Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Death From Above

Years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq has shown how destructive Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) can be as a large percentage of U.S. casualties have been the result of these roadside bombs.  The pentagon has worked hard to defeat them, but they are inexpensive and effective so they will likely be a staple of future conflicts.  One way to avoid roadside bombs is to stay off the roads as much as possible.  Long convoys of trucks, tanks, artillery and support vehicles make easy targets so by shifting more resources from the ground to the air, combat units can avoid some of the roadside and become an even more lethal fighting machine.  Flying has its own risks of course, but shooting down an Apache or an Osprey with an RPG is much harder than blowing up a HMMV in the street.

The model for this lighter, faster and deadlier Army would be the venerable 101st Airborne (Air Assault) and the Rangers.  Both units were formed, trained and equipped around the idea that speed, surprise and aggressiveness could help make up for their lack of heavy weapons like tanks and heavy artillery.  Airborne and air assault operations are considerably more expensive than more conventional ground-based operations.  The cost and the institutional memory of the difficulties of the airborne drops over Normandy in 1944 have contributed to limited use of these operations.  However, with technological advancements in aircraft, weapons and communications it is time to exploit the force multiplying effect of airborne/air assault.

(In a future post I will discuss issues such as cost, weapons and equipment and organizational changes that need to be addressed for the shift to an airborne/air assault based Army and Marine Corps.)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Blowing up the Alphabet

One of the realizations to come out of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack is that more than ten years after 9/11 the multitude of federal agencies still do not always communicate effectively with one another.  In this case it contributed to four deaths and hundreds of grievous injuries. "Stove piping" was a big issue after 9/11 and the alphabet of agencies pledged to play nice and share their information more readily.  While this improved, it will never be good enough simply because their are too many letters.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), although widely derided, was at least a first step toward consolidating the alphabet soup.  In 2002 numerous existing agencies were folded into this new entity including the, TSA, ATF, Immigration and Customs, Border Patrol, DEA, Coast Guard and Secret Service.  Unfortunately the FBI was allowed to remain part of the Justice (DoJ) Department and the Central Intelligence Agency was allowed to remain in existence.  The Department of Defense (DoD) has a number of agencies for gathering intelligence including the National Security Agency, (NSA) Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the intelligence branches of the services.

The CIA has always been filled with patriotic and hard working people doing their best, but it has also always been too much of a political animal entrenched in the Washington bureaucracy.  Why should a civilian agency provide intelligence to the military?  It added a layer of bureaucracy that did not exist prior to the 1947 act that created the agency.  Instead of disbanding it however, a new layer was created in 2007 with a position called the Office of the Director of National Intelligence which theoretically supercedes the Director of the CIA.  If there is no CIA director then you certainly do not need a DNI who supercedes him.  When will government officials learn that added layers of bureaucracy and overlapping agencies do not enhance efficiency and effectiveness?  Why is more government the answer to lackluster government performance?