Monday, May 13, 2013

Bing, hard questions - and what Congress must do

Last week, Bing West hit center mass. Everyone in uniform watching people in coat & tie sitting at the table need to take a deep breath and know this; our uniformed operational-level commanders need to be next.
General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has concluded that generals do not live up to the standards they demand of others. According to the New York Times, “Under General Dempsey’s plan, teams of inspectors will observe and review the procedures . . . in effect for all generals. He said he would be subject to the same rules.”

Those new rules would seem to require an assessment of Dempsey’s own performance last September, when he decided not to respond with force to the terrorist attack in Benghazi for ten hours, although our ambassador to Libya was declared missing during the first hour of the assault and two former SEALs died in the tenth hour. Why did Dempsey choose to do nothing?
The fight at the U.S. consulate waxed and waned for ten hours. Yet during that time, the Marine Force Recon unit on Sigonella Air Base, 500 miles away, was never deployed and not one F-16 or F-18 was dispatched. Granted, Force Recon and fighter aircraft weren’t on alert and did not appear on the Pentagon’s official list of “hostage rescue forces.” But they were one phone call away, and no general asked for them. Ten hours provided adequate time for a range of ad hoc responses. Commanders are expected to adapt in battle.
Is the public seriously to believe that in ten hours Dempsey and the $600 billion dollar Defense Department could not dispatch one ad hoc rescue team, as our embassy in Tripoli did, or order one fighter jet to scramble?

Have our military’s best and brightest lost the capacity to improvise? Clearly, that merits an assessment. Will General Dempsey ask for a review of his own procedures? Do as I say, or as I do? The chairman of the joint chiefs is the only general who can answer that.
Let's backup a bit. I think we are focusing on the wrong number of stars. Before you start going after the 3-4-stars ... you need to go further down the chain.

From the start of this, when questioning the military has come up, I remain convinced that if Congress really wants answers - it needs to focus on where they are going to get answers.  They need to start interviews at the LtCol/CDR to BG/RADM juicy center. If they must interview 4-stars, then they need to interview the Commander of AFRICOM, Commander of EUCOM, and the Commander of US 6th Fleet. You will not get the answers you seek from beltway 4-stars.

Before they get to those folks, Congressional investigators need to interview the people who were running the watch floors at AFRICOM, EUCOM, and C6F. They need to interview the Commanding Officers of every operational command in Sigonella, Souda Bay, and Aviano (and the ships between those bases and the Libyan coast). Add the senior American uniformed officer and his deputy at those bases as well.

They also need to interview the N/J/CJ-2 at every US and NATO Command at the time of the attack. They need to get the log of each watch floor at those commands.

What will they find? I don't know - but something closer to the truth. Something more direct like they got from Gregory Hicks. Talk to the leaders and decision makers on the ground. They will tell you who either by commission or omission said, "no."

Here is what I do know - there were units on a ready status that night at those bases. There have been for decades and I don't think that has ended now ... especially the evening of 11 Sept of any year. If so, people need to be held accountable.

Intel and reports go through watch floors - then the battle-JAGs and Commanders review ROE & orders coming down the chain, and send communications/questions/requests up the chain.

The reason the military was not used was at some point was they were told not to. If you want to know why a F-16 was not launched, ask the Lt Col commanding that squadron and then work up from there until you find the person who says, "I said no." Then you can shift from "who" to "why."

Bing is on the same idea,
At least three four-star generals and three separate staffs (the operations centers in the Pentagon, Special Ops in Tampa, and Africom in Germany) watched the ten-hour action.
That ... and this non-starter.
Defense Secretary Panetta later offered the excuse, “You can’t willy-nilly send F-16s there and blow the hell out of place. . . . You have to have good intelligence.”
We all know that is false. On multiple occasions on active duty, I/we moved aggressively to a position to await further orders. Move ... adjust en route ... then move more. Especially with aircraft. We do launch ready aircraft "willy-nilly" for less important things than an embassy consulate under attack.

The answers given at this point are not satisfactory for one simple reason; we are not asking the right people.

This is where perhaps I differ with Bing. I'm not interested in Dempsey. I want the guys a one or two hours plus ZULU.


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Vigilis said...

Panetta made a similar mistake to Les Aspin's foot-dragging with the tank request for Mogodishu (1992-3), and apparently gave the same, aloof excuse - a claim of insufficient intelligence.

The latter was axed by W. Clinton, and former resigned to protect H. Clinton. Duh!

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