31 January 2010

Order of Battle: Brazilian Army

Side-scrollers beware! Big image!

(Image: Wikimedia)

By: Brant

MidEast Missile Defense Proliferation

Looks like we're going to assist Persian Gulf allies with missile defense.
The United States has begun beefing up its approach to defending its Persian Gulf allies against potential Iranian missile strikes, officials say. The defenses are being stepped up in advance of possible increased sanctions against Iran.
The Obama administration has quietly increased the capability of land-based Patriot defensive missiles in several Gulf Arab nations, and one military official said the Navy is increasing the presence of ships capable of knocking out hostile missiles in flight.
The officials discussed aspects of the defensive strategy Saturday on condition of anonymity because some elements are classified.
The moves, part of a broader adjustment in the U.S. approach to missile defense, including in Europe and Asia have been in the works for months. Details have not been publicly announced, in part because of diplomatic sensitivities in Gulf countries which worry about Iranian military capabilities but are cautious about acknowledging U.S. protection.

Of course, they're too chicken to acknowledge our help because (take your pick)...

By: Brant

The Coming CyberWar - a Truly Privatized War?

Given that the current cyber-kerfluffle is not between the US and China, but China and a US-based commercial company, what does this face-off mean for policy, conflict, and the coming cyberwar?

"The Chinese air force has an asymmetrical warfare division" charged with developing cyberwarfare techniques to disable governments' command and control systems, says Tom Patterson, chief security officer of security device manufacturer MagTek Inc.

"They are fully staffed, fully operational and fully active. And when you aim a governmental agency that size against any company, even the size of Google -- well, it's an overwhelming force," Patterson says.

"It's been going on in China since at least at least May 2002, with workstations running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," Peller says.

Google has been unable to conclusively tie the Chinese government to the recent attacks, but it did trace the source of those attacks to mainland China. Experts say the sophistication of the hackers indicates government support, or at least approval.

Such virtual attacks represent a very real danger. Government and security-firm sources say over 30 other companies were attacked in this latest hack, from software firms like Adobe and Juniper Networks to Northrop Grumman -- a major U.S. defense contractor and manufacturer of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and the Global Hawk unmanned drone.

It's just part of a battle that's been getting increasingly belligerent:

-- In 2007, Britain's security agency, MI5, issued a secret warning to CEOs and security leaders at 300 banks and legal firms that they were being attacked by "Chinese state organizations." The letter was later leaked to the media.

-- Late in the 2008 presidential campaign, FBI and Secret Service agents alerted the Obama and McCain camps that their computers had been hacked. The source of the attacks: hackers in China.

-- Earlier that summer, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, James Shinn (assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs at the time) and Maj. Gen. Philip Breedlove (of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) warned officials about China's asymmetrical warfare capabilities.

As the article also notes...
It isn't just Google, and it isn't just China. Security experts say there's a raging, worldwide cyberwar going on behind the scenes, and governments and businesses across the globe need to be on alert.

Security analysts say 20 countries, in addition to China, are actively engaged in so-called asymmetrical warfare,a term that originated with counterterrorism experts that now commonly refers to cyberattacks designed to destabilize governments. Countries engaged in this activity range from so-called friendly nations, such as the United Kingdom and Israel, to less friendly governments like North Korea, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

"There are least 100 countries with cyber espionage capabilities," warns Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, an information security and training firm. Today there are thousands of hackers working on such programs around the world, "including al Qaeda cells that are acting as training centers for hackers," he said.

"It's been a widespread problem for some time," says University of Texas at San Antonio professor and cyber security researcher Ravinderpal Sandhu. Paller and others agree, adding that the recent Google incident -- in which the Internet giant discovered e-mail and corporate sites had been extensively hacked by programmers on the Chinese mainland -- represents just the tip of the iceberg.

Will this war be fought by private companies and citizens? How will the US hold a company accountable if they swipe back at China and the Chinese lodge a formal/public complaint? If the US goes public with any allegations, can we demonstrably prove them in public? It's not like there are satellite photos of hacks the way there were of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Should we start heavily recruiting at the Balck Hat conferences and tell the guys they can wreak all the havoc they want to on the Chinese, just as long as they leave Western targets alone? Come to think of it - I like that idea!

By: Brant

Anniversary: Tet Offensive

This week marks the anniversary of the Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive was a military campaign during the Vietnam War that began on January 31, 1968. Forces of the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam (Viet Cong), and the People's Army of Vietnam (the North Vietnamese army), fought against the forces of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), the United States, and their allies. The purpose of the offensive was to strike military and civilian command and control centers throughout South Vietnam and to spark a general uprising among the population that would then topple the Saigon government, thus ending the war in a single blow.[9]
The operations are referred to as the Tet Offensive because they began during the early morning hours of 31 January 1968, Tết Nguyên Đán, the first day of the year on a traditional lunar calendar and the most important Vietnamese holiday. Both North and South Vietnam announced on national radio broadcasts that there would be a two-day cease-fire during the holiday. In Vietnamese, the offensive is called Cuộc Tổng tiến công và nổi dậy ("General Offensive and Uprising"), or Tết Mậu Thân (Tet, year of the monkey).
The NLF launched a wave of attacks on the morning of 31 January in the I and II Corps Tactical Zones of South Vietnam. This early attack did not, however, cause undue alarm or lead to widespread defensive measures. When the main NLF operation began the next morning, the offensive was countrywide in scope and well coordinated, with more than 80,000 communist troops striking more than 100 towns and cities, including 36 of 44 provincial capitals, five of the six autonomous cities, 72 of 245 district towns, and the southern capital.[10] The offensive was the largest military operation yet conducted by either side up to that point in the war.
The initial attacks stunned the US and South Vietnamese armies and took them by surprise, but most were quickly contained and beaten back, inflicting massive casualties on communist forces. During the Battle of Hue intense fighting lasted for a month and the NLF executed thousands of residents in the Massacre at Huế. Around the US combat base at Khe Sanh fighting continued for two more months. Although the offensive was a military defeat for the communists, it had a profound effect on the US government and shocked the American public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the communists were, due to previous defeats, incapable of launching such a massive effort.
The term "Tet offensive" usually refers to the January-February 1968 NLF offensive, but it can also include the so-called "mini-Tet" offensives that took place in May and August.

What lessons did we learn from Tet? What lessons do we seem to have forgotten from Tet? Your thoughts below.

By: Brant

Videogamers make better troops?

ONR is touting the enhanced combat/cognitive abilities of "gamers". Funny that they never mention boardgamers.

"We have discovered that video game players perform 10 to 20 percent higher in terms of perceptual and cognitive ability than normal people that are non-game players," said Ray Perez, a program officer at the ONR's warfighter performance department in a Jan. 20 interview on Pentagon Web Radio's audio webcast "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military."

"Our concern is developing training technologies and training methods to improve performance on the battlefield," said Perez, who holds a doctorate in educational psychology.

Perez described the war against terrorists as presenting significant challenges to warfighters on the ground because they must be able to adapt their operations to innovative and deadly adversaries who constantly change their tactics.

"We have to train people to be quick on their feet - agile problem solvers, agile thinkers - to be able to counteract and develop counter tactics to terrorists on the battlefield," Perez said. "It's really about human inventiveness and creativeness and being able to match wits with the enemy."

It's also about adaptability. Perez said this means "being able to work outside your present mindset, to think beyond what you have been taught, to go beyond your experience to solve problems in new and different ways."

Perez used the term "fluid intelligence" to describe the ability to change, to meet new problems and to develop new tactics and counter-tactics. Fluid intelligence, he explained, allows us to solve problems without prior knowledge or experience.

This raises the question of whether fluid intelligence is innate or can be developed and improved.

"For the last 50 years, fluid intelligence was felt to be immutable," Perez said, "meaning it couldn't be changed, no matter what kinds of experiences you have."

This, he added, is related to the idea of brain plasticity. "The presumption was that the structure of the brain and the organization of the brain are pretty much set in concrete by the time you are out of your teens," he explained.

Early indications suggest that cognitive improvements from video games can last up to two and half years, Perez said, but he admitted that so far the results have been relegated to observations and measurements in a controlled laboratory environment.

"The major question is that once you've increased these perceptual abilities and cognitive abilities, do they transfer to everyday tasks," he said, "and how long do they continue to influence the person working on these everyday tasks?"

In the meantime, the researchers are looking at ways to integrate video game technology into learning tools. Perez said that they are looking at everything from small-screen training on personal digital assistants and laptops to simulators and virtual environments.

One virtual environment, used to develop adaptability within team dynamics, looks very much like a cave.

"You walk into a cave and you're bombarded by this totally different, artificial world where there may be intelligent avatars that you interact with to perform a mission," Perez said. "These avatars will act as teammates, so you, as an individual, will have to interact with these avatars as a unit."

Perez said the ultimate goal is to blur the distinction between training and operations.

By: Brant

30 January 2010

GrogNews Wargaming - Units/Counters and Factors

Wargaming Engine – Initial brainstorming thoughts.

These are from notes I’ve got scribbled on pads and cut-and-pasted from online conversations, so it’s a combination of bullets and more complete thoughts. It’s NOT anywhere near finalized and just the first draft of the ideas. That said, I do want the comments that you’ve got so please feel free to discuss liberally and at length below.

Units will be a mix of echelons as needed to describe the events going on. If a discreet 12-man SF ODA can have an effect on the battlefield, there’s no reason not to model it alongside the 600-man infantry battalion, or even (potentially) the 3000-man motorized brigade.
The way to scope the abilities of the participants is through the Area of Effects, which acts as a ‘sort-of’ range factor for how far units can project their influence.

Units need to be rated on a variety of factors

Kinetic factors:
- Attack: ability to go kill stuff
- Defense: ability to not get killed
- Support: ability to help someone else kill stuff
- Reaction: How quickly can you project over your area of influence? Think of this + Area of Effects = movement + range, but not quite exactly.

Non-kinetic factors:
Need some sort of multi-faceted system that is more detailed that DIME, though that’s not a bad base to start with. For game purposes, I would like to simplify it to some form of “rock-paper-scissors” mechanic, with a rough cut perhaps being:

local influence/tolerance -> economic/security support -> information ops -> local influence/tolerance

This is a key mechanic and will take some time to get right, but needs to be addressed, so that units can be rated on (and operate along) both kinetic and non-kinetic axes.

Support factors
- Deployability: when talking about power projection from some home station or strategic mobility, there will need to be some rating of how quickly someone can move their Area of Effects.
- Logistical Support: at the strategic/operational level, what does it take to keep that unit in the field. One mechanic I do want to experiment with is potentially tying this to current news-tracking polls showing support for varying operations/policies so that as national support for something goes down, the ability to sustain long/large deployments also goes down, and can change scenarios from week to week.

Now, that’s a lot to cram onto some counters, so here are some mockups and let’s see what you think.

By: Brant

M777 Howitzers to India

In a move sure to quell Pakistani rumors of imminent US invasions, the DoD is selling $647 million of M777 howitzers to India. Maybe we're trying to buy an extra 3 F-22s with the profits?
Asserting that its sale to India will "improve interoperability with US Soldiers and Marines," the US defense agency tasked with transfer of military hardware and promoting military-to-military ties has notified the US Congress of the Obama administration's intention to sell 145 M777 Howitzers to India in a deal worth $ 647 million.

The mandatory notification follows a request from India for the light-weight towed Howitzer with Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing Systems (LINAPS), the first major artillery purchase by New Delhi after the star-crossed Bofors deal going back to the 1980s.

M777 howitzer at Wikipedia

By: Brant

Weekend Humor: Idiots


As a group of soldiers stood in formation at an Army Base, the Drill Sergeant said, 'All right! All you idiots fall out.'

As the rest of the squad wandered away, one soldier remained at attention.

The Drill Instructor walked over until he was eye-to-eye with him, and then raised a single eyebrow.

The soldier smiled and said, 'Sure was a lot of 'em, huh, sir?'

By: Chuckles

China takes its military and goes home to pout

China is throwing a hissy-fit over US arms sales to Taiwan.

China suspended military exchanges with the United States and threatened sanctions against American defense companies Saturday, just hours after Washington announced $6.4 billion in planned arms sales to Taiwan.
The development has further strained the complex relations between the two powers, which are increasingly linked by security and economic issues.
China's Defense Ministry said the sales to self-governing Taiwan, which the mainland claims as its own, cause "severe harm" to overall U.S.-China cooperation, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. The Foreign Ministry threatened sanctions against U.S. companies involved in the arms sales.

By: Brant

Is there a coup brewing in Turkey?

The Beeb has a report on the Turkish military meddling in politics again. What does this do for the public perception of NATO's only Muslim member?
The head of Turkey's armed forces has responded angrily to a newspaper report accusing the military of plotting to overthrow the government.
Gen Ilker Basbug delivered a televised address in which he warned that the military's patience over a stream of allegations had limits.
He insisted coups were a thing of the past, and that power should only change hands through democratic means.
Turkey has experienced three military coups in its recent history.
The armed forces have continued to play a political role behind the scenes.
For the past two years, the Turkish people have been bombarded with sensational revelations about alleged dirty tricks by elements of the military.
Some of the allegations, relating to a sinister "deep state" network known as Ergenekon, have already resulted in the arrest and trials of dozens of people, including retired generals.
But there have been further reports of military plots against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan - backed by some convincing-looking documents - all reported in a two-year-old independent newspaper.

Now keep in mind that the military in Turkey is basically its own political party, so meddling in politics is not a wild assumption.

By: Brant

DADT getting, ahem... "outed"?

The President has asked Congress to repeal the "don't ask - don't tell" policy toward gays in the military.

President Barack Obama is urging Congress to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, but Democratic allies and Republican opponents alike are criticizing his approach.
Obama's effort to eliminate the "don't ask, don't tell" practice faces resistance not just from Congress, but also from the Pentagon, where some top officials have been strident in their support for the Clinton-era policy.
"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are," Obama said Wednesday during his State of the Union address. "It's the right thing to do."
The statement drew a standing ovation from Congress and from Defense Secretary Robert Gates, but it fell short for gay activists

It's going to make for an interesting political season.

By: Brant

29 January 2010

Surge In Afghanistan? Send in the Attack!

A joint US-UK offensive is about to kick off in Helmand.
British and other Nato troops are preparing a major offensive in southern Afghanistan aimed at seizing areas in Helmand province still under Taliban control, the British commander in the region said today.

Major General Nick Carter said the operation would be aimed at asserting the control of the Kabul government over areas of Helmand that are either ungoverned or under the influence of a Taliban shadow government.

Carter, who commands the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in southern Afghanistan, did not say when the operation would be launched, but the announcement came three days before an international conference in London that is due to agree a peace and reintegration plan to persuade Taliban fighters and commanders to give up their fight.

The British army chief, General Sir David Richards, said that negotiations with the Taliban should be conducted from a "position of relative strength and the knowledge on their part that they [the Taliban] could just lose".

"So it's a matter of timing, not the principle," Richards told Reuters.

View Larger Map

By: Brant

GrogNews Wargaming - Modern Wargaming Engine

So far here at GrogNews, we’ve talked a lot about current military, defense, and security news, all around the world. Unlike a lot of US mil-blogs, we try to give a more international perspective to go with the news and photos we share. We’ve got our regular and recurring features starting to nail down, and we’re ready to embark on a new (and quite ambitious) project.
We’re looking at creating an open-source based current events wargaming engine for our readers and correspondents to rapidly develop and prototype some interesting scenarios about current events and throw them out on the tabletop to push their way through the current and potential conflicts we report on.
The initial outlines of such are madcap fantasy look like this:

1. The Rules: we’re going to start with a basic set of guidelines, numbered and segmented, as blog posts that people can read and comment on for now. Once they get detailed enough, we’ll look as some other mechanism for posting them, be it a Wiki or online document repository, or something similar. The basic mechanic is going to be d10 based, because it easily segments into 10% increments, and offers a decent spread of results without requiring a bucket full of dice (not that there’s anything wrong with buckets of dice, just not for this project).

2. The Counters: We’ll start with a few mockup options by Brant, and let folks make their comments on some design ideas. The values and ratings will be fluid based on the rules changing as we go, but once we stabilize them, we’ll do our best to churn out the ORBATS based on known units in the areas under consideration.

3. The Maps: We’re actually working on a pretty nifty little tool for maps right now. Stay tuned, and prepared to be impressed – we hope!

4. The Scenarios: We expect lots of people to pitch in here. If there’s a current event out there that looks kind of compelling, then we ought to be able to rapidly prototype some scenarios for people to push counters around with. For example – Venezuela’s military is moving toward the Colombian border right now. Someone could quickly develop a scenario that involves the Fighting Chavez’s rolling right over the border, while someone else puts together one that involves sporadic artillery exchanges and insurgent raids before the two sides trip into an escalating fight. Getting more people involved gets more ideas in the discussion.

The idea here is not just to wargame what *is* happening, but what *might* happen and what *could have* happened. If we can do it within a robust set of rules and with some standardized counters, then we’ll have all sorts of fun to play with.

Stay tuned for the first cut at the counters, and some comments about mechanics.

But first things first - we need a better name for this thing that the GN MWE. Vote for an option here, or put your suggestions in the comments.

By: Brant

Surge In Afghanistan? Send in the Trouble!

So apparently there's a lot of problems in the Arghandab River Valley. A Stryker Brigade goes in and ends up with high casualties and fired company commanders. They're replaced by part of the 82d and they end up with battalion commanders sent packing. All along there seems to be a disconnect between the guidance coming down from GEN McChrystal and the guys at the execution level. We're not going to try to connect all the dots and dig up all the stories for you. Instead, we're going to point you to a great wrap-up at Ink Spots: What the hell is going on in the Arghandab River Valley?

Go check it out and shake your head in disbelief. If you follow some of the links out of the article you can find some even crazier stuff.

By: Brant

Georgia addresses reality of Ossetia / Abkhazia

The wrangling over the remnants of Georgia is continuing in that country's new approach to the breakaway regions.
As RIA Novosti reports, the Georgian government has adopted a new strategy toward S. Ossetia and Abkhazia which excludes any use of military force against its former breakaway regions.

The document, which calls for peaceful means of conflict resolution and increased cooperation with the residents of the two regions, will be sent in the near future to a number of international organizations, including the UN, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"Georgia does not want to restore its territorial integrity by military means," Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

He said Georgian citizens who reside in Abkhazia and South Ossetia should not be isolated but instead integrated in all processes and projects which are underway in Georgia.

2008 South Ossetia war at Wikipedia

By: Brant

COIN Success in the Philippines... 100 Years Later

Seems the one place we can wage a successful counterinsurgency is the Philippines.
This is part of an American mission that started in 2002, not long after the Taliban fell in Kabul. A force of up to 600 American soldiers, many of them counter-insurgency specialists, has been training elite Filipino troops to fight militant groups ever since. American gadgets, tactics and intelligence seem to be helping. Fifteen of the 24 names on a Philippine most-wanted poster have been crossed out, either captured or killed. Foreign troops are forbidden to fight, so combat duties fall to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The Americans keep busy with aid projects designed to woo locals in areas thick with militants. These days, there are fewer of them. The AFP estimates that Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for bombings and beheadings, has fewer than 400 fighters on Jolo and Basilan islands. General Benjamin Dolorfino of the AFP boasts the group can no longer stage attacks on Mindanao itself.

American military thinkers wonder if there are lessons for other parts of the world where al-Qaeda lurks. With a modest outlay here, the Pentagon has dealt a blow to Islamist radicals and sharpened the skills of an ally. American troops are overstretched, expensive and make attractive targets for jihadists, so it makes sense to train other forces to fight where they can.

America, however, is unlikely to find other partners as perfect as the AFP, which is modelled on America’s armed forces. Filipino officers speak English, know and admire America, once the colonial power, and can bond with their comrades over beer and karaoke. Try that in Yemen.

Seems that the conditions on the ground there are more in our favor than anywhere else in the world, except maybe Boise.

By: Brant

Friday Museum: Royal Australian Armoured Corps Tank Museum

Yep, they do have tanks out in the Pacific! Check 'em out at the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Tank Museum in Puckapunyal Australia

By: Brant

(Please feel free to nominate your own museums to highlight in this recurring series!)

BUB: Contractors (UPDATED)

Tough times to be in the military business as a private company... UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM

The DoD has explicitly stated that they aren't in the business of bailing out businesses. The M1/Chrysler evidence to the contrary...
The draft version of the quadrennial study, dated December 2009, expresses the Obama administration's intention to lean on 'market forces' in ensuring America's defense industry does not disappear. It also makes clear the administration is prepared to step in and save firms and sectors deemed critical to national security.

Sounds good, right?
Our engagement with industry does not mean the Department of Defense will underwrite sunset industries nor prop up poor business models," according to the review. "It does mean the Department will create an environment in which our industries, a source of our nation's strength, can thrive and compete in the global marketplace.
"Whenever possible and appropriate, the department will rely on market forces to create, shape, and sustain industrial and technological capabilities, but we must be prepared to intervene when absolutely necessary to create and/or sustain competition, innovation, and essential industrial capabilities," according to the draft QDR, which was obtained by Defense News.


That surge in Afghanistan? Yeah, the contractors are multiplying faster than the troops. Maybe NATO can hire out their defense, eh?
The military is increasingly relying on private security contractors as President Obama ramps up the war in Afghanistan, with contractors now making up as much as 30% of the armed force in the country, a just-released congressional report shows.

In the period roughly tracking with President Obama’s first nine months in office, the number of Defense Department armed security contractors soared 236% — from 3,184 to 10,712 between December 2008 to September 2009. The number roughly doubled between June and September 2009 alone.

The new Congressional Research Service report also calculates that contractors in Afghanistan make up between 22% and 30% of the armed U.S. force in Afghanistan.

The news of the surge in private security contractors comes as the total number of contractors — including those who do construction, cook meals, etc — is also soaring, with over 100,000 already in Afghanistan.

It’s worth noting two points here to clarify the role and makeup of the contractor army: first, 90% of the DOD private security contractors in Afghanistan are Afghan nationals, according to the report. Second, contractors are barred by DOD regulations from taking part in “offensive” operations. However, the numbers in this report refers to armed contractors who may well be taking part in combat.

“Many analysts believe that armed security contractors are taking part in combat operations, arguing in part that international law makes no distinction between the offensive or defensive nature of participation in combat,” the report notes.


And some of the contractors joining the fray aren't exactly the lads you want your daughter to bring home to meet the folks.
A British private security firm, Sabre International, is sponsoring the employment of Sierra Leoneans for security jobs in Iraq. According to its own website, the company holds multiple aviation security contracts for three airports in Iraq (Baghdad International Airport, Mosul Airport, and Najaf International Airport).

Having undergone two weeks of preparation training, 400 to 1,000 Sierra Leoneans have already been sent to Iraq (and possibly Afghanistan) with a waiting list of over 10,000 who are interested in participating in the program. According to reports, the West African workers will receive $250 a month, $200 of which will be directly deposited into a bank account in Freetown. Compare this to the per capita Gross National Income in Sierra Leone in 2008, which was $320 a year. (Meanwhile, Sierra Leone Members of Parliament are petitioning for monthly salaries of $4,000-$6,000!) It’s no wonder thousands of people have signed up for this program: they are receiving a little less than 10x the amount they would earn in their own country! (Sierra Leone currently ranks 201 out of 210 countries in terms of its GNI per capita). Their salaries will not be taxed and they will be given free accommodation, free medical facility, free transportation, and free insurance. While a fabulous salary in Sierra Leone, their U.S. citizen contractor counterparts are averaging $100,000 a year, possibly in similar roles. In this regard, Sabre might be saving a tidy sum.



The GAO is helping reclaim lost tax revenue from contractors that are 'offshored' through subsidiaries.

Executives from some of the biggest Defense contractors — including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and KBR — told GAO that, before the law was passed, they hired U.S. citizens at their offshore subsidiaries as a way to lower their costs and remain competitive. The companies say they only use the offshore subsidiaries to hire employees to perform work overseas.

Overall, GAO said the law is accomplishing its intended effect: forcing offshore companies to share the tax burden for social security, Medicare and federal income tax payments. GAO recommended Congress expand the legislation to force contractors offshore to contribute to state unemployment insurance programs so workers can collect when they lose their jobs.

In 2009, one state, Texas, denied unemployment claims of 140 individuals employed by several of the contractors because they were employed by offshore subsidiaries that did not contribute to the state’s unemployment insurance programs. GAO chose Texas because several major contractors have corporate offices there.

By: Brant

Norks can't figure out which way to shoot

For the third straight day, the North Koreans are shelling South Korea near/across the maritime border.
North Korea fired dozens more artillery shells near the western maritime border with South Korea for the third consecutive day on Friday, prompting Seoul to seek to install a weapon-location radar system on islands near the border.

The shells fired early Friday appeared to have again landed in the North's own waters north of the Yellow Sea's Northern Limit Line (NLL), de facto maritime border, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JSC) said.

By: Brant

Trouble *Really* Brewing in Venezuela as Chavez Ramps Up Military Action

First, he's military action against his own people.
The Venezuelan National Guard moved into Mérida, Venezuela on Tuesday, in response to protests which have erupted across the country. Seemingly unmoved, university students expressed they will continue to march through the streets to protest several new policies enacted by the Venezuelan government.

"The city is militarized since early hours of the morning (from tuesday) and will remain like that as long as its necessary in order to avoid further confrontations in the city of Mérida," said Marcos Díaz, governor of Mérida State on Wednesday.

Waves of protests errupted throughout all of Venezuela on Jan. 23, in response to rationing of water; new increase on the devaluation of the Venezuelan currency; and the recently established weekly rationing of electricity.

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He's violating Colombian airspace.
Colombia has made a formal diplomatic protest to Venezuela after what it says was a violation of its airspace by a Venezuelan military helicopter.
Colombia's foreign ministry said the helicopter had spent 20 minutes above the city of Arauca, near the border, where a big military base is situated.
The defence minister said his forces had shown restraint in not responding.
The two neighbours have been involved in a row over Colombia's decision to grant the US access to military bases.
The Colombian foreign ministry issued a statement calling the alleged incursion "unacceptable".

He's pushing around broadcasters and attempting to strangle the news.
Venezuela's state-run telecommunications agency formally notified two dozen local cable television channels on Thursday that they must carry mandatory government programming, including marathon speeches by President Hugo Chavez.

Cabello also urged prosecutors on Thursday to file criminal charges against Noel Alvarez, the president of Venezuela's largest business chamber, for allegedly attempting to incite a coup. In a recent televised interview Alvarez made statements aimed at provoking a military rebellion against Chavez, he said.

Chavez is claiming that the US caused the earthquake in Haiti

And that the US just wants to build military base on what's left of Port-au-Prince.
President Chavez went public on Sunday in his criticism of President Obama's handling of US humanitarian aid to Haiti which would appear to be geared towards US national security interests rather than humanitarian sentiments for those affected by the earthquake.

Venezuelan Adjunct Ambassador to the United Nations, Julio Escalona has stated that among the US plans for Haiti is establishing a military base on the island in what is now known as the Cite Soleil barrio where many of the dwellings had been flattened.

During his Sunday radio address, Chavez called Obama to send medical teams, equipment, medicine and tents rather than a mass deployment of soldiers.

The US military command has insisted that the United Nations has assumed leadership in the humanitarian operation and that US troop presence has the authorization of Haiti's President.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro has set up a Petion-Bolivar solidarity brigade to draw up a joint plan with Haitian social organizations towards reconstruction work.

By: Brant

28 January 2010

Russia, US START talking again

hahaha... I kill me... Headlines are such great puns...

Looks like Presidents Medvedev and Obama are reopening the arms control dialogue.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama held on Wednesday a "constructive and friendly" phone conversation about a new nuclear arms reduction treaty, the Kremlin said, according to RIA Novosti.

"The two presidents discussed in detail current issues of Russian-American relations, including the prospects for completing in the near future work on the new strategic offensive arms treaty," the Kremlin.ru website said.

"The discussion was held in the constructive and friendly manner that has become usual for top-level contacts between the two parties," the statement went on, adding that the telephone conversation was initiated by the U.S.

A new document to replace the START 1 treaty, which expired on December 5, has not been signed yet over disagreements on verification and control arrangements to be included in the document.

By: Brant

Surge In Afghanistan? Send in the People Who Won't Go Home!

Looks like NATO having trouble getting people to deploy to Afghanistan is only half the problem, as other coalition members are looking for the way out.
Major world powers opened talks Thursday seeking an end to the grinding conflict in Afghanistan, drafting plans to hand over security responsibilities to local forces and quell the insurgency with an offer of jobs and housing to lure Taliban fighters to renounce violence.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai greeted delegates from about 70 nations and institutions in London, seeking to win new international support after more than eight years of combat which is threatening to exhaust public good will in the West.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also joined talks aimed at setting targets to transfer security control of several Afghan provinces to the local police and military by the end of 2010.
"This is a decisive time for the international cooperation that is helping the Afghan people secure and govern their own country," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said, opening the one-day talks. "This conference marks the beginning of the transition process."
Brown said the conference would set a target for Afghanistan to increase its military to 171,600 by Oct. 2011, and boost police numbers to 134,00 by the same date. "By the middle of next year we have to turn the tide," he said.

Of course, if Lord-of-all-Uzbeks, Islam Karimov gets his way, the West would leave Afghanistan for good.

The president of Uzbekistan, which shares a long border with Afghanistan, has urged the West to stop using military force in its fight against the Taliban and focus more on rebuilding the country's shattered economy.

Uzbekistan's support for U.S.-led military efforts in Afghanistan important because the country, like the rest of Central Asia, lies on a new supply route for NATO forces fighting a resurgent Taliban.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov addressed parliament on Wednesday and said military efforts had become largely useless. His speech was published on the official uza.uz website on Thursday.

"Over the past 30 years billions and billions have been spent to solve the Afghan problem," he said. "It looks obvious today that the entire approach has to be changed to settle the situation in this country."

By: Brant

Tools of War: Extended Cold Weather Clothing System

A few weeks back, I was out on a high-risk traffic stop with a fine pillar of society that had just stabbed another pillar of society in the head multiple times with a knife. I jumped out of my patrol car and pulled out my AR-15. Pulled the charging handle. Optics on. Sling over shoulders. Approach my cover position at the right front patrol car. Damn, it's cold!

It was a whopping 18 degrees outside....single digits with wind chill. I had been on scene less than 10 seconds, and my attention is already being distracted by the bone-chilling weather.

Cold just plain sucks. "You only get so cold, then you die" is not just a witty saying, it's the truth. And your brain knows it at a fundamental level. So when you start to get cold, the old hypothalamus starts to make noises to the cerebral cortex about the stupid decisions that it has been making, as this clearly is not the warm, fuzzy environment that it prefers. These "noises" come in two forms, and neither are exactly great from a tactical standpoint.

The "physical noises" start with the constriction of outer blood vessels. This results in a loss of feeling in the extremities. Shivering sets in. Dexterity begins to suffer.

Compounding that are the "mental noises" that the primitive brain starts shouting at the thinking brain. The thinking brain knows that you have a guy with a deadly weapon up there who is not afraid to use it, but the primitive brain just shrieks, "DUDE, REALLY??? IT'S FREAKING COLD!!!" And the thinking brain already has its hands full just dealing with a felony traffic stop, and would really prefer to be left alone by the primitive brain at the moment. Now just isn't a great time for distractions, thank you very much. But the primitive brain is an insistive little bastard, and demands to be heard. And so it tries to drown out the thinking brain. Anyone with hungry children who has tried to carry on a very important phone conversation....you understand.

So the thinking brain is trying to deal with the tactical situation, but the primitive brain is screaming "WTF?", trying to seduce you into putting that cold piece on metal down and shoving your hands into your pockets, making your eyes target-glance over to that nice warm patrol car interior, and playing a constant, underlying chant of "it's cold it's cold it's cold it's cold it's cold it's cold it's cold"across your consciousness. On top of that, when your thinking brain finally does form a complete thought and sends it to the body to be executed, that body is shivering, numb, and awkward.

Tactically, sub-optimal.

The military knows this...it's "war-knowledge" that has existed since time unrecorded. Weather is ALWAYS a factor, and it is rarely to your advantage. And a smart military will do something about it. Which brings us (finally!) to the handy little piece of equipment that you see pictured here - the ECWCS...or as it's commonly known, the Goretex.

Any military member will tell you that most pieces of issued equipment don't NEED to have "Made by the Lowest Bidder" marked on it. But a few items shine through, making you do a double-take and momentarily question your immediate disdain for all things issued. For me personally, the poncho-liner is one (Love ya, Woobie!). Another is the ECWCS, specifically the Goretex parka. Hell, I actually went out and BOUGHT MY OWN! It was that good.

Waterproof. Breathable. Tough nylon outer lining. Comfortable and smooth inner lining. Numerous, thoughtfully-placed, and voluminous waterproof pockets. Hood designed to cover the helmet. Effective cinches at the cuffs, hood, and waist that kept the cold air out and warm air in. A little rank-tab so that your rank pins didn't poke holes in the Goretex water barrier. Enough interior room so that you could layer as desired. A snap-able storm flap over the main zipper. Zippered venting at the armpits to allow you to vent excess heat if your exertions threaten to cause you to sweat. Heck, it even had a snow-skirt.

The overpants were almost as good. And this was the Gen I system, pictured above.

The Gen II system added Polartec garments (shirt and overalls) to the package, making the system effective to a claimed -40F. I can't tell you how happy I am to have never tested it in those conditions.

The Gen III system is all new, and has been initially fielded to the Army's 10th Mountain Division. The system is comprised of seven different layers (displayed below) and seems to have been very well received by troops on the ground. As a Battalion Commander notes:

During Operation Mountain Lion, I found myself praying
for bad weather, the first time in my military career I was
actually begging for a cold front to come through. I knew
my Soldiers could handle it and the enemy couldn’t. ECWCS
allowed my men to outlast the enemy on their own terrain.
When the enemy was forced out of the mountains due to
the bitter cold to take shelter, that’s when we got them.
– LTC Christopher Cavoli, Commander, 1-32 Infantry Battalion,
10th Mountain Division

Now THAT is combat advantage!

By: Steve

Carrying a Handgun: Separate Facts from Fallacies

The March 2010 issue of SWAT Magazine has an excellent article on "Carrying a Handgun: Separate Facts from Fallacies" by Pat Rogers. Rogers a retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer, a retired NYPD Sergeant, and is one of the most respected tactical trainers in the business through E.A.G. Tactical.

Some of the key points that Rogers makes are:

A gun is not the answer to every problem...

Carrying your favorite handgun is not as simple as it sounds. It requires a
gross shift in your attitude, demeanor, habits and choice of clothing...

If you carry a gun, you need to carry all of the time, and every place that
you legally can... (*)

The gun you carry is going to be a compromise...

Rogers also covers various types of holsters and guns for CCW, including the pros and cons of revolvers vs. pistols.

See my earlier post on "Lessons Learned the Hard Way" for a note on another excellent article in the same issue of SWAT Magazine.

By: Guardian

(*): Yes, Steve, you caught me being a "sheep" once. That was a (fairly rare) case of do like I say, not like I do :).

BUB: Social Media and Military

This BUB concerns social media networking and the military

The UK MoD seems to have a problem with security breaches through social media.
In the last 18 months, the Ministry of Defence have suffered 16 security breaches through confidential information or records being leaked online via social media channels.
Citing the Freedom of Information Act, Lewis PR were able to obtain the information from the MoD, although they were reluctant to give any details on disciplinary measures for employees responsible for causing the leaks.
Most of us are starting to realise just how careful we have to be in managing our Facebook and Twitter profiles — and whilst 16 security breaches seems a little scary at first, it’s actually quite reassuring to think that the MoD are watching for these leaks and (presumably) nipping them in the bud.


The US DoD has assigned a former Google exec to the Pentagon to work on social media.
Sumit Agarwal has been appointed to the Senior Executive Service and is assigned as deputy assistant secretary of defense for outreach and social media, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C.
Agarwal previously served as head of mobile product management (North America), Google, Mountain View, Calif.


This comes as the US admits that they're still finding their way through the web of social networking.
[Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley] spoke to nearly 50 government professionals, who met here for a Social Media for Defense and Government event.
Participants said social media's presence in the military can include a variety of online tools for personal, career and development goals.
Obviously, these new tools that we use today are changing the way we do business, not only in the commercial world, but in the military, said McKinley, who uses Twitter in his daily communications. "They are incredibly powerful."
The general told the audience that senior defense leaders are keeping the debate open on social media in the military to weigh its assets and vulnerabilities.
"In the Department of Defense today, there is a very healthy debate, a pro and con debate, on how we will use social media," said McKinley.
Officials said an overarching DoD policy on social media is still being developed.


A part of that policy development includes the Army's own dedicated social networking site.
The U.S. Army has launched a new social media website to facilitate safer correspondence between Army personnel. As reported by LiveScience.com, milBook, which is part of the milSuite network that is protected by a firewall to prevent outside prying, provides personnel with a centralized unit for social networking.
Todd Miller, an Army contractor, is quoted in the report as stating of the site, “People across the DoD can find professional working groups on various programs and efforts and join within seconds… MilBook not only connects people, it connects those people to military topics so that ideas and information are shared across the Armed Services.”

By: Brant

UK In Action: Rolling into Helmand

British troops during a firefight with Taliban forces in Helmand.

Photograph: Major Paul Smyth/PA/MoD

By: Widow 6-7

27 January 2010

BUB: World Roundup

Today's Battle Update Brief looks around the world at a few developing stories

Honduran military officers are cleared of coup-related charges.
The Supreme Court cleared six high-ranking military officers on Tuesday of charges of abuse of power in last summer’s coup. The six, including the armed forces chief of staff, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, were accused of illegally expelling President Manuel Zelaya from the country. A court had ordered the military to detain Mr. Zelaya, and the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the commanders had not acted with malice and that they had Mr. Zelaya flown to Costa Rica to avoid violence. Mr. Zelaya’s term ends Wednesday, when he is expected to leave Honduras for the Dominican Republic.


The NATO surge is having difficulty meeting their numbers.
NATO is struggling to make good on commitments to deploy extra forces to Afghanistan, one month after the Obama administration said it was counting on the alliance to send as many as 10,000 more troops to serve alongside U.S. soldiers.

On Tuesday, Germany said it would send 500 reinforcements to Afghanistan, disappointing U.S. officials, who had been pressing Berlin for at least three times that number. German officials, facing stiff domestic opposition to the war, said they would instead double their development aid to Afghanistan and begin withdrawing soldiers in 2011.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of," Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin. "It was not the case that the Americans asked us what we wanted to do, but rather we determined ourselves what we intend to do."

After President Obama announced his revised Afghan strategy in December, including the deployment of 30,000 more U.S. troops, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said allies had pledged about 7,000 "fresh forces." He also raised expectations that further commitments would be announced soon.

NATO leaders had been lobbying Germany and France, in particular, ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan scheduled for Thursday in London. On Monday, however, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed his previous refusals to send additional combat forces to Afghanistan, although he held out the possibility of dispatching more military trainers and civilian aid workers.

NATO has not provided a precise breakdown of where its promised 7,000 new troops will come from. But it appears that only about 4,000 of those forces were not previously announced or deployed.


CyberWar cooperation is becoming more popular as resources are pooled to fend of the Chinese.

The US and its Nato allies have been urged to collaborate more intensely to fend off the threat of cyberattacks in the aftermath of the alleged Chinese assault on Google.

The Pentagon’s top cyber-strategist said shared warning systems had to be established and government contacts broadened.

In an interview with the Financial Times, William J. Lynn, US deputy defence secretary, said America and the UK had been working to counter the growing international danger of cyberattacks.

But he warned that the US, UK and other states had to deepen cross-border collaboration if they were to deal with a form of warfare that ignored national boundaries.

“You can’t just protect the system by defending yourself from inside your own country,” Mr Lynn said on a visit to London. “International co-operation is imperative for establishing the chain of events in an intrusion and quickly and decisively fighting back.”

Mr Lynn said the US defence department was subjected to thousands of cyber attacks each day, as hackers sought to break into systems run by the Pentagon.

“The kind of defence we want is not something akin to the Maginot Line, but more like manoeuvre warfare. You can’t just sit behind firewalls. You need an active defence that is seeking out and countering threats on the internet,” he said.

By: Brant

Today's Worst-Kept Secret

Besides the iPad...
Hey, guess what?! We've got operators in Yemen! Surprise!
U.S. military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who in the past six weeks have killed scores of people, among them six of 15 top leaders of a regional al-Qaeda affiliate, according to senior administration officials
The operations, approved by President Obama and begun six weeks ago, involve several dozen troops from the U.S. military's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), whose main mission is tracking and killing suspected terrorists. The American advisers do not take part in raids in Yemen, but help plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and munitions. Highly sensitive intelligence is being shared with the Yemeni forces, including electronic and video surveillance, as well as three-dimensional terrain maps and detailed analysis of the al-Qaeda network.

As part of the operations, Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture by the JSOC, military officials said. The officials, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operations.

I mean, really, did anyone think we weren't going in there after the Underwear Bomber?
US military teams and intelligence agencies are deeply involved in secret joint operations with Yemeni troops who have killed six of 15 leaders of an Al-Qaeda affiliate there, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
President Barack Obama approved the operations, which began six weeks ago and involve several dozen troops from the US Joint Special Operations Command, which is dedicated to hunting down Al-Qaeda leaders, the Post said, citing unnamed officials.
Although US troops do not take part in raids in Yemen, they plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and ammunition, the Post said.
The United States also is sharing highly sensitive intelligence with Yemeni forces, including electronic and video intelligence, three dimensional terrain maps and analytical assessments of Al-Qaeda, it said.
The United States has previously acknowledged supporting the Yemenis with intelligence and training, but has provided no detail on its role in stepped up attacks on Al-Qaeda militants.

By: Brant

Next Gen Boardgaming?

Futurists somehow manage to convince people they should be paid to predict our future. I don't know how you manage to land that kind of a job but it always struck me as something I'd enjoy. I don't follow how accurate professional futurist are but sometimes peering into a crystal ball is easy.

In this case we need only point our browsers to a Cnet blog to find the latest in boardgaming technology: a merger of boardgames and computers which is aimed at creating an immesive, electronic environment with face to face interactions. No more shouting over the cubicle wall when you frag a buddy in some FPS. No more side-by-side husband and wife MMORPG teams. If this latest piece of tech pans out (and doesn't break the bank in the process) it looks to be a huge win.

Also of interest is dual-use capability. Pouring troops out of a ship onto a battlefield might seem appropriate for Settlers of Catan, and is tantalizing to imagine the possibilities of weaving historical, fantasy, or sci-fi minis into such a system. But the real winner may be the military, who might find the interactive, face-to-face network of real world widgets powered by electronic processing just what the doctor ordered for the next level of immersive training tools. Or maybe I should just keep my day job and not worry about becoming a futurist...

Check out the video:

By: GladiusMagnus

Wednesday Wargaming

The siege of Leningrad ended on January 27, 1944. Known for nearly 900 days of fighting, Leningrad was considered a vital objective when Operation Barbarossa commenced. In a classic example of overconfidence, invitations were printed for a victory celebration. The fighting was bitter, but even more horrific was the impact on civilians, who suffered from starvation, cold, and of course the ravages of war. Attempts were made by the Soviets to supply Leningrad via frozen waterways during the winter were moderately successful but the siege of Leningrad remains a modern example of the worst war has to offer.

Despite the bleak history, as a military operation a number of wargames have been developed to allow players to attempt to better the historical outcome.

Road to Leningrad

A supplement to the Panzer Grenadier series, March on Leningrad is available to fans of the game.

Operation Spark: The Relief of Leningrad is also worth checking out.

By: GladiusMagnus

Canada In Action: CF-18 Flyby

Canadian Forces CC-188 (CF-18) Hornet, tail fin #188771 completes one of several flypasts at CFB Trenton before landing.

The CC-188 Hornet is the Canadian Air Forces only frontline, multi-role fighter. The Hornet is also used for air defence, tactical support and training, aerospace testing and air superiority, and as an aerobatic display aircraft.

Canadian Forces Base Trenton is located approximately 2 hours east of Toronto. It is the home of the Canadian Air Force 8 Wing, 424 Search and Rescue/Transport Squadron and 437 Transport (Husky) Squadron.

Image: www.combatcamera.forces.gc.ca

By: Widow 6-7

Koreas shooting at each other again

Guess what? The Koreas exchanged some gunfire! Yep, again.

North Korea has fired artillery shots near the disputed sea border with South Korea and the South has returned fire.
The North fired shells into the sea near Baengnyeong Island off the the South's western coast, South Korean news agency Yonhap said.
North Korea said the firing was part of an annual military drill, adding that it would continue.
On Tuesday, North Korea declared a no-sail zone in waters off its coast, media reports say.
South Korea officials said the exchange caused no casualties or damage.
The North fired into waters near the border just after 0900 local time (2400 GMT), a spokesman for South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff told AFP.
"Our military immediately fired back in response," a Seoul presidential official told the news agency on condition of anonymity.
A statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency says its drills "will go on in the same waters in the future, too".
Just hours after the initial exchange, reports from South Korea said that the North had fired more shells in the direction of the disputed border. It is not clear where they landed.

By: Brant

SecDef's Road Trip to Pakistan

The ever-suspicious Pakistani intellectual establishment is wary of what the SecDef is selling. Because, y'know, their alternatives have worked so well for so long for so many of their citizens.

Despite a string of high-profile visits designed to reassure Pakistan of Washington's commitment, U.S. officials have failed to win over a military and civilian establishment here that remains suspicious of U.S. ties to India and reluctant to plunge into war with Afghan militants who may outlast the U.S. presence.

Here's a thought - why don't the Pakistanis make an effort to outlast the Afghan militants.
Nevertheless, the responses he received from the army and the press here were either skeptical or defiant. Washington has been urgently pressing military officials to take on Islamic militants in the tribal area of North Waziristan, but the officials announced during Gates's visit that they could not launch any operation for at least six months.

In a speech at the National Defense University in Islamabad, Gates acknowledged that the United States had made a "grave mistake" by abandoning Pakistan in the past and said it now seeks to rebuild relations with "a new generation of Pakistani officers." But once journalists were ushered out, the military audience peppered him with skeptical questions. According to several sources, one questioner even asked him, "Are you with us or against us?"

The Pakistani media focused their coverage on a gaffe by Gates on the sensitive topic of private U.S. security firms working here. Answering a question, he inadvertently implied that the security company formerly known as Blackwater is working for the U.S. government in Pakistan, which U.S. and Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied. The secretary's slip dominated the national airwaves for 48 hours, and fueled already rampant speculation that the firm's employees are serving as spies.

Yeah, that's us - outsourcing our national intelligence framework to Blackwater. C'mon, people. We only outsource our intel work to guys like Booz-Allen-Hamiton.
One major obstacle, analysts said, is the close relationship between the United States and India. India-Pakistan relations are mired in mistrust, with India suspecting Pakistan of colluding in a terrorist attack in Mumbai in late 2008, and Pakistan suspecting that India uses Afghanistan to launch anti-Pakistan subversion.

For some Pakistanis, the message of support delivered by Gates and other recent visitors, including special envoy Richard Holbrooke, has been discredited by similar U.S. messages of support for India. Washington sees India's active role in Afghanistan as a force for stability, but Pakistan sees it as a threat and has been reaching out to other regional powers, including Iran, for counterbalancing support.

Yeah, we're gonna be close with India. Why not? Pakistan's nukes fall into the wrong hands and it'd be nice to know we've got friends in the area. That doesn't mean we're shipping ammo to India for an invasion of Baluchistan. And being friends with both is not incompatible. We're just don't gonna invite 'em both to the same state dinner.

By: Brant

What, me worry?

Seriously, why would we worry about Al Qaeda-inspired female suicide bombers. Hell, we're already checking underpants on random grandmothers at TSA checkpoints. Going female for suicide bombers only works if you're targeting someone that profiles non-females for security checks. We profile 8-year-old Cub Scouts and randomly search whoever else we feel like, so it's not like this is going to elude security.
U.S. national-security officials say that that in Al Qaeda and its affiliates' efforts to figure out ways to circumvent security measures imposed by American and allied governments, they may be considering, and even plotting, using female suicide bombers.

The possibility that female terrorists could be part of a future, or even the next wave, of Al Qaeda plots against American targets inside or outside the United States is a live one, said three U.S. officials familiar with current threat reporting and analysis, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information. One of the officials said that in the weeks since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to bring down a U.S.-bound transatlantic flight with a bomb hidden in his underpants, investigators in Detroit, where Abdulmutallab's plane was headed, have been particularly worried about the possibility of a follow-up attack by a female suicide bomber. An ABC News report last week alleged that American law-enforcement officials have been told to be on the lookout for female suicide bombers who may attempt to enter the United States. The network quoted one official saying that at least two such women are believed to be connected to Al Qaeda in Yemen and may have a non-Arab appearance and be traveling on Western passports.

By: Brant

Australia In Action: Australia Day Celebration

A bonus for Australia Day yesterday...

Members of the 2nd/10th Field Regiment fire the 21-gun salute at the Shrine of Remembrance.

RAAF F/A-18 Hornet jet aircraft from No. 3 Squadron, RAAF Base Williamtown, flies over the Shrine of Remembrance

Royal Australian Air Force members stand proud and salute the raising of the Australian National Flag at the Australia Day flag-raising ceremony, held at Southbank, Brisbane.

By: Brant

26 January 2010

Airbus Contract Problems = Jobs Problems, Over-reliance on US Aircraft

The cost over-runs at Airbus - no doubt due to France's 'social compact' and Germany's 'workers' paradise' - are threatening torpedo the Airbus cargo aircraft before it ever goes into production.
Airbus last year already had to book a loss of 2.4 billion euros for the project and it has since warned that it would face even heavier losses and have to cancel the project altogether if the states did not give more money.

France, a big EADS shareholder, and Spain, where the aircraft are being designed and built, have signalled they would be willing to pay more.

The countries, however, have been unable to stop the German government from digging its heels in. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, spoke by telephone on Thursday evening about the conflict in Afghanistan, but officials said they did not discuss the A400M informally.

Now, part of the problem are the requirements. They're trying to make one place for both short-range tactical lift (C-130 type work) and long-haul big-cargo (C-17ish stuff) and wondering why it doesn't do either very well. Europe's shrinking defense budgets are biting them in the ass again.

By: Brant

Another Tuckfard in need of a hot cup of STFU

An Italian "relief specialist" is complaining that the relief effort in Haiti isn't good enough.
Italy's top disaster expert has called the Haiti quake-relief effort a "pathetic" failure, criticising the militarised approach of the United States as ineffective and out of touch for the emergency at hand.
Guido Bertolaso, Italy's well-respected civil protection chief, said what was needed was a single international civilian co-ordinator to take charge, and for individual countries and aid agencies to stop flying their flags and posing for TV cameras and get to work.
"Unfortunately there's this need to make a 'bella figura' before the TV cameras rather than focus on what's under the debris," said Mr Bertolaso, who won praise for his handling of Italy's 2009 quake in Abruzzo.
In particular, he criticised what he called the well-meaning but ineffective US-run military operation. The US military has more than 2,000 troops on the ground, helping to deliver humanitarian aid.
US officials have defended their presence and dismissed such criticism, which has most vocally been levelled by leftist Latin American leaders.

Tell you what, Tuckfard - get your salami-smelling ass on a plane with 5,000 of your closest friends, and set up your own pizza join in the middle of PaP to start handing out free food. You had the good fortune of having a worthwhile national infrastructure within which to operate back in 2009. Haiti doesn't. Never has, probably never will. You don't like our troops helping out? Fine. Show up with your own fucking rescue squad and get the fuck to work. Don't tell us what we're doing wrong until you're out there doing it right.

By: Brant

UPDATED: Al Qaeda and WMDs - Deadly mix? Or just a planning headache?

Looks Al Qaeda might be too impotent to carry out a long-delayed WMD attack.

When al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, called off a planned chemical attack on New York's subway system in 2003, he offered a chilling explanation: The plot to unleash poison gas on New Yorkers was being dropped for "something better," Zawahiri said in a message intercepted by U.S. eavesdroppers.

The meaning of Zawahiri's cryptic threat remains unclear more than six years later, but a new report warns that al-Qaeda has not abandoned its goal of attacking the United States with a chemical, biological or even nuclear weapon.

The report, by a former senior CIA official who led the agency's hunt for weapons of mass destruction, portrays al-Qaeda's leaders as determined and patient, willing to wait for years to acquire the kind of weapons that could inflict widespread casualties.

The former official, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, draws on his knowledge of classified case files to argue that al-Qaeda has been far more sophisticated in its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction than is commonly believed, pursuing parallel paths to acquiring weapons and forging alliances with groups that can offer resources and expertise.

"If Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants had been interested in . . . small-scale attacks, there is little doubt they could have done so now," Mowatt-Larssen writes in a report released Monday by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

This just in... Apparently, we're ill-prepared to do anything about it if they do hit us with any WMD.
A commission set up to assess national security measures on Tuesday gave the U.S. government a failing grade in improving response time to a biological attack.
"Nearly a decade after September 11, 2001, one year after our original report, and one month after the Christmas Day bombing attempt, the United States is failing to address several urgent threats, especially bioterrorism," said former Sen. Bob Graham, chairman of the commission.
"Each of the last three administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the biothreat. But we no longer have the luxury of a slow learning curve, when we know al Qaeda is interested in bioweapons," Graham said.
"The assessment is not a good one, particularly in the area of biological threats," the report by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism said.

By: Brant

Vigilante Ship Crews Want to Shoot Back

The maritime world is sick of hijackings and ready to take matters into their own hands.
While there is compelling evidence to suggest that international naval cooperative efforts have contributed to a reduction in the number of successful attacks, owners and managers of vessels operating in the area are asking themselves whether the use of armed guards, or armed crew, is the only logical next step to deter pirates, and protect both vessel and crew. The carriage and use of firearms raise potentially serious issues of criminal liability for owners and crew, but another key consideration will be whether the carriage and use of defensive weapons, on board, will impact on the owners' insurance cover.

I'm curious how criminal liability applies if you're defending your vessel from an attacker. Anyone smart enough on the laws out there to answer that one?

By: Brant

Aussies In Action: Patroling the Gulf of Aden

HMAS Stuart arrives in the Gulf of Aden as part of Australia’s contribution to coalition maritime security operations as in the Middle East Area of Operations.

Image: defence.gov.au

By: Widow 6-7

India's Own 2MRC Strategy

Not protected by a pair of ocean-sized moats, the Indian defense establishment has to plan to fight their wars on their own borders. With China in one direction and Pakistan in another their strategy considers both, much to the propaganda benefit of their neighbors.
After strengthening its offensive capabilities vis-à-vis Pakistan by creating a new southwestern army command in 2005, India is now concentrating on countering China effectively in the eastern sector. The Indian army chief said that there was now “a proportionate focus towards the western and northeastern fronts.”

Pakistan reacted predictably by describing India’s move as reflecting a “hegemonistic and jingoistic mindset” as well as accusing India of “betraying hostile intent,” and urged the international community to take due notice of developments in India. Pakistani officials emphasized that their nation’s “capability and determination to foil any nefarious designs against the security of Pakistan” should not be underestimated. Pakistan’s reaction was expected, as the security establishment views this as an opportunity to once again press upon the Americans the need to keep Pakistani forces intact on the India-Pakistan border rather than fighting the Taliban forces on the border with Afghanistan.

China’s response, on the other hand, was more measured, and it chose not to address the issue directly. The controversy arose at a time when the two states were beginning a new phase in their defense ties by initiating a dialogue at the level of defense secretaries. But Chinese analysts have expressed concerns in recent years about India’s growing military ambitions and a purported shift in Indian defense strategy from a passive to an “active and aggressive” nature.

Indian Army corps/division-level ORBAT

The Pakistani perspective assumes India is a threat on the border, despite the fact that Pakistan invaded India in the last war.
This is the time to say that we take note of Gates’ statement that Taleban in Afghanistan are part of their national scene and the US / NATO intend to talk to them- or negotiate a peace deal. We can say then what is good for the goose is good for the gander. Our Taliban are part of pour national scene. Yes we are at war with them at present but we are not happy on killing our own people although it is necessary for our own security. We too should emulate American approach to Taliban and hold talks with them. Army is quite right that for the next one year they intend to consolidate their gains in South Waziristan and not to extend the war to North Waziristan. The Army had done much, much better in the war against Taliban than the mighty NATO and world power US’ forces. We have no financial to carry on such an expensive operation.. With Indians threatening our Southern borders we have to reduce our commitment on the Northern borders. Now that Gates have asked the Indians to go after Pakistan, with his clearance to India to attack Pakistan, we must be prepared to meet the external threat than concentrating on internal insecurity

By: Brant

What? A problem with contractor accountability? Sigh.

Apparently, the firm responsible for training the Iraqi police lost some spare change in their sofa cushions.
The State Department has consistently failed to properly monitor defense contractor DynCorp International's $2.5 billion, five-year-old effort to train Iraqi police, a government audit found on Monday.
Stuart Bowen, the U.S. government's special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said the State Department has exercised "weak oversight" of DynCorp's contract, failing to watch over the money being spent on the training program.
"As a result, over $2.5 billion in U.S. funds are vulnerable to waste and fraud," according to the report released by Bowen.
The report said State Department officials have repeatedly stated that they recognized long-standing problems and would improve management and oversight of the contract, but have "fallen far short."

You'd think we'd have this accountability thing fixed after seven years...

By: Brant

Guns and Gear: Bushmaster ACR

Commercial availablity of the long-awaited Bushmaster/Magpul Adaptive Combat Rifle (ACR) was announced recently at the 2010 Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoors Trade (SHOT) Show. The ACR is based on the Magpul Masada design first shown by Magpul Industries at the 2007 SHOT Show. Magpul later licensed the design to Bushmaster Firearms, Inc. for future development, production, and sales of the rifle.

The Masada/ACR has been the subject of enormous buzz in the industry and the shooting community, especially on sites like AR15.com and m4carbine.net. Bushmaster and its sister companies in the Freedom Group, Inc. portfolio that includes Remington and DPMS were focusing on the expected massive contract to replace the M4 carbine in the US military, but with no RFP in sight, they seem to be shifting their attention back to the civilian market. So now, 3 years after the Masada was first announced, there are some important details (especially pricing) available about the ACR and it will soon be available on the commercial market.

Before I begin my commentary on the ACR, please bear in mind that although I have followed the ACR's evolution since it was first announced in 2007, I have not yet handled or shot one.

From a "it's cool" perspective, the ACR is a very exciting rifle. Some of the most interesting features are:

  • Excellent ergonomics with fully-ambidextorous controls, an MP5-style side-mounted non-reciprocating charging handle, and an available six-position collapsible/folding stock.
  • A quick-change barrel system allowing you, for example, to change between the standard 16-inch barrel and an 18-inch barrel for precision shooting. Shorter barrels are also available, subject to the usual legal restrictions regarding short-barreled rifles.
  • A gas-piston operating system with two-position adjustable pressure for use with or without a suppressor.
  • Easy conversion between 5.56x45mm NATO and 6.8 SPC chamberings.

In a lot of ways, the ACR is what the FN SCAR should have been. It sounds great, doesn't it? Unfortunately, there are some issues.

The first issue is the price. The Enhanced configuration, which offers the collapsible/folding stock, 4 MILSTD-1913 for mounting accessories, and an enhanced flash suppressor, has an MSRP of $3,061. Ouch!

Yes, the ACR is a nice rifle, but is it really over $3,000 worth of nice? For $3,000, you could build a "recce"-style AR-15 around one of the BCM upper receiver assemblies I mentioned in a recent posting, add essential accessories like a good optic, tactical light, and sling, and maybe even have a few dollars left over for ammo. You could even get a Lewis Machine & Tool Company (LMT) Monolithic Rail Platform upper receiver assembly, which provides a quick-change barrel capability.

The second issue is that the ACR is shipping with a 1:9 twist barrel. This means that heavier bullets, like the 77-grain Sierra Match King (used in USSOCOM's Mk262 cartridge) or the various 75-ground bullets, will not reliably stabilize in the barrel. This is a big issue, since the heavier bullets are more accurate and offer better terminal ballistics than the typical 55- or 62-grain rounds.

The third issue is capability. What can the ACR actually do that a mainstream AR-15 can't?

Gas-piston operating systems have become all the rage, in part because some special operations units have adopted the Heckler & Koch HK416 and HK417, gas-piston versions of the M4 carbine chambered for the 5.56 and 7.62 NATO cartridges respectively. Gas-piston operating systems are important under specific circumstances: full-auto fire from a short-barreled, suppressed weapon. The special operations units in question shoot in these circumstances, but you probably do not.

Thanks to the Hughes Amendment to the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act, full-auto is not really an option for civilians unless you have a very expensive "pre-86" full-auto weapon (which an ACR cannot be). In many states, you can legally obtain a short-barreled rifle and suppressor, subject to a $200 tax stamp, approval of your local Chief Law Enforcement Officer, and some paperwork under the 1934 National Firearms Act (as amended). In my own opinion, this is just more hassle than it's worth.

Personally, I'm also not a fan of the 6.8 SPC cartridge, so the multi-caliber capability is not compelling to me. It's hard enough to find good, affordable ammunition in mainstream calibers like 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm right now. The 6.8 SPC cartridge does offer better terminal performance than 5.56 NATO within likely engagement ranges (under 200 yards), but I think the terminal performance issues with the 5.56 NATO round are overstated. There are thousands of terrorists and insurgents who could testify to the effectiveness of the 5.56 NATO FMJ round if they were still breathing :). Unlike the military, civilians and police are also not subject to the 1899 Hague Convention, so we can use hollow-point rounds like Hornady TAP-FPD that provide better terminal performance.If, despite these and other issues, you really want a 6.8 SPC (or 6.5 Grendel) capability, there are a numerous upper receivers (including the LMT MRP mentioned earlier) available that you can put on an AR-15 lower receiver with two pins and a new set of magazines to run an alternative chambering.

The ACR's ergonomics are nice, but are they really a quantum leap over what you can achieve with Magpul's own MIAD grip and UBR stock and a BCM Gunfighter charging handle on a mainstream AR-15 platform? I don't think they are.

The other issue I have with any new weapon, including the ACR, is logistics. As the old saying goes, "Amateurs think about tactics. Professionals think about logistics." There are two levels of logistics problems with any firearm that is outside the mainstream.

The first level of logistics issue is "peacetime" sustainability. If one of my AR-15's (or an AK-47, a Remington 870 shotgun, a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle, a 1911 or Glock pistol, or numerous other established, mainstream weapons) breaks, I can order replacement parts from any one of dozens or hundreds of vendors on the Internet, have them at my front door within a few days, and fix it myself with widely-available knowledge from both manufacturers and the community. If an ACR, SCAR, or a Robinson Arms XCR breaks, what do I do? Can I get spare parts and fix it myself? Maybe, maybe not. What if it breaks 20 years from now, when the original manufacturer may or may not still be in business? Unless the legal environment changes drastically, I'm betting that I'll still be able to buy all the AR-15 parts I want at that time.

The second level of logistics issue is "wartime" sustainability, as in a SHTF scenario. The wide availability of parts makes it easy (and highly recommended) to stock your own spare parts. If things get really bad, you're also more likely to be able to scrounge parts for a mainstream weapon than for something exotic like the ACR.

It's important to note that my concerns are not specific to the ACR itself. The 1:9 barrel notwithstanding, the ACR appears to be among the best of the new breed of successors to the venerable AR-15 platform, which is now over 50 years old. However, before we leap into the brave-new world of a next-generation rifle, we need to make sure that the new capabilities are worth the cost and, more importantly, that it is a sustainable weapons system (whether "we" are civilian shooters or the military/law enforcement community).

So, what's the bottom-line?

If you have an extra $3,000 to spend on a wicked-cool new rifle to add to your collection, the ACR is, without a doubt, a great choice. Just replace the barrel with a 1:7 twist if you want to get the best performance.

If, on the other hand, you want a practical rifle for home defense/SHTF applications, I think you're better off with a well-configured AR-15 and some training (more on that in another post), at least for now. This may change if the ACR's price comes down and the logistics issues are mitigated (either by run-away commercial success or widespread adoption by the military and/or law enforcement).

Until next time, keep your powder dry!

(Image copyright 2010, Bushmaster Firearms, Inc.)

By: Guardian