About those odd USAF uniforms from last week…

Perusing the DoD website I made a comment on Twitter about these unusual uniforms from last week’s change of command for the CSAF: 

At which point a number AF folks asked when this uniform came out. I didn’t realize these were obscure so I asked the Air Force. Their response was that it was a special ceremonial uniform for the Air Force Chief of Staff and Command Master Sergeant. This isn’t terribly unusual, the Army Chief of Staff is exempt from the Army’s uniform regulation (I’m not sure why). However, I’ve never know a CSA to have a special ceremonial uniform. I’m not sure these have ever been used before, but I can’t entirely suggest they be used again. 

It also appears that the CSAF has his own hat. Those are clouds and thunderbolts you see. 

(Yes, I know I haven’t used this site in a good long while. I’m still working through how to balance this with Ink Spots, especially as I don’t post that much over there. Work in progress, etc.)

CSBA and the FY12 DoD Budget: Sane is as sane does

Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments doing what they do best: serious analysis of defense budgets. Go read their analysis of the FY2012 budget - especially the Executive Summary (pdf). That is if you’re into sane people talking about serious things. If you like crazy, you may enjoy this a bit more. Whichever, it’s up to you. 

The metamorphosis of Fort Knox

I just returned (very early this morning) from a whirlwind visit to Fort Knox. For those of you that don’t know, Fort Knox is not just home to the famous gold vault but had been the home of the U.S. Army’s Armor Center, and Armor soul, for quite a while until it moved in with the Infantry school at Fort Benning in the past year. BRACing the school shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone given that it wasn’t a coveted “Center of Excellence” - merely a Center. 

I attended the Armor Officer Basic Course (another term not used any more) there in 2002. Then the post lived and breathed armor and cavalry. Sure, there were some other commands out there (Cadet Command, Recruiting Command), but there were still plenty of tanks and soldiers and stetsons around to give the place some life. I was somewhat taken aback at how different the whole post feels now that the schoolhouse is gone, replaced by the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. An old squadron commander of mine was telling me this weekend that at a recent Armor Conference, a retired Armor general asked the then Chief of Armor if they were going to replace the tanks on display at the Fort Knox main gate with giant typewriters.

This isn’t to speak badly of HRC, a major command in the Army who occupy what is apparently the largest office building in the state of Kentucky, but the perceived demographic change that seemed to invert the soldier-to-civilian ratio on a military post was shocking to someone who hadn’t been there in a quite a while. And this in spite of an actual Brigade Combat Team moving in as well. At least the bar in the Leader’s Club is still Fiddler’s Green, the streets are still named after Armor Divisions and cavalry regiments, and the gates still have tank displays, but these are among the last reminders of what Fort Knox used to be. 

I and everyone else who’s ever been associated with the Armor branch will get used to its move to Fort Benning (even if we lament its lack of proximity to great bourbon distilleries) and its natural coupling with its Infantry brethren. But this was a reminder to me of how much the Army changes and how fast that change happens, all while supporting and manning two wars this past decade. And that’s pretty damned impressive. 

You can take my tanks when you pry them from my cold, dead hands

Well, not my tanks anymore, but you get the idea. Like a lot of people, I’m going through this CNAS paper on the effects of potential DoD budget cuts. There is a lot of good stuff in it and some stuff I don’t think cuts it. For example @brettfriedman pointed out a very valid point that the recommended ground force end strengths are nearly useless unless those numbers are put into the context of capabilities: MEFs, MEUs, BCTs, whatever. 

I’m also a little concerned about the authors’ passing remarks on armor (and some other big-ticket items that I don’t know as much about). From the “Guiding Principles” section:

Given the changing operational environment, today’s force has too many heavy armored formations, short-range strike fighters,amphibious capabilities and manned aircraft.

The “changing operational environment”? What “changing operational environment”? This comment is just thrown out there without context and I don’t know what the authors think of whatever environment existed before and where it’s headed now and in the future. For all I know, this is a true statement, but I’ll remain skeptical until shown otherwise.

In the third guiding principle we get this:

Given that the defense budget is likely to remain constrained for years to come, DOD should return to a more restrictive planning and acquisition system that applies limited resources to the most serious threats to U.S. vital interests.

Absolutely. But this just doesn’t jive with the statement above. If you’re arguing that the U.S. needs to narrow its definition of interests, presumably we will face fewer Iraqs and Afghanistans and only deploy ground forces only in the event of our own direct security being at stake. I may be wrong, but I think that would require more than a few airborne infantry brigades. But I guess since we don’t know what the “changing operational environment” means, to say nothing of “vital interests”, then it’s hard to do these sums. 

I also want to point out that while armor forces are a bit of a logistical bear (to move around the globe and to keep operational once in theater), you get quite a large combat capability from a small platform. Tanks aren’t a cure-all for whatever wars we find ourselves in, but they’re pretty damned useful.  

I fully acknowledge that as a former tanker I’m biased on this topic, but I don’t think this report gets to the level of detail required to make recommendations such as mothballing large swaths of the Army’s mechanized forces. 

On a more positive note, I fully support their suggestion of using the Guard and Reserve more often in strategic and operational roles. This is one of the first widely-distributed papers to make that recommendation. 

Awlaki’s killing wasn’t justice

I have no issue with the U.S. killing him with a Hellfire from a drone, but let’s not pretend this is justice - a term with very specific meaning in the United States most often associated with due process and courts. Which Awlaki was not afforded. This was a military operation or a reckoning, but it certainly wasn’t “justice.” 

Ten years of muddling our conflict with al Qaida between policing/legal action and war has skewed our understanding of both (see also: Guantanamo Bay). Individuals are either criminals or they are combatants. I’d like to see this cleared up over the next couple of years, if not sooner. 

Father of Money - reviewed at Ink Spots

Even though I’m pretty sure everyone who reads HD reads Ink Spots, I’m going to link anyway. Jason Whiteley’s Father of Money is an exceptional book about being on the ground in Iraq and the moral dilemmas junior leaders face. You should all buy and read it

I didn’t buy the HASC argument

Details over at Ink Spots. The report is terrible. 

"Fuzzy" doesn’t even begin to describe this math - UPDATED

HASC Chairman Buck McKeon says that cuts to the defense budget will result in a draft. (Thanks to Doctrine Man for the link via Twitter)  Uh, okay. If current cuts remove “over 200,000” personnel from the force, how does the logic work that this leads to a draft? If you don’t have the money for the all volunteer forces, you don’t have the money for drafted forces. It’s not like they’d get paid less. Can anyone explain this to me? Because it sounds like scare-mongering to me. The “people are going to get out” because of the cuts argument is absolute nonsense at its face - service is going to continue to be a great deal for a lot people even if we do see the $1+ trillion cuts.  

If he said that our readiness would be lowered and if we then became involved in a large ground war that required more forces than we had because of the budget cuts and then and only then would need to draft more Americans into the services to fight this new manpower-intensive war, well then I’d get the logic. But it doesn’t seem like he’s saying that. It seems like he’s scaring people who oppose the draft into not supporting defense cuts.

McKeon’s not alone in this somewhat crazy and/or dishonest line. He shares the same loony argument with the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Cartwright

UPDATE: John Noonan, who works for the HASC, engaged me on Twitter (thanks John) advising me not to get wrapped up in the headlines and that the Chairman was focused on what he perceives to be coming decreases to retention and recruitment based on cuts to incentive benefits. So I’ll cede that McKeon isn’t just spouting craziness (Gen Cartwright on the other hand…) even if I disagree with that logic.

I highly doubt recruitment will be affected by changes to military benefits (which I believe are untenable over the long term) - most new recruits don’t join for the retirement pay in my experience. A steady paycheck and health benefits usually rank much, much higher on their lists. I can’t say retention won’t be affected, although I’d suggest some of the new retirement plans I’ve heard, which include getting something before 20 years, will actually help retention rates for those who consider getting out around the 10 year mark.

Either way, I’d like to see some studies on it before we start throwing the word “DRAFT!” around. I’d like that study to look and see if these alleged decreases in recruitment and retention would outpace decreases to force size. Because frankly, if we have a much smaller force, we won’t need to recruit and retain as many people. However, Noonan says that the Committee will be releasing something on this. So for now, I’m skeptical but I’ll wait to see what they have to say before coming to any conclusions. 

Good Riddance

DADT ended this morning as you undoubtedly heard and not a day too soon. Seems that our forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have not yet been routed, ships are not crashing into each other, and planes are not falling from the sky. Crazy world we live in. Now let’s all figure out the fallout policies (marriage, benefits, etc), put this ugly chapter of military history behind us, and get back to the fight. 

Interesting study on the targeting of civilians

Duck of Minerva highlighted a new study on the targeting of civilians (I can’t remember who linked to it on twitter, so if you want credit speak up). I haven’t read the study itself yet, but if the analysis is solid, there are some surprising conclusions. Per the Duck:

First, the majority (61%) of all formally organized actors in armed conflict during 2002-2007 refrained from killing civilians in deliberate, direct targeting.

Second, actors were more likely to have carried out some degree of civilian targeted, as opposed to none, if they participated in armed conflict for three or more years rather than for one year.

Third, among actors that targeted civilians, those that engaged in greater scales of armed conflict concentrated less of their lethal behavior into civilian targeting ad more into involvement with battle fatalities.

Fourth, an actor’s likelihood and degree of targeting civilians was unaffected by whether it was a state or a non-state group.”

It’s the last bit I’m must surprised about, especially given the number of rebel/insurgent/terrorist groups who do deliberately target civilians.