Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Global Posture Review: Strategic Vapor Lock

The new administration told you that their team was tan, rested, and ready and the Global Posture Review was going to set a firm new direction in line with the natsec SuperFriends bringing new eyes, new outlooks, and bold actions to address the challenge of the third decade of the 21st Century.

Well.

If you were hoping that the much vaunted “the adults are in charge” brigade would give you some hope, take a seat.  If you bought the hype that we were adjusting with some urgency facing the gaping maw of The Terrible 20s, the flexing power of China, and the general disjunction of people, resources, and policy in the fractured, COVID-infused underpinnings of our national security intelligencia, well … you are not going to have a good week. 

You forgot who we were dealing with. The Vogons of the Beltway are here to deliver.


With the joy and enthusiasm usually found going 15-MPH on I95 between Charleston and Savannah on a holiday weekend, Monday DoD extruded a notification that “DoD Concluded 2021 Global Posture Review.” 

 In the name of all that is holy, we need new elites. Let’s dive in.

Following several months of analysis and close coordination across the U.S. government, the Department of Defense released the results of the Global Posture Review (GPR) today.
”Released ?” Really … even that phrase oversells what deposited.
The conclusion of the review comes at a key inflection point following the end of operations in Afghanistan
9-months? So, what did previous generations do in 9-months? Well, from December 1941, if you went forward 9-months from Pearl Harbor Day you’d find: 
  • Singapore fell 
  • Battle of Java Sea 
  • Philippines Lost 
  • Doolittle Raid 
  • Battle of Coral Sea 
  • Battle of Midway 
  • Marines land at Guadalcanal 
  • Battle of Savo Island 
  • …and finally in September of 1942 the Australians stopped the Japanese at Port Moresby in New Guinea, underlining the Japanese high-water mark at the Battle of Midway and the beginning of the end of the Japanese Empire. 
Yes, that’s right. In 9-months, we went from Pearl Harbor to forcing the Japanese to begin their years-long retreat. 

That is what an infinitesimally smaller cohort of national security professionals who operated with slide rules, not supercomputers; chalk boards, not PPT; telegraphs not VTCs, were able to accomplish. What are our highly credentialed, well funded, speed of light legions of civilian and military thought-leaders able to deliver to address the challenge of this century?
In the Indo-Pacific, the review directs additional cooperation with allies and partners to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter potential Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea.  These initiatives include seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities; enhancing infrastructure in Australia and the Pacific Islands; and planning rotational aircraft deployments in Australia, as announced in September.  The GPR also informed Secretary Austin’s approval of the permanent stationing of a previously-rotational attack helicopter squadron and artillery division headquarters in the Republic of Korea, announced earlier this year.
Change five words and this could have been written almost a decade ago when the whole “Pacific Pivot” started. 

Nothing. They’ve got nothing. 

The Flaccid Horde of Northern Virginia, gorging for decades on the largess of the American taxpayers and donor money in agencies, think tanks, panels, manels, and academia have produced nothing, progressed nowhere but the next line on their resume - intellectually vapor locked and strategically their ideas as stuck in aspic. 


If you are not done with this self-serving gaggle of grifting rent seekers, how much longer are you willing to wait for them to produce something of use to the nation? 

We're not just talking about the suit-wearing side of the house either. The inadequacy of our uniformed leadership - pretending the national humiliation at Kabul was an orderly Noncombatant Evacuation Operation and not a negotiated retreat, obsessed with racial essentialism and white guilt as opposed to why they were a less effective than the Soviet Army a few years before that empire collapsed - wants nothing more than a better parking space and for no one to ask exactly what they do here.

From the usual CENTCOM AOR stomping grounds, to the next opening on a board of directors after retirement, they just want to chug along fat, dumb, and happy. Don't look at their shore staff manning documents. Don't fiddle with their approved career path. Don't ask about the institutional incentives and disincentives for promotion and advancement.

Oh, heavens no. We should just thank everyone for the great job everyone did the last couple of decades and to double down on the same thing. This time we will get better results. Sure of it.

This spent force is largely the cause of why we have continued to underperform for decades. The only significant action this bi-partisan civ-mil strategically static force has been able to accomplish in the decade since the Pacific Pivot was announced is to position themselves for the next career move after the next election where the Gold Crew will relieve the Blue Crew for the strategic fast-cruise that never seems to translate in to getting underway - make sure and thank them for their service while you are at it. 

Bullshit.

Show something but the bi-partisan natsec consensus that performance, vision, and action should take a second seat to careerism, inertia, and not hurting feelings.

Their inability to recognize their shortcomings only brings the audacity of their self-interest in to stark relief. They are bringing to our nation the same level of national service last seen from the Ottoman Bureaucracy and the army of Chinese Imperial Eunuchs to their empires - with similar trends. 

OK, perhaps I’m reading too much in to that one little paddy of an announcement? I mean, good, smart people in hard jobs doing their best. Right? 

Personally in most cases yes, but in objective metrics for the mass of them? No, not really. 

I’m not even going to quote from the rest of the announcement as it is clear that the drafter was just desperately trying to make a minimum word count. You’d get more from reading the ingredients label on an old Swanson’s TV dinner

Bless his heart, Andrew Eversden over at Breaking Defense managed an almost impossible feat of scrounging up enough to fill in the Waimea Canyon sized gaps in information. A pro he is.
But rather than a large shift in resources and plans, the review, which looked at US troop locations and capabilities across the globe, ultimately concluded that no major strategic changes are needed, aside from “operational level adjustments we have already announced and a couple of other changes that are still being developed,” a senior defense official told reporters during a Monday briefing. What findings backed up those conclusions, however, is not clear, as the department declined to make a version of the review public.
If the last 9-months news on China, Ukraine, global supply chain bottlenecks, all the permutations of 2nd and 3rd order COVID effects, and the expanding power of Islamist terrorism across the bleeding edge from the Sahel to Mozambique … wait, you can, again, add the negotiated defeat at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan in to the stew - if that doesn’t move the needle for your natsec nomenklatura …
“[The Indo-Pacific] is the priority theater. China is the pacing challenge for the department,” the senior defense official said. 
If anyone uses “pacing” to describe what China is doing, they are fools. They don’t know the meaning of the words they use any more than a 13-yr old boy understands the complexity of human sexuality.
“I think you’ll see a strong commitment in the forthcoming NDS [National Defense Strategy] as well that will guide further posture enhancements.”
So … wait while we prepare to prepare to get ready to address something we said we were going to prepare to prepare for back in 2012? Fine. What choice do we have? These are the same people using the same playbook. 
Mara Karlin, assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, told reporters at a second, on-the-record Pentagon press briefing Monday that the department will send new fighter and bomber aircraft to Australia. She added that across the Pacific, the US military would invest in logistics facilities, fuel storage, munition storage and airfield upgrades in Guam, Australia and the Northern Mariana Islands.
That’s good I guess … right out of 2012 when it was late anyways. Bold of an idea as going to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, but good.
“There are a number of initiatives that we have currently underway that we are fleshing out real time with our allies and partners and you’ll see those manifest over the next two to three years or so,” the senior official said at the first briefing.
That means three years. Add to it the year we already lost … and we are after the 2024 elections already. The mid-20s, the beginning of the time of greatest danger … if not the center mass of it.
The official highlighted an October exercise with two US carrier strike groups and ships from the UK, Japan and other allies as an example of how the US now views the Pacific.
They have so little to say they are just saying things that are new that we have literally been doing my entire human existence.
Becca Wasser, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told Breaking Defense that the GPR was “never going to produce major changes” to global posture because of the challenges with changing fixed posture, as well as the fact that the review preceded both the National Defense Strategy and National Security Strategy. “What it does is provide a framework to message longer-term, gradual posture changes to allies and partners,” Wasser said. “If you want to change posture–whether that is expanding or consolidating bases, or deploying a new capability–you need access. Access is something only allies and partners can provide and changes to access usually require a lengthy consultation process.”
Again, “Pacific Pivot” is roughly a decade old. What has our natsec nomenklatura been doing? I fully understand patience and small moves ... but at this pace ... I mean ... just look at the timeline. 

I’m sorry, but these great, wonderful and highly intelligent people are simply underperforming or … are working for institutions and people who will not let them perform. We need new people, new institution, new structures, new processes, all of these or a combination of these because what we have right now is not working.
The review also didn’t examine space, cyber or nuclear weapons because those capabilities are distinct from the US forces international footprint, the official said. The department has numerous other ongoing initiatives related to some of those categories, including its Nuclear Posture Review, Missile Defense Review and its broader National Defense Strategy. Karlin stressed that the review is a starting point.
I’m not sure what the natsec version of Model UN is, but this emanates the essence of that mindset. The process is the product. If you are missing the fact that cyber and space are critical parts of the "US forces international footprint" - you need better briefers or need to pay closer attention.
“There are other posture initiatives that we’re working real time with allies and partners to further strengthen that combat credible deterrent vis-a-vis Russia,” the official said, once again declining to provide specifics.
Aspic. Everything is frozen in aspic. 


Are we as a nation going to let this lack of progress and action continue? Academic exercises that were repeated every semester until the crack of doom are fun and in places useful - but as the rest of the world’s serious nations improve their positions and strength - what our self-appointed best and brightest are doing is no way to run an empire. 

As China's strength gains as ours treads water, in the third decade of the 21st Century we simply do not have time for such vanity and posturing. We need serious people of action - working inside a system that enables and rewards it - who can see power shifting around the world and can move our levers of power to counter it and move it towards our advantage. 

No more lost decades.

Monday, November 29, 2021

We Need Maps at all Confirmation Hearings

As I snarkly said over on twitter, if the adults are back in charge, would they please act like it. 

First of all, just look at the Marshall Islands located east of Guam, west of Hawaii, and south of Wake Island. 


During WWII, Americans lost 611 men, suffered 2,341 wounded, and 260 missing and killed over over 11,000 Japanese while capturing 358 to secure these islands. An independent nation with some unique security and immigration agreements with the United States, one shouldn’t have to over-emphasize the strategic importance. However …

For decades, the tiny Marshall Islands has been a stalwart American ally … But that loyalty is being tested amid a dispute with Washington over the terms of its “Compact of Free Association” agreement, which expires soon. The U.S. is refusing to engage the Marshallese on claims for environmental and health damage caused by dozens of nuclear tests it carried out in the 1940s and ’50s, including a huge thermonuclear blast on Bikini Atoll.
There are, rightfully, bi-partisan concerns that we are in the middle of an own-goal;
But this month, 10 Democratic and Republican members of the House of Representatives wrote to President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, about the U.S. compact talks
Of course the Chinese are taking advantage of the strategic myopia and bureaucratic pigheadedness of it all. Can’t blame them;
China’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. should face up to its responsibility to restore the environmental damage it caused with its nuclear tests. It said China was willing to engage with the Marshall Islands and other Pacific island nations on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation under the “One China Principle,” in which Taiwan is viewed as part of China.
This should not be that hard;
The frustrations of the Marshallese were apparent in a letter sent last month by Foreign Minister Casten Nemra to Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee’s oversight and investigations panel. “The State and Interior Department officials involved have been unwilling to discuss an agenda for the talks and tried to confine the discussion to their own limited proposals,” Nemra wrote. “The nuclear issue clearly was one reason. All issues raised by the Marshall Islands were met with assertions that they did not have authority to discuss the matters without any indication that they would seek it.” Sen. Paul said the American approach needs to change. “I believe the U.S. has the legal and moral obligation to make sure they clean up this debris,” Paul said. “We want to make sure we get a better deal this time around. As they say, the third time is a charm.”
We cannot counter the Chinese back-actor plays across their Belt-and-Road if we can’t do the right thing in our own back yard.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Fullbore Friday


Not one of our Primary Mission Areas. We will never be asked to do that. If we did that, it would take away from the job that we think in most important. There are more important things we will have to do. That is a distraction. Our platform isn't optimized for that. We think other platforms can do that better. My boss won't let us talk about that.
You hear lots of that sometimes. Nonetheless, warfare asks a lot of people and machines. You often have to do the mission that is most needed, not the one that you like doing, the one your peacetime theorizing told you would be important - or the one that you are told you are supposed to push.

No, in the end - everything you do is, and should be, focused on the most important warfighter in any war. The man with his foot, sandal, or boot is on the ground with a weapons saying "this is ours."

Our friends in the VP Navy found themselves in this very spot in 1951 - and in every other war since - even though they don't like it.

Welcome to Lamp Lighter.
Patrol squadrons (VP) were among the first from the Naval Air Reserve to deploy overseas. Recalled to active duty on 20 July 1950, VP-892 reported to NAS San Diego the following month, and on 18 December logged its first mission, the first by a reserve squadron during the Korean War. Eventually, seven recalled patrol squadrons served during the conflict, flying PBM-5 Mariners, PB4Y/P4Y-2 Privateers and P2V-2/3 Neptunes. The crews flew a variety of missions, including long-range antisubmarine warfare and reconnaissance flights in the Sea of Japan and along the coasts of China and North Korea. This could get dangerous, as evidenced by the experiences of a VP-731 crew operating over the Yellow Sea off the west coast of Korea. On 31 July 1952, two Chinese MiG-15 jets attacked a squadron PBM-5S2, killing two crewmen and wounding two others. The plane's pilot, Lieutenant E. E. Bartlett, Jr., descended to low altitude, weaving in an effort to avoid further attack, and limped to Paengyong, South Korea, where he made an emergency landing. Two squadrons, VPs 772 and 871, harkened back to the days of the famous "Black Cat" patrol squadrons by operating at night over Korea, dropping flares to support night interdiction and close air support missions by Marine Corps aircraft. 
Privateers from VP-28, VP-772, and VP-871 flew flare missions in support of Marine Corps F7F Tigercat and F4U-5N Corsair night fighters. They carried up to 250 high-intensity parachute flares, enough to provide target illumination for several teams of attack aircraft during a single night sortie.
In 1951 VP squadrons were pressed into another role, this time over land, dropping illumination flares in support of air strikes. Known as Firefly missions, they helped deny the night to enemy supply movements. Admiral Arthur W. Radford suggested the use of P4Y-2 Privateers as flare ships to replace the more vulnerable R4D Skytrains in illuminating targets for Marine Corps F4U-5N Corsair and F7F-3N Tigercat night hecklers. One P4Y from VP-772 was modified For the mission and proved highly successful, and three more P4Ys from VP-772 and VP-28 were assigned as "Lamp Lighters" (later operated by successive squadrons). During a typical mission, the P4Y would rendezvous with four attack aircraft, search for truck convoys and illuminate the targets for the attack aircraft.
Although United Nations forces were successful in maintaining air superiority over most of the Korean peninsula, lumbering patrol aircraft had a few encounters with enemy aircraft. A VP-42 Mariner was damaged on 11 May 1952 by a MiG-15 fighter over the Yellow Sea, and on 31 July 1952 a VP-731 PBM was seriously damaged by gunfire from a MiG-15, which killed two crewmen and injured two others.
Low level. At night. Large, slow plane. Not trained for it. Do it anyway. 2/3 initially done by Reserve Squadrons. Great success. Almost forgotten. Enemy killed. Americans saved.

D@mn Reservists. Fullbore.


First posted in 2007 and every 5-yrs or so since.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving

As I like to do on Thanksgiving, I would like to thank one specific blessing; the US Navy's Culinary Specialists, Mess Cranks, and everyone who makes the extra effort to put together such an important feast for our Sailors on such an important national holiday.

We love you guys ... and maybe we don't say it enough - but even if we do, we'll say it again today. 



Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Ice Won't Break Itself


After yesterday's post, you might thing this is ice week ... and maybe it is.

Have you pondered lately the state of Russian, American, and ... yes ... Chinese icebreakers?

Of course you have ... so you'll want to run over to USNIBlog and ponder what bubbled up in the last month.

'Tis the season, dontchaknow.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Are our Intellectual Actions Aligned with our Security Challenges?

That is, of course, a subject question. However, there are objective facts that stand independent of that subjectivity.

Where you are in time and place is important. In the area of national security, disconnects and discontinuities in time and place caused by a desire for reality to be what we want it to be consume the finite resources of time, money, and focus from actions to address what reality actual is. 

Denial fed by delusional distractions, as it were.

Take a moment to back up a bit and think about the top national security concerns of 2021. What do they signal to you as the most important parts of the United States’ national security infrastructure needs to invest their time, money and reputation on?

Well meaning people can differ in how they rack and stack things, but let me grab the Top-3 from my seat the provinces:

1. Strategic impact of the national humiliation following our defeat and negotiated surrender in Afghanistan.

2. Expanded Chinese aggression in the Western Pacific and expanded global influence.

3. Growing Russian hostility in Eastern Europe and her near abroad.

Honorable mentions could include sectarian and religious based conflicts in Africa, domestic logistics and manufacturing short comings, and other actionable national security adjacent challenges could be put in the top-3.

So, let’s say you find yourself just inside a month after the national humiliation in Afghanistan in late August and you have an opportunity for the US Navy’s top four institutions of higher learning; Naval War College, Naval Post Graduate School, Marine Corps University, and the Naval Academy to come together – not a common occurrence - to have a “Combined Naval Address” on a topic of great concern. What would you want them to invest their professional capital in?

Behold!


By all means, I invite you to watch it – you paid for it. 

Just fair warning – this isn’t what it is billed to be. You have an intro by a PMP CDR followed by the reading of a prepared statement by the President of the U.S. Naval War College, then they hand it over to serial Australian TED entrepreneur Saul Griffith whose major skill seems to be able to sell hyped companies that get people excited enough to buy them, only to realize once the ayahuasca trip wears off that … well … perhaps big-ass kites as wind turbines might actually not be all that great of an idea.


That’s it. Funded by the Naval War College - I assume the speaker is paid for. I do wonder how much. 

Even better we find that the Barrows Fellows from the Marine Corps University will spend all year studying <checks notes, this is the year we were defeated in Afghanistan by the Taliban> ... climate change. 

For the record, by their own definition

The General Robert H. Barrow Fellowship seeks to explore and understand different aspects of security and strategy as it relates to great power competition. 

Great. Wonderful. Timely. 

For those who don’t have the time to watch the whole thing, Griffith, looking like he just got off a ayahuasca trip himself, spends a few minutes telling everyone - shocking - that DOD's largest energy use is jet fuel.

We know.

He then spends most of the next 3/4 of an hour reading repackaged slides my kids were shown after the Al Gore movie in middle school weaved in with a recant of standard issue neo-pagan climate grift that has nothing to do with anything impacting any maritime service - much less "great power competition."  No, this is mostly about turning residential civilian America electric - not a military concern.

As sure as the sun and moon rises and sets, the climate changes. It always has and always will. I own property 2-hrs drive inland from here half of which is beach sand - as it used to be a beach.

My state used to be twice the size it is today during the ice age when the shore was far to the east of where it is now.

The question that is unknown is the extent of human cause. Without knowing that, can't do a cost benefit analysis of what needs to be done on what timeline that really make a difference - and the models are simply garbage. The ones from 20-yrs ago are no better than the ones we have now.

All the above paragraph can be argued, sure, but what you cannot argue is that this - in the fall of 2021 - is this something that is deserving of this kind of effort by the US Navy. Somewhere? Sure. All four of our major higher education institutions?

Do you even know what a military is?

It would be comical if not so farcical. 

We are a nation with serious challenges this decade. We and our Navy needs to act as serious as they are.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Some Damn Fool Thing in Ukraine

Over the weekend, I hope this slide got your attention. 


As an old Operational Planner who just can’t quit the game, it got mine.

The U.S. has shared intelligence including maps with European allies that shows a buildup of Russian troops and artillery to prepare for a rapid, large-scale push into Ukraine from multiple locations if President Vladimir Putin decided to invade, according to people familiar with the conversations.

That intelligence has been conveyed to some NATO members over the past week to back up U.S. concerns about Putin’s possible intentions and an increasingly frantic diplomatic effort to deter him from any incursion, with European leaders engaging directly with the Russian president. The diplomacy is informed by an American assessment that Putin could be weighing an invasion early next year as his troops again mass near the border.

The information lays out a scenario where troops would cross into Ukraine from Crimea, the Russian border and via Belarus, with about 100 battalion tactical groups -- potentially around 100,000 soldiers -- deployed for what the people described as an operation in rough terrain and freezing conditions, covering extensive territory and prepared for a potentially prolonged occupation. 

It is best to ignore the two camps on either side of this issue; one camp “nothing to worry about” and the other is “war at any moment.” No, not quite.

Remember, Russia is not a rich or powerful nation anymore – but she is not weak. She has a stronger and better military than she did 10-yrs ago. One should never over-estimate or under-estimate Russia – nor try to look at her as you would a Western nation. She is Russia – a distinct people and culture with her own motivations.

She’s positioned 100,000 military personnel along a traditional invasion front for a reason. 

Why?

Math is math. Long-dwell deployments like this are not cheap either in money or readiness. They are not done on a whim for such long periods with this many people. 

If you’re asking for a quick-look (as in I have 30-min to pound this out and get back to the paying gig) to start a further investigation, here is how I open the discussion: this is not an exercise, this is something more. It is clear that there is a Higher Direction and Guidance (D&G) to the military to “prepare for the possibility of …” and the “…” could be a variety of different events. Let’s start with Sal’s “Red Most Likely” and “Red Most Dangerous” Courses of Action (COA). “We” in the below is the Russian Federation. 

As always, I need to establish the first five Planning Assumptions: 

Planning Assumption 1: NATO will not credibly oppose any actions we may take along the spectrum of conflict as long as our actions are limited to the territory of Ukraine.

Planning Assumption 2: EU will not credibly oppose any actions we may take along the spectrum of conflict as long as our actions are limited to the territory of Ukraine.

Planning Assumption 3: UN will not credibly oppose any actions we may take along the spectrum of conflict as long as our actions are limited to the territory of Ukraine.

Planning Assumption 4: USA, alone or with a small group of allied nations, will not credibly oppose any actions we may take along the spectrum of conflict as long as our actions are limited to the territory of Ukraine.

Planning Assumption 5: No other medium sized power, or combination of medium sized powers, will credibly oppose any actions we may take along the spectrum of conflict as long as our actions are limited to the territory of Ukraine.

(NB: I only have 30-min here, so I am skipping A LOT of steps, but hey – I’m just one guy)

Red Most Likely COA: Create a credible invasion force to pressure and destabilize the Ukrainian government to create a series desired effects – outlined in a more in-depth planning briefing – that leads to negotiations to finalize the status of Crimea and Donbass to the benefit of the Russian Federation.

Red Most Dangerous COA: Full invasion and military occupation of Donbas leading to negotiations with the Ukrainian government to finalize the status of Crimea and Donbas to the benefit of the Russian Federation. If negotiations are not agreed to in an adequately short period of time after forces occupy Donbas, execute approved Sequel Plan A to invade and occupy all of Ukrainian territory and dictate terms unconditionally on the Ukrainian government.

A few points to remember; 

- We don’t know what Putin’s Higher Direction and Guidance is – at least in open source. What we do know is that Putin is 69. If he wants to be the man of Russian history that he seems to want to be, and enjoy it, he does not have all that much time left to do it.

- The USA is distracted and after the Afghanistan humiliation on its heels, suffering under its weakest leadership since the late 1970s.

- Germany is supine, is run by a fragile and passivist coalition, and is increasingly reliant on the Russian Federation for her future energy requirements.

- France and the UK are too far away, weak, and distracted elsewhere.

- Turkey is distracted elsewhere and unable.

- The People’s Republic of China is not concerned with any action the Russians may take in Eastern Europe.

Russians are not shy about winter offensives.

What times we live in … what times we live in.

Pray for peace.