Archive for the 'Secretary Gates' Category



Gates on a Nuclear Iran

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 10 months ago

From Reuters:

Sanctions against Iran are biting hard and triggering divisions among its leadership, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday, as he argued against a military strike over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Iran has agreed to meet with a representative of the six big powers for the first time in more than a year over its uranium enrichment drive, but diplomats and analysts see little chance of a breakthrough in the long-running dispute.

Gates said he saw little choice, however, to pursuing a political strategy that includes sanctions and renewed his concerns that a military strike would only delay Iranian nuclear capabilities by two or three years.

He added that sanctions “have really bitten much harder than (Iranian leadership) anticipated,” and suggested Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was increasingly at odds with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“We even have some evidence that Khamenei, now, (is) beginning to wonder if Ahmadinejad is lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy. And whether he’s getting the straight scoop in terms of how much trouble the economy really is in,” Gates told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington.

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Although he acknowledged on Tuesday that Iranian leaders “are still intent on acquiring nuclear weapons,” he said military action was not a long-term answer.

“A military solution, as far as I’m concerned … it will bring together a divided nation. It will make them absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons. And they will just go deeper and more covert,” Gates said.

“The only long-term solution in avoiding an Iranian nuclear weapons capability is for the Iranians to decide it’s not in their interest. Everything else is a short-term solution.”

Oh goodness.  Gates has bought into the notion that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons because they seek a deterrent to aggression against Iran.  Convincing Iran to relinquish its pursuit of nuclear weapons is synonymous with convincing them that no one intends Iran harm.  Military action only pushes they into the very decision point we wish to avoid.  Or so the narrative goes.

It’s the same mistake made by most of the secular, post-modernist Western elite who sees things mainly through Western, secular eyes.  It’s all about self preservation viz. Darwin, and upon being assured that they are safe, and since there is no such thing as real evil in the world and no absolute against which to measure such a thing as right or wrong, there is only the pragmatic.  The Iranian rulers will be pragmatic and see the error of their pursuit and act in the defense of themselves and their own people.  Altruistically, of course.  It’s all about diplomacy.  It just means saying the right things.

Except the world and mankind don’t work that way, and objective evil does in fact exist.  Seeing things through eschatological eyes is uncomfortable to the Western secularists, but absolutely necessary in order to understand the radical Mullahs, who believe that:

“We do not worship Iran. We worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world.”

To be sure, military action is undesirable.  There is always another way, involving covert operations, intelligence warfare, fomenting an internal Iranian insurgency, and catalyzing regime change.  But with eyes through which the Western secularists see the problem, this will never occur.  This virtually ensures war with Iran, sooner or later.  Our own desire to avoid confrontation is at least a contributing cause to such an exigency.

This is the second awful decision Gates has made within a week.  Does this set the expectations for the remainder of his  tenure?  Will it be two per week?

It’s fun to shoot some people

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 2 months ago

Via Federal Eye, U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis, newly nominated to head CENTCOM, gives an unvarnished opinion of the enemy.

“Especially hard to overcome,” huh?  The only bone I have to pick with General Mattis is that the prosecution of the Haditha Marines began under his watch.  But this has worked itself out okay (except for one more Marine).

But it would seem to me that given the volatility and importance of the region and the obvious failure of soft diplomacy with Iran for 25 years, we need a moderately heavier hand at the helm.  Trust is not what is needed with the radical Mullahs or their apparatchiks in Syria and Lebanon.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I like the idea of having a general who likes to kill the enemy.  Let the politicians do the politics and let the warriors be warriors.  I like what he said five years ago, and Gates should just stuff a sock in it and let the general speak for himself.

SECDEF Gates on the Navy and Marines

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

Before we address the issue of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ position on the sea services, let’s debunk the mythical notion that either the military or the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan is bankrupting the country (or even demanding the lion’s share of money).  From CATO (h/t Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit).

That’s quite enough said about that.  On to the sea services.

“Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040,” Gates said. But a look at the facts is warranted, he added. The United States now has 11 large, nuclear-powered carriers, and there is nothing comparable anywhere else in the world.

“The U.S. Navy has 10 large-deck amphibious ships that can operate as sea bases for helicopters and vertical-takeoff jets,” he said. “No other navy has more than three, and all of those navies belong to allies or friends.”

The U.S. Navy can carry twice as many aircraft at sea as the rest of the world combined, Gates said. Under the sea, he told the group, the United States has 57 nuclear-powered attack and cruise-missile submarines – more than the rest of the world combined, and 79 Aegis-equipped surface ships that carry about 8,000 vertical-launch missile cells.

“In terms of total-missile firepower, the U.S. arguably outmatches the next 20 largest navies,” Gates said. “All told, the displacement of the U.S. battle fleet – a proxy for overall fleet capabilities – exceeds, by one recent estimate, at least the next 13 navies combined, of which 11 are our allies or partners.”

The United States must be able to project power overseas, Gates said. “But, consider the massive overmatch the U.S. already enjoys,” he added. “Consider, too, the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries. Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?”

The Marine Corps is now 202,000 strong. It is the largest force of its type in the world, and exceeds in size most nations’ armies. Between the world wars, the Marine Corps developed amphibious warfare doctrine and used it to great effect against the Japanese during World War II. Whether that capability still is needed, however, is worthy of thought, the secretary said.

“We have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious landing again – especially as advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point further from shore,” Gates said. “On a more basic level, in the 21st century, what kind of amphibious capability do we really need to deal with the most likely scenarios, and then how much?”

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) will take a particularly tough beating over the course of the next several months and years, but the Marines have rolled out their case.

The Marine Corps unveiled its new $13 billion landing-craft program on Tuesday, a day after Defense Secretary Robert Gates questioned the Pentagon’s need for it …

“Secretary Gates has placed his marker, and he’s not in favor of continuing the program,” said Dakota Wood, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a retired Marine officer. “The Marine Corps is going to have to come up with a whale of a rationale to convince him otherwise.”

The need, the Marines say, stems from their need to replace its Nixon-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles. The new vehicle will allow Marines to land on a hostile shore, a capability needed, for example, in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia in the 1990s and civilians from Lebanon in 2006, said Lt. Gen. George Flynn, who leads the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. The amphibious capability also forces adversaries to undertake “costly defensive measures,” Flynn said.

Analysis & Commentary

The issue of expense of military hardware, systems and size has nothing to do with overspending.  It pertains to the relative commitment of this particular administration to national defense as opposed to government-run, government-administered programs and subsidies.  We have the economy to support an even larger military than we currently have.  What we don’t have is the national will.

Aircraft carriers, as much or more than any other military hardware, is a way of projecting power across the globe.  My support of them is well known, and my support for the F-22 program has been made clear.  In fact, I have proposed an increase rather than a decrease in Carrier battle groups.  The size of the Marine Corps is not a problem for the national economy, and it’s easy to question expenditures for a strong national defense while comfortably enjoying the peace and security that it has brought.

But this isn’t the same thing as questioning the need for the EFV and the forcible entry doctrine of the Marine Corps.  I have taken the doctrine to task.

I do not now and have never advocated that the Marine Corps jettison completely their notion of littoral readiness and expeditionary warfare capabilities, but I have strongly advocated more support for the missions we have at hand.

Finally, it occurs to me that the debate is unnecessary.  While Conway has famously said that the Corps is getting too heavy, his program relies on the extremely heavy Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, that behemoth that is being designed and tested because we want forcible entry capabilities – against who, I frankly don’t know.

If it is a failing state or near failing state, no one needs the capabilities of the EFV.  If it is a legitimate near peer enemy or second world state, then the casualties sustained from an actual land invasion would be enormous.  Giving the enemy a chance to mine a beach, build bunkers, arm its army with missiles, and deploy air power, an infantry battalion would be dead within minutes.  1000 Marines – dead, along with the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock and its associated EFVs.

No one has yet given me a legitimate enemy who needs to be attacked by an EFV.  On the other hand, I have strongly recommended the retooling of the expeditionary concept to rely much more heavily on air power and the air-ground task force concept.  It would save money, create a lighter and more mobile Marine Corps (with Amphibious Assault Docks ferrying around more helicopters rather than LCACs), and better enable the Marines to perform multiple missions.  I have also recommended an entirely new generation of Marine Corps helicopters.

This is not suggesting that the Marine Corps in any way needs to have its funding cut or decrease its size.  It is to suggest that the money might be more wisely spent in other areas.  The mission still isn’t clear.  Above it has been suggested that the Corps needs the EFV for withdrawal of forces (such as from Somalia) or evacuation of civilians (such as from Lebanon).  But this explanation doesn’t comport with the facts of the program.  “The Corps aims to buy a total of 573 EFVS. This would give it the capacity to amphibiously transport eight infantry battalions of about 970 Marines and sailors per battalion, the Congressional Research Service said in a report dated August 3, 2009.”

We don’t need 573 EFVs and eight infantry Battalions to evacuate civilians from Lebanon.  The Corps obviously plans to replace its amphibious transport of Marines (currently with the LCAC) with the EFV.  The Corps also plans to continue its doctrine of amphibious-based forcible entry.  But as I have pointed out, there is no reason that this cannot be done via air and a new helicopter fleet.  If the plan is to be prepared to invade a near-peer via an amphibious landing, this is lunacy and madness.  If the plan is to save ships by allowing them to be 25 miles offshore, this is naive and sophomoric.  The Navy had better be designing better counter-measures.

While there is every good reason to be more efficient in both military spending and non-defense spending, there is no good reason to cut funding to the Corps.  But the Corps needs to rethink its basic doctrine and reassess the real need for the EFV.  Going in the direction of a lighter, air-sea-based, rapid reaction force has its merits, and should warrant some attention.  Gates should hear fresh thinking from the U.S. Marine Corps, not warmed over 60 year old doctrine.  It’s too bad that the QDR, that brainchild of Michelle Flourney,  is such an incredible waste of ink and paper.  It would have been a good repository for fresh thinking.

Gates to Pakistan: Fight Our Common Enemies

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 8 months ago

Secretary Gates is again pressing Pakistan to see the Taliban and al Qaeda (one presumes he means here both the Pak-Taliban and Afghan-Taliban) as our common enemy.

RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made an unannounced trip here Thursday to urge Pakistan to expand its crackdown against the Taliban as well as to counter skepticism about the Obama administration’s new war strategy for Afghanistan.

But there is an increasing symbiosis between the Pak-Taliban, the Afghan-Taliban and al Qaeda, and launching strikes against one is like strikes against them all.  While Pakistan may see the Tehrik-i-Taliban as a potential enemy of the state, it still sees the Afghan-Taliban (the Quetta Shura) as its balance against India.

Myra MacDonald has an interesting article on “strategic depth” that warrants attention.  She begins by citing a Pakistani commentator, and then discusses her own personal perspective given her history in the region.  This is an extended read, but well worth the time.

Kamran Shafi has a column up at Dawn mocking Pakistan’s old strategy of seeking “strategic depth” – the idea that in the event of war with India its military would be able to operate from Afghanistan to offset its disadvantage as a small country compared to its much bigger neighbour:

“Let us presume that the Indians are foolish enough to get distracted from educating their people, some of whom go to some of the best centres of learning in the world. Let us assume that they are idiotic enough to opt for war instead of industrialising themselves and meeting their economic growth targets which are among the highest in the world. Let us imagine that they are cretinous enough to go to war with a nuclear-armed Pakistan and effectively put an immediate and complete end to their multi-million dollar tourism industry. Let us suppose that they lose all sense, all reason, and actually attack Pakistan and cut our country into half.

“Will our army pack its bags and escape into Afghanistan? How will it disengage itself from the fighting? What route will it use, through which mountain passes? Will the Peshawar Corps gun its tanks and troop carriers and trucks and towed artillery and head into the Khyber Pass, and on to Jalalabad? Will the Karachi and Quetta Corps do likewise through the Bolan and Khojak passes? And what happens to the Lahore and Sialkot and Multan and Gujranwala and Bahawalpur and other garrisons? What about the air force? Far more than anything else, what about the by now 180 million people of the country? What ‘strategic depth’ do our Rommels and Guderians talk about, please? What poppycock is this?

“More importantly, how can Afghanistan be our ‘strategic depth’ when most Afghans hate our guts, not only the northerners, but even those who call themselves Pakhtuns?”

Pakistan’s policy of seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan has been up for discussion since 9/11, when it was forced to abandon the Taliban regime it had backed to try to contain Indian influence there and give itself the space that it felt was so lacking on its eastern border. I have heard Pakistanis saying it was a stupid idea; others saying that even within the Pakistan Army there was a recognition that strategic depth nowadays was best achieved through building a strong domestic economy. Unlike 1971, when Pakistan was cut in two after Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, won independence with Indian military support,  the notion that it might be split in half by an Indian offensive pretty much became outdated when both countries announced they had tested nuclear weapons in 1998.

So is Shafi tilting at windmills? Attacking an idea that belonged to the last century?

Not entirely. Strategic depth has become ingrained in the narrative of relations between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan — so taken for granted that I remember being rather surprised myself when a subeditor, quite rightly, asked me to explain what it meant. It may no longer apply in the pure military sense of providing a space to which the army can fall back and where reserves and supplies can be stored, but as a theoretical and emotional concept it lingers.

Notice the idea of Pakistan being forced to abandon their support for the Afghan-Taliban after 9/11.  If we wish once again to force Pakistan to abandon their investment in the Taliban, half-way measures won’t do.  The AfPak theater of operations must be seen as the focal point of the battle against the transnational Islamic insurgency, and we must resource the campaign with this in mind.

Did Secretary Gates’ admonition accomplish its mission?  Not even nearly.

Pakistan’s army has said it will launch no new offensives on militants in 2010, as the US defence secretary arrived for talks on combating Taliban fighters.

Army spokesman Athar Abbas told the BBC the “overstretched” military had no plans for any fresh anti-militant operations over the next 12 months.

Our correspondent says the comments are a clear snub to Washington.

But it gets worse.  Pakistan is even worried that the buildup of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will send fleeing Taliban across the so-called border into their territory.  This is a fairly rudimentary issue to be so far and so many years into the campaign – this notion that the intent is for the Pakistanis to press the Taliban from their side while we press them from the Afghan side.

This all points to a Pakistan that still doesn’t see the Taliban as an existential threat, a Pakistan that can still use the Taliban as a balance to Indian power (however quaint the notion), and a Pakistan that simply wants to see it all go away – and believes that a cessation in military operations will accomplish this.

Prior:

Asking the question whether al Qaeda and the Taliban are in Pakistan or Afghanistan is like asking whether the water is on the right or the left side of a swimming pool.

The conversation on Pakistan versus Afghanistan presupposes that the Durand Line means anything, and that the Taliban and al Qaeda respect an imaginary boundary cut through the middle of the Hindu Kush.  It doesn’t and they don’t.  If our engagement of Pakistan is to mean anything, we must understand that they are taking their cue from us, and that our campaign is pressing the radicals from the Afghanistan side while their campaign is pressing them from the Pakistani side.

Advocating disengagement from Afghanistan is tantamount to suggesting that one front against the enemy would be better than two, and that one nation involved in the struggle would be better than two (assuming that Pakistan would keep up the fight in our total absence, an assumption for which I see no basis).  It’s tantamount to suggesting that it’s better to give the Taliban and al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan as Pakistan presses them from their side, or that it’s better to give them safe haven in Pakistan while we press them from our side.  Both suggestions are preposterous.

Gates on Release of the Interrogation Memos

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

The administration has recently pressed for the release of both the interrogation memos and the associated photographs.  Regarding this information:

“They should have fought it all the way; if they lost, they lost,” said Lowenthal, who retired from the Agency in 2005. “There’s nothing to be gained from it. There’s no substantive reason why those photos have to be released.”

Lowenthal said the president’s moves in the last week have left many in the CIA dispirited, based on “the undercurrent I’ve been getting from colleagues still in the building, or colleagues who have left not that long ago.”

“We ask these people to do extremely dangerous things, things they’ve been ordered to do by legal authorities, with the understanding that they will get top cover if something goes wrong,” Lowenthal says. “They don’t believe they have that cover anymore.” Releasing the photographs “will make it much worse,” he said.

Setting aside the issue of whether water-boarding is torture or whether certain interrogation techniques should be used, the release of detail concerning the same is bound to continue to undermine a CIA that lost much of its capability in human intelligence in the Clinton years.  Secretary of Defense Gates’ reaction to the release of the memos is interesting on multiple levels.

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed concerns on Thursday that the release of Justice Department memorandums on harsh interrogation techniques might be used by Al Qaeda and other adversaries and put American troops at risk.

But Mr. Gates said that the public release of graphic, detailed information on American interrogation techniques for terrorists was inevitable and that he had focused his efforts in cabinet-level discussions on how the United States should deal with the expected international backlash.

Mr. Gates declined to say whether his private advice to President Obama was to release or withhold the documents and instead said he urged careful attention to dealing with the consequences of their disclosure.

“Pretending that we could hold all of this and keep it all a secret, even if we wanted to, I think was probably unrealistic,” Mr. Gates said. “My own view was shaped by the fact that I regarded the information about a lot of these things coming out as inevitable.”

The central question he posed in lengthy, intense debate among the president’s senior advisers, Mr. Gates said, was, “How do we try and manage it in the best possible way?”

Mr. Gates’s comments on the release of the documents by the administration were the first since they were made public. He spoke on a visit to Marines training here for a deployment to Afghanistan, and he expressed apprehensions that the release of the information “might have a negative impact on our troops” and that the “disclosures could be used by Al Qaeda and our adversaries.”

Mr. Gates said he had argued that Central Intelligence Agency officers who were following legal guidelines for interrogation be protected. He said he was concerned “first and foremost” that protection be guaranteed for “C.I.A. officers who were involved in the interrogations — and who performed their duties in accordance with the legal guidance they had been given by the Justice Department.”

Gutsy move.  Let’s translate the statement[s] above into a something more usable by giving the less political version that Gates doubtless wanted to say.

“Look.  You and I both know that this is stupid.  Whatever you might think of what was done, those involved should be protected.  It was inevitable, which means that I am alone on the Cabinet.  I did all that I could do, which is to argue for protecting the fidelity of our intelligence community and managing as best as possible the release of the information.  They were hell bent on doing it, and it was unrealistic to think that I could stop it.  Be glad you have me there – I am the lone voice of reason on the Cabinet.”

By the way, it appears as if Gates has recovered nicely from his broken arm.

SECDEF Gates Loses Intelligence-Gathering Opportunity?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

With the (then) upcoming North Korean missile launch, I had settled on the idea that the U.S. would shoot the missile out of the sky.  This position quickly evaporated into one of watching Japan shoot the missile out of the sky.  With some thought, I landed on the notion that Japan doesn’t have reliable enough systems to ensure success, and so attempt and failure would no doubt be an intelligence boon for North Korea.

No, over time my position evolved to one of no attempt at a shoot-down, just high quality intelligence-gathering.  We’d pull a Sun Tzu on them – they wouldn’t get to see our capabilities, but we’d see all of theirs.  If they’re willing to show us their capabilities, then we should collect data – and lot’s of it.  It was the most sensible position to take, and I was sure that the Pentagon would follow this line of thinking.

Not so, apparently.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates denied permission for the U.S. Northern Command to use the Pentagon’s most powerful sea-based radar to monitor North Korea’s recent missile launch, precluding officials from collecting finely detailed launch data or testing the radar in a real-time crisis, current and former defense officials said.

Jamie Graybeal, Northcom public affairs director, confirmed to The Washington Times that Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, the Northcom commander, requested the radar’s use but referred all other questions to the Pentagon.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Mr. Gates’ decision not to use the $900 million radar, known as SBX, was “based on the fact that there were numerous ground- and sea-based radars and sensors in the region to support the operational requirements for this launch.”

SBX, deployed in 2005, can track and identify warheads, decoys and debris in space with very high precision. Officials said the radar is so powerful it could detect a baseball hit out of a ballpark from more than 3,000 miles away, and that other radars used by the U.S. would not be able to provide the same level of detail about North Korea’s missile capabilities.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, who until recently headed the Missile Defense Agency, said the SBX would have gathered data other U.S. systems could not.

“The sea-based X-band radar is clearly without a doubt the most powerful and capable sensor in all of our missile defense inventory,” he said. “It is three or four more times powerful than other radars” in Asia, including Aegis-equipped ships, a Cobra Dane early warning radar in Alaska and a small X-band radar in northern Japan, he said.

Gen. Obering noted that the SBX was used by the U.S. Strategic Command to track a falling satellite and guide U.S. sea-based missile interceptors that destroyed it in February 2008.

There are several potential reasons for this decision that have been floated.

One current and two former specialists in strategic defenses said the administration rejected the request because it feared that moving the huge floating radar system would be viewed by North Korea as provocative and upset diplomatic efforts aimed at restarting six-nation nuclear talks …

Obama administration civilian policymakers accepted North Korea’s claim that the rocket spotted by intelligence satellites being fueled at North Korea’s Musudan launch complex was a space launcher with a satellite, and not a missile, the official said. He spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal deliberations.

In the end, the missile failed to put a satellite into orbit, although the missile traveled farther than in previous North Korean tests.

Former defense officials said the failure to use the SBX precluded the U.S. from gathering finely detailed intelligence and electronic signatures on the North Korean missile – information that could be useful in guarding against a future rocket launch aimed at the United States or one its allies.

Regardless of whether it was a missile or space launcher, “the technologies that overlap between a ballistic missile and a space launcher are incredible; everything you need for a ballistic missile can be tested out with a space launcher,” one of the former defense officials said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because the information he possesses about the SBX’s capabilities is not public.

The first potential justification for this decision is that it would be seen as provocative.  We’ll come back to that in a moment.  The second potential justification is that the technology was associated with a satellite launch.  This is of course irrelevant, since the North Koreans are attempting to perfect missile technology, whether the technology is used for satellites or warheads.  The Obama administration had no chance of this justification passing muster, since the launch was a test.  The circumstances surrounding the test have nothing whatsoever to do with how the technology might be used in the future.

Let’s continue with the next excuse.

The SBX radar, built on a large floating oil rig platform and normally based at the remote western Aleutian island of Adak, about 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage, was undergoing maintenance in Hawaii in early March.

The senior military official involved in continental missile defense said it would have required suspending the work to get the SBX sailing “so we asked [for it to be moved] pretty early, and preparations were begun.”

“As it became more clear that this was a space launch attempt and SBX would not have added any to the capabilities we needed to monitor a space launch, we canceled our request to allow refit to continue on timeline,” the senior official said.

Nice try, but again, that dog won’t hunt.  One cannot say ahead of time what data might be required after the fact to properly assess performance.  Ask any test engineer how precise he would like the test data, and you’ll get the answer “as precise as we can get it” every time.  This senior official has offered an uncompelling excuse for utilizing what is arguably the most suitable technology for the situation.  If not now, then when would the technology be used?

Finally, the worst excuse floats to the top.

Philip Coyle, a former Pentagon weapons testing specialist who has been critical of missile defense testing, said the SBX is technically a better radar than any system in Japan.

However, Mr. Coyle said one problem with the radar is that its resolution is so fine it needs to be “cued,” or directed where to look. That may be a reason it was not deployed, he said.

“Both the [Government Accountability Office] and my former office have questioned whether this radar can survive the maritime environment,” said Mr. Coyle, now with the Center for Defense Information.

Oh good grief.  They should have stopped with just poor instead of ending up with ridiculous.  Now they look like they’re just making stuff up.  If you want to know if the system can “survive the maritime environment,” just ask the weapons design and testing engineers.  The GAO won’t know something that they don’t.  If the engineers don’t know, then this presents yet another unmatched opportunity to test our own systems real time and in a live environment.  Who knows when the North Koreans will launch another missile?

In short, the most plausible reason for this decision is the first, i.e., that a huge floating radar system would have been “provocative.”  Thus we’ve missed a once in a blue moon opportunity for valuable intelligence-gathering.

Whether Gates supported this decision behind closed doors is not known.  But one is left to wonder, would he have made the same decision while working for the previous administration?

Robert Gates Reshapes DoD Budget Plans

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates delivered a benchmark speech today and unveiled sweeping changes in both the weapons systems being pursued and the budgetary process.  But the plans aren’t simply a numbers game according to Gates.

My decisions have been almost exclusively influenced by factors other than simply finding a way to balance the books or fit under the “top line” – as is normally the case with most budget exercises. Instead, these recommendations are the product of a holistic assessment of capabilities, requirements, risks and needs for the purpose of shifting this department in a different strategic direction. Let me be clear: I would have made virtually all of the decisions and recommendations announced today regardless of the department’s top line budget number.

There are so many commentaries on Gates’ decisions that I cannot possibly hope to cover and comment on all of his proposals.  However, a few important observations follow.

First, while I don’t celebrate the demise of the defense industry like some commentators, even when they are shown to be inefficient, the Army Future Combat System (FCS) was doomed to failure and properly so.  The whole notion of field robots, unmanned ground vehicles, connectivity and cyberwar from the soldier to the UAV, Soldier exoskeleton, and the like, is untenable in areas such as Afghanistan where there is rough terrain, limited electricity, dust, grunge and grime, and the continual risk of fouled and failed components or components which otherwise cannot function because of loss of battery power supply.  The concept, while futuristic and exciting to some, doesn’t comport with the realities of the battle space.

It would be better to see the Army (and for that matter, the Marine Corps) invest in a new generation of rifles which can be fired from the open-bolt or closed-bolt position and which isn’t susceptible to carbon blowback and fouling.  Also as regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know, the reduction in battle space weight (due mainly to heavy SAPI plates in body armor carriers) is a worthy investment.  Add to this the necessary ground logistics and troop movement equipment such as a new generation of helicopters or at least an expansion in the size of the Cavalry, and this all amounts to quite a significant but certainly worthy undertaking for the Army and Marines.  Turning our warriors into cyborgs doesn’t compare to simply giving them lighter battle space weight and assured logistics with helicopters.

There are disappointing aspects of the proposals, though.  The Navy gets hammered, and focuses on littoral combat ships.  We here at The Captain’s Journal are skeptical about the program, and have yet to see the strategic need for turning our focus off of the larger ships to smaller ones that, according to Marine Corps Commandant Conway, the Navy has said won’t be taken nearer than the horizon, or about 25 miles from shore.  As for Aircraft carriers, it is as expected by Galrahn at Information Dissemination.  It appears that the fleet is going to exist with 10 carriers for the foreseeable future.

In my estimation this is a mistake and we should expand the carrier fleet by at least two (for a total of twelve).  Again, consider the example of China.  The Aircraft carrier is the prize towards which it pushes.  China knows that true sea power will not be had until it can field an aircraft carrier.  Besides, no matter how many littoral combat ships are fielded and no matter how many MEUs (Marine Expeditionary Units) are active at any one time aboard the USS Iwo Jima or the newer USS San Antonio or other docks, when hell starts raining down from the skies because we don’t control the air space above the Amphibious Assault Docks, Battalions of Marines will be sitting ducks and it will be too late to be concerned about deploying enough air power to protect our troops.  Debates on the budget by the Congress and Secretary of Defense will be a long gone exigency in issues of life and death.

And considering air power, we have already weighed in on the F-22.  It is far superior to the F-35 and is simply needed in order to ensure air superiority into the future.  Expensive, sure.  But Gates is stopping at 187 F-22s, plus about four more.  We probably need more.

Concerning the refueling tanker, it will go out for bids again this summer.  There is no need according to our own analysis.  It should be unconscionable that we would award a contract for the refueling tanker to a company that is majority owned by Vladimir Putin.  We should sole source it.

One final note.  As best as I can determine, the Marine Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle has gotten out unscathed.  We have been hard on the EFV.  Due in part to an effort to show the recent success of the program, the EFV might be looking better.  It is, after all, the only vehicle that even proposes to be capable of forcible entry as a sea-based force.  But since it has been given a reprieve, it had better perform.  No more cost overruns, no more maintenance failures, no more design flaws.  But if the lack of a V-hull for IED protection comes back to haunt us, let it be known that The Captain’s Journal has issued the warning.

Overall, The Captain’s Journal rates the budget proposal as a mixed bag.  Again, it’s simply too bad that trillions of dollars are being thrown away on things that won’t help our ailing economy, while the Soldiers’ and Marines’ salaries, weapons and gear have to suffer.  One has to consider the possibility that it is immoral to ask our warriors to sacrifice even more when the executives are being bailed out and banks are being nationalized.

Prior:

Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts

How to Pay for a 21st Century Military

Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

Following are some related but disaggregated thoughts on the upcoming U.S. Department of Defense budgetary cuts, along with some very good required reading on this subject.

Gates Readies Big Cuts in Weapons

As the Bush administration was drawing to a close, Robert M. Gates, whose two years as defense secretary had been devoted to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt compelled to warn his successor of a crisis closer to home.

The United States “cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything,” Gates said. The next defense secretary, he warned, would have to eliminate some costly hardware and invest in new tools for fighting insurgents.

What Gates didn’t know was that he would be that successor.

Now, as the only Bush Cabinet member to remain under President Obama, Gates is preparing the most far-reaching changes in the Pentagon’s weapons portfolio since the end of the Cold War, according to aides.

Two defense officials who were not authorized to speak publicly said Gates will announce up to a half-dozen major weapons cancellations later this month. Candidates include a new Navy destroyer, the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet, and Army ground-combat vehicles, the offi cials said.

More cuts are planned for later this year after a review that could lead to reductions in programs such as aircraft carriers and nuclear arms, the officials said …

Gates is not the first secretary to try to change military priorities. His predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, sought to retool the military but succeeded in cancelling only one major project, an Army artillery system.

Former vice president Dick Cheney’s efforts as defense chief under the first President Bush, meanwhile, are cited as a case study in the resistance of the military, defense industry, and Capitol Hill. Cheney canceled the Marine Corps’ troubled V-22 Osprey aircraft not once, but four times, only to see Congress reverse the decision.

And we’re glad that the V-22 Osprey program was completed.  It is already making an impact in the Marine Corps expeditionary concept.  The Captain’s Journal is still a supporter of Secretary Gates, but these defense cuts are both unnecessary and ill-advised (although not of Gates’ choosing in a perfect world).  Beginning in 2011, Russian armed forces will undergo a comprehensive rearmament to refurbish and replaces weapons systems.  While the U.S. is disarming, one of the only two near peers in the world is increasing and rearming its military.  No, wait.  Make that both near peer states.

Beijing Considers Upgrades to Navy

China’s top military spokesman said it is seriously considering adding a first aircraft carrier to its navy fleet, a fresh indication of the country’s growing military profile as it prepares for its first major naval deployment abroad.

At a rare news conference Tuesday, Chinese defense-ministry officials played down the importance of Beijing’s decision to send warships to the Gulf of Aden to curb piracy — China’s first such deployment in modern history — saying it doesn’t represent a shift in defense policy. The two destroyers and supply ship are to depart Friday for the Middle East.

But officials also made clear that China’s navy, which has been investing heavily in ships and aircraft, now has the capability to conduct complex operations far from its coastal waters — and that Beijing is continuing to expand its reach and capability, perhaps with a carrier.

It’s unclear what parts of an aircraft carrier China would build itself and what parts it might need to acquire from abroad. China has bought carriers before, but none ended up in the country’s fleet.

In some of the most direct public statements on current thinking behind Beijing’s naval policy, defense military spokesman Col. Huang Xueping said Tuesday that “China has vast oceans and it is the sovereign responsibility of China’s armed forces to ensure the country’s maritime security and uphold the sovereignty of its costal waters as well as its maritime rights and interests.”

At Information Dissemination, Galrahn makes a good observation on the importance of the expeditionary concept.

As we have noted many times on the blog, the amphibious ship is the hardest working type of ship in the US Navy in the 21st century. The data says all that needs to be said regarding the requirement.

They are flexible platforms that bring together a wide variety of capabilities that can effectively perform the range of mission profiles from soft power to forward afloat staging bases to even assault roles when necessary. They are the rapid responders when crisis breaks out on land, and best fit the most often called upon requirements of the US Navy when problems occur, whether it is Hezbollah/Israel or a natural disaster, the amphibious ship, not the aircraft carrier, is the type of platform sent into to help out people … The biggest problem with the sea basing concept isn’t the idea regarding how to get troops to land, but how to sustain troops from sea once we get them on land. The single largest factor that limits support is fuel.

The Captain’s Journal agrees with Galrahn and the importance of force projection – whether hard or soft power – with the Marines Expeditionary Units (including the “combined arms” concept of multiple naval vessels with various defensive and offensive capabilities.  But with us it isn’t a matter of either-or.  It’s both-and.  We need both the carrier battle groups and the MEUs.

We will learn the lesson, again, the easy way or the hard way.  But we must be prepared to fight both near peers and counterinsurgency campaigns.  As for China, when they want to expand their global influence, the first big ship they go after is the carrier.  Concerning Galrahn’s warning on the need for fuel, this highlights all the more the need for ports and air superiority for refueling tankers.  Concerning overall air superiority, if the sole focus of our national defense dollars is in counterinsurgency, littoral combat and small wars, the MEUs will be left to the slaughter once the ordnance begins raining down from the sky.

Concerning this issue of being able to fight two wars at one time, the current administration is toying with this age-old doctrine.

The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.

For more than six years now, the United States has in fact been fighting two wars, with more than 170,000 troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The military has openly acknowledged that the wars have left troops and equipment severely strained, and has said that it would be difficult to carry out any kind of significant operation elsewhere.

To some extent, fears have faded that the United States may actually have to fight, say, Russia and North Korea, or China and Iran, at the same time. But if Iraq and Afghanistan were never formidable foes in conventional terms, they have already tied up the American military for a period longer than World War II.

A senior Defense Department official involved in a strategy review now under way said the Pentagon was absorbing the lesson that the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns likely to be part of some future wars would require more staying power than in past conflicts, like the first Iraq war in 1991 or the invasions of Grenada and Panama.

In an interview with National Public Radio last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made it clear that the Pentagon was beginning to reconsider whether the old two-wars assumption “makes any sense in the 21st century” as a guide to planning, budgeting and weapons-buying.

Be careful here.  This seems like a prelude to deep cuts in the men and materiel necessary for air superiority, Naval superiority and force projection.  Wait, we’ve already discussed this above, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Finally, you will note that the cuts also target both nuclear refurbishment and development and the F-22 program.  The Captain’s Journal has already weighed in on these issues.

Just Build the F-22, Okay?

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

The three links above are required reading, as are the two links below (for those readers who aren’t convinced of the need to refurbish our existing nuclear weapons stockpile or continue further development).

Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management

National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century

Finally, read this:

Remember Near Peer Threats?

Robert M. Gates on a Balanced Strategy for the Pentagon

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

In the January / February 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has a paper entitled A Balanced Strategy: Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age. It is a lengthy paper, and some selected quotes are extracted below, followed by a brief analysis.

The defining principle of the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy is balance. The United States cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything. The Department of Defense must set priorities and consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs.

The strategy strives for balance in three areas: between trying to prevail in current conflicts and preparing for other contingencies, between institutionalizing capabilities such as counterinsurgency and foreign military assistance and maintaining the United States’ existing conventional and strategic technological edge against other military forces, and between retaining those cultural traits that have made the U.S. armed forces successful and shedding those that hamper their ability to do what needs to be done.

The United States’ ability to deal with future threats will depend on its performance in current conflicts. To be blunt, to fail — or to be seen to fail — in either Iraq or Afghanistan would be a disastrous blow to U.S. credibility, both among friends and allies and among potential adversaries.

In Iraq, the number of U.S. combat units there will decline over time — as it was going to do no matter who was elected president in November. Still, there will continue to be some kind of U.S. advisory and counterterrorism effort in Iraq for years to come …

It would be irresponsible not to think about and prepare for the future, and the overwhelming majority of people in the Pentagon, the services, and the defense industry do just that. But we must not be so preoccupied with preparing for future conventional and strategic conflicts that we neglect to provide all the capabilities necessary to fight and win conflicts such as those the United States is in today.

Support for conventional modernization programs is deeply embedded in the Defense Department’s budget, in its bureaucracy, in the defense industry, and in Congress. My fundamental concern is that there is not commensurate institutional support — including in the Pentagon — for the capabilities needed to win today’s wars and some of their likely successors.

What is dubbed the war on terror is, in grim reality, a prolonged, worldwide irregular campaign — a struggle between the forces of violent extremism and those of moderation. Direct military force will continue to play a role in the long-term effort against terrorists and other extremists. But over the long term, the United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory. Where possible, what the military calls kinetic operations should be subordinated to measures aimed at promoting better governance, economic programs that spur development, and efforts to address the grievances among the discontented, from whom the terrorists recruit. It will take the patient accumulation of quiet successes over a long time to discredit and defeat extremist movements and their ideologies …

The recent past vividly demonstrated the consequences of failing to address adequately the dangers posed by insurgencies and failing states. Terrorist networks can find sanctuary within the borders of a weak nation and strength within the chaos of social breakdown. A nuclear-armed state could collapse into chaos and criminality. The most likely catastrophic threats to the U.S. homeland — for example, that of a U.S. city being poisoned or reduced to rubble by a terrorist attack — are more likely to emanate from failing states than from aggressor states.

The kinds of capabilities needed to deal with these scenarios cannot be considered exotic distractions or temporary diversions. The United States does not have the luxury of opting out because these scenarios do not conform to preferred notions of the American way of war.

The military and civilian elements of the United States’ national security apparatus have responded unevenly and have grown increasingly out of balance. The problem is not will; it is capacity. In many ways, the country’s national security capabilities are still coping with the consequences of the 1990s, when, with the complicity of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, key instruments of U.S. power abroad were reduced or allowed to wither on the bureaucratic vine. The State Department froze the hiring of new Foreign Service officers …

Yet even with a better-funded State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, future military commanders will not be able to rid themselves of the tasks of maintaining security and stability. To truly achieve victory as Clausewitz defined it — to attain a political objective — the United States needs a military whose ability to kick down the door is matched by its ability to clean up the mess and even rebuild the house afterward.

Given these realities, the military has made some impressive strides in recent years. Special operations have received steep increases in funding and personnel. The air force has created a new air advisory program and a new career track for unmanned aerial operations. The navy has set up a new expeditionary combat command and brought back its riverine units. New counterinsurgency and army operations manuals, plus a new maritime strategy, have incorporated the lessons of recent years in service doctrine. “Train and equip” programs allow for quicker improvements in the security capacity of partner nations. And various initiatives are under way that will better integrate and coordinate U.S. military efforts with civilian agencies as well as engage the expertise of the private sector, including nongovernmental organizations and academia …

The United States cannot take its current dominance for granted and needs to invest in the programs, platforms, and personnel that will ensure that dominance’s persistence.

But it is also important to keep some perspective. As much as the U.S. Navy has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, for example, in terms of tonnage, its battle fleet is still larger than the next 13 navies combined — and 11 of those 13 navies are U.S. allies or partners. Russian tanks and artillery may have crushed Georgia’s tiny military. But before the United States begins rearming for another Cold War, it must remember that what is driving Russia is a desire to exorcise past humiliation and dominate its “near abroad” — not an ideologically driven campaign to dominate the globe. As someone who used to prepare estimates of Soviet military strength for several presidents, I can say that Russia’s conventional military, although vastly improved since its nadir in the late 1990s, remains a shadow of its Soviet predecessor. And adverse demographic trends in Russia will likely keep those conventional forces in check.

All told, the 2008 National Defense Strategy concludes that although U.S. predominance in conventional warfare is not unchallenged, it is sustainable for the medium term given current trends. It is true that the United States would be hard-pressed to fight a major conventional ground war elsewhere on short notice, but as I have asked before, where on earth would we do that? U.S. air and sea forces have ample untapped striking power should the need arise to deter or punish aggression — whether on the Korean Peninsula, in the Persian Gulf, or across the Taiwan Strait. So although current strategy knowingly assumes some additional risk in this area, that risk is a prudent and manageable one.

Analysis

The entire paper is worth studying, but Secretary Gates continues to build upon the theme of maintaining a balance between arming and training for near peer conflicts and irregular warfare. The theme is in keeping with his history, as he has convinced the current administration that the 183 F-22s already purchased are enough to fill the gap between now and the advent of the F-35 (which by all accounts is far outperformed by the F-22). The Air Force wants more, but will likely have to settle for 183. Gates’ pragmatic view is also in keeping with our own advocacy of the A-10 (which we believe to have been prematurely retired and entirely capable of performing another decade or two), but our advocacy is not entirely based on its performance in COIN. It is also a very capable tank killer, and can still function as originally designed. Not every aerial weapon has to be new, and outfitting the A-10 to bring it up to the digital age is quite enough for now.

Gates even goes to lengths that The Captain’s Journal isn’t prepared to go, in allowing money for the ill-conceived and (soon-to-be) ill-fated Army future combat system with its exoskeleton. We’ve made our desires know, i.e., lighter ESAPI plates with the same ballistic stopping power are a worthy investment, the exoskeleton is not (and is suited merely for erasing gender, strength and fitness differences in combat, not a laudable goal anyway). Kill the program, Secretary Gates.

Gates also pushes the notion that investment in almost-failed states is a worthy goal compared to the risk, i.e., the next attack that levels a city or kills civilians is more likely than not going to come from almost-failed states rather than stable ones. So far, so good. The Captain’s Journal has always been an advocate for Secretary Gates and will be so into the future.

But one cannot escape the sinking feeling that Gates is on another level in his understanding of things compared to the team that will surround him (excluding General Jim Jones). Gates clearly delineates between the army of State Department employees, foreign operatives and NGOs that are necessary for the proper engagement of almost-failed states and such notions for large state actors. The delineation is that while Gates works hard on the former, he doesn’t mention the later. The incoming administration appears by all accounts to believe that negotiations will suffice to dissuade bad state actors from their intentions. We have gone on record disagreeing with this.

One cannot escape the reality that Russia just might push for some version of its former global empire, that China might just decide that it has lost patience with Taiwan, and that Iran, no matter the size of the army of negotiators, will continue its push for nuclear weapons grade material. At some point we must consider that in addition to the ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s prudent to have fleets in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden along with Marines for CENTCOM ready reserve.

It’s going to be a difficult four years, we believe, but we feel certain about one thing. President-elect Obama couldn’t do any better than Secretary Gates, and his team is stronger for having him there, and would be profoundly weak without him. For those who have opined that the U.S. military is losing focus on conventional warfare with the institutional focus on counterinsurgency and stability operations, the argument is settled for the moment. We’ll do both, but we’ll focus for now on the campaigns we have at hand. And that’s that.


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