identify the seams and look for places to establish horizontal relationships, relationships that will help make you and the command more effective. Then set out to navigate the seams.

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LCDR Chuck Hall is an Information Warfare Officer and member of the Information Dominance Corps. He enlisted in the Navy in 1988 and served 13 years as a Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) prior to commissioning as a CWO2. Subsequently selected for LDO, he transitioned to the Restricted Line once he completed his BA in Middle Eastern Studies. He currently serves on the CCSG-8 staff, embarked in USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. When at home he enjoys spending time with his wife and three amazing children. He has also contributed to Connecting the Dots with his blog post Waiting to Lead.



There are times in history, where there is a roll call. Col. John Boyd noted, “That’s when you have to make a decision: to be or to do.” With sequestration threatening to leverage the full trillion in cuts against our increasingly papered tiger, the dissenting brass must recognize this roll call. Not every fight is at arms in the field, some are quiet battles at home whose only answer is a sacrifice of power.

Those who say that sequestration “won’t happen” and “isn’t a threat” are wrong. Like FDR’s preparations for the oncoming war, the Navy’s preparations indicate the worst. From cutting 3rd/4th quarter ship and aircraft maintenance to reducing the Persian Gulf carrier presence to one, in order to survive, the navy must put itself in more danger than any terrorist threat has. A candidate for SecDef has been nominated who thinks the DoD is still bloated after the first 500 billion dollars in cuts. While the defense department prepares for a second 500 billion in cuts, the debt ceiling deal spent 60% of the savings on the first round for pork projects. Meanwhile, the military is asked to support increased global drone operations, defend from two nations whose entire military is designed to counter the US way of war, and pivot towards Asia. Of course, the Middle East has a firm grip on that pivot-foot. The strategic policy is sound, but the whole-sale undermining of the force meant to do it is unconscionable.

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USAF photo

Please join CDR Salamander and me on February 10, 2013 at 5pm Eastern U.S. for “Episode 162: Air Diplomacy, Air-Sea Battle, and the PAC Pivot”:

Photo: Lockheed Martin

As we shift from ground combat in Asia and reset to a more natural position of a naval and aerospace power, are we thinking correctly on how to best leverage our resources and strengths?

Photo: MDA

How should we be using sea power and air power to create the right effects during peace, yet be poised to have the best utility at war? Are there concepts, habits, and systems that have had their time and should be moved aside for newer tools and ideas?

Our guest for the full hour will be Dr. Adam Lowther, Senior Fellow at the Center for the National Interest in Washington, DC.

He is the author of numerous books and articles on national security topics and previously served in the US Navy.

Join us live if you can here or download or listen to the show later here or on our iTunes page here.



In Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars, the author highlights the president’s frustration with the military advice he received leading up to the surge in Afghanistan. Woodward recounts an exchange between the president and the chairman of the joint chiefs:

Obama: You guys just presented me with four options, two of which are not realistic… Of the remaining two, 40,000 and 30,000 to 35,000 are about the same… You have essentially given me one option. You’re not really giving me any options…. We were going to meet here today to talk about three options.

Mullen: No, I think what we’ve tried to do here is present a range of options, but we believe Stan’s [McChrystal] is the best. (p. 278)

The issue of presidential dissatisfaction with military advice is not a new one; problems in the Kennedy, Johnson, Ford and Carter administrations are well documented. As a result, improving military advice to civilian authority was one of the fundamental goals of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (G-N).

At the heart of the problem, political leaders often seek options for the best use of military force while military leaders present advice in the form of a recommended course of action, derived from a consensus-based planning process. Former DASD for Plans Dr. Janine Davidson masterfully describes this problematic relationship in her forthcoming article in Presidential Studies Quarterly (Winter 2013). She concludes, “Ultimately, the output of the military’s planning process fails to deliver the type of nuanced advice in the form of creative options that the president needs.”

Davidson attributes the “broken dialogue” to three sources of civil-military friction. The first source relates to the difference in expectations of civil-military control. Two differing schools of thought help frame this issue. Military leaders are more likely to be part of the Samuel Huntington school while political leaders are likely to subscribe to the Eliot Cohen school.

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