Category Archives: War

Pivot to Asia? Must be the IEDs and need for Nano UAVs

Here’s a list of Army research and development projects from a document I obtained — dated November 2013 — covering the next five years.  I was surprised, well not really, that so many are just continuations of what is already being done in Afghanistan, but not surprised how much is to tame the information monster.  Don’t see much though that reflects any kind of commitment to some future big war.

The list (I didn’t correct for spelling or amplify; some items are inscrutable):

3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared-Engine (3GF-E)
Acoustic Hailing Device
ACRO PET (London Larado) addition for Nitrate, Chlorate, and Urea explosives
Active Protection Systems
Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System
Air Vigilance
Airborne Counter-Explosive Reconnaissance and Targeting System
Airborne Electronic Attack
Airborne Recon Low-Multifunction Medium Altitude Recon & Surv
AirRobot AR150 with Dual IR cameras
American Innovations-Home Made Explosive Bulk Precursor Detection Kit
AMT, Sentinel XD CDS (Advanced Mesh Network)
AN/PSS-14 Cache Detection
Argonaut 200
Assured PNT
ATACMS Unitary Increment 0 Product Improvement
ATIRCM
Automated Surveillance Security Platform
Automated Wide Area Surveillance
Autonomous Mine Detection System
Avatar II Tactical Robot
Axton SMART AT-32S 8-watt IR floodlight.
Bam Stick
Beagle – Handheld NQR
BETSS-C – Force Protection (FP) Suite
BFT2 Manpack
Biometric Automated Toolset (BAT) 4.0 SP6
BiStatic
Bistatic Surveillance System
Black Granite Integrated Sensor Suite
Black Kite
Blue Devil
BlueSky Mast Portable Modular Mast
Bobcat T110 with QinetiQ Robotic Kit with TARDEC roller
Bobcat with Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Mobile Deployment System (MDS)
Boston Dynamics 30 lb robot with six paddles for rough terrain or swim
BuckEye – Geospatial Data Collection
C5ISR Aerial Layer
Catamount
Cerberus Lite
Checkpoint Explosive Detection System Gen 2
CI and HUMIT Requirements-Reporting Operations Management Environment
CISCO Identity Service Engine
Colorimetric Reconnaissance Explosives Squad Screening
Combat Service Support Very Small Aperture Terminal
Combat Survivor Evader Locator (SEP)
Command Post of the Future
Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station
Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS) UMR – JERRV
Common Sensor Payload
Company Intelligence Support Team
Constant Hawk – Afghanistan
Constant Hawk – Iraq
Container Weapon System (CWS) with CROWS II, Javelin, and SEK remote SA Computer
COP camera system with CROWS I camera parts and new cables, GPS, and tripod
Copperhead
CORAL-SD II passive, non-intrusive, thermal detection system
Counter – Unmmanned Aircraft Sytems
Counter Radio Control Electronic Warfare – Crew Vehicle Reactive Jammer
Counter Radio Control Electronic Warfare – DUKE
Counter Shooter System with Highly Accurate Immediate Responses / Iron Curtain
Counter-Concealment Sensors
Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Automated Reporting a Collection System
Covert Thermal Camera System
CREW 3.1
CREW Stryker FoV
Crew Vehicle Reactive Jammer (CVRJ) Fixed Site
Crosshairs Enhanced
Cryptographic Equipment and Services
CVRJ Platform Integration Buffalo
DCGS-A Edge Node (DEN)
Deep Sea Set
Department of Defense ABIS
Desert Owl
Dismount Blue Force Tracker
Dismounted Soldier Autonomy Tools
Dismounted Standoff Explosive Hazard Detection-Handheld Small Sized Detector
Dismounted Standoff Explosive Hazard Neutralization – Remote Initiator
Distributed Commom Ground Station-Army (DSGS-A) Cloud
Distributed Common Ground System – Army Increment 1 DSB 1.0
Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) Increment 1 Release 2
Duke V2 EA
Duke V3 Fixed Site
DUKE V3 Platform Integration Husky
Electromagnetic Pulse
Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations
Electronic Protection System on MRAP
Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS)
Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Digital
Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Optical
Evaluation of each additional candidate Nano Unmanned Air System (NUAS)
Expendable Unattended Ground Sensor
Eyeball Remote Camera System
Eyedrive throwable UAV
Fido Handheld Sniffer
Forensic Operator Advanced Kit
FORGE (Zero Base) Li-Ion
FOTOD-Screening Obscuration Device-Visual (restricted terrain)
GaRD Mobile System
GDC4S Intelligence Low Overhead Driver
GEMSIS
General Fund Enterprise Business System-Sensitive Activities
Georgia Tech (GTRI) Integration of Boston Dynamics Sand Flea Hopping Robot
Glasswave
Global Broadcast Service
Global Visualization Information System
Gray Eagle
Green Laser Interdiction System (GLIS)
Griffin
Groundhog
Guardrail/Common Sensor
Gunfire Detection System
GunSHOT Detection (GSD)
Gunshot Detection Simulation Training System
GyroCam RG-31
Hand Held Precision Targeting Device
Handheld Laser Marker
Handheld Minefield Detection System
Handheld Optical Augmentation
Harris Fusion Network Communication Server
Harris-Aerial C4ISR Payload Suite
Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance Team
Homemade Explosive Characterization
Hostile Fire Detection System Warfighter in the Loop Design Study and Demo
Hostile Fire Indicator
HTV HEMTT CVRJ
Hunter Upgrade
Husky MK III with OEF SPARK
Husky Mounted Detection System
Improvements to Remote Monitoring System (RMS) Direction Finder.
individual Counter RCIED Electronic Warfare
Individual Gunshot Detection (IGD)
Integrated Blast Effects Sensor Suite (I-BESS).
Integrated Broadcast Service
Integrated Sensor Improvement
Integrated Sensor Tower Long Range
Integration of CROSSHAIRS 2.0 and CROWS II gun in static mount
Intelligence – Central Security Service – Project G
Intelligence Warfighter Function
Intelligence/Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer
Intelligence-Special Access Programs
IRobot Warrior robot with XADS StunStrike Xap Disrupter
Israeli Namer Feasibility Assessment
Joint and Allied Threat Awareness System
Joint Crew 3.3 Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device
Joint Direct Support Airborne ISR
Joint Effects Targeting System (JETS) Target Location Designation System (TLDS)
Joint Personnel Identification System, Version 2
Joint USFK Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition (JUPITR)
Joint Warning and Reporting Network
Kaplan
Keyhole
Kratos NeuralStar
L-3 CyTerra lightweight mine detector
L3GDS Hawkeye III Lite CoCP
Launched Electrode Stun Device
Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS) managed by PM CCWS
Light Guard
LightGuard Mercury
Linguist Geometry-Realtime Adversarial Intelligence and Decision Making
Live Aerial ISR Link (LAIL)
Long Range Acoustic Device 360X
Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System
Longbranch
LONGWALK
Low, Slow Airborne Threat Response
Machine- Foreign Language Translation System
Magneto Inductive-Remote Activation Munition System
Man Portable Detection System
Marathon Robotic Human Type Target (RHTT) System.
Maritime Domain Awareness Joint Integrating Concept
Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System
Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR)
Micro Unmanned Aircraft System
Mine & IED Detection – Minehound, Vallon VMR2
Mini-EOD Robot
Mobile Unmanned Tactical Transport
Monocle
Motion activated camera with video storage and RF to portable Interrogation Set
Motion activated camera with video storage and RF to Route Clearance Vehicle
Multi-Function Electronic Warfare
Multiple Intelligence Sensor V4
Narcissus Counter Surveillance Systems
Networked EW, Remotely Operated (NERO)
One System Remote Video Terminal
One Tactical Engagement Simulation Systems
PackBot 510 Engineer
PackBot 510 Upgrades
PackBot 510 with FASTAC
Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter and Wi-Fi only Apple iPod Touch for control
Pearls of Wisdom
Persistent Surveillance Systems – Tethered
Phanton IR
Picatinny Optical Detection System
Polaris Diesel Ranger with QinetiQ Tactical Robotic Controller (TRC) and roller
Prioria Maveric lightweight, portable unmanned aircraft system (S-UAS)..
Prophet Enhanced
Prox Dynamics Nano Unmanned Air System (UAS).
Puma AE RQ-20A with MicroLink thin film solar cells on wing
PUMA DDL upgrades to PUMA DDL launcher, battery and 9 DB GCS antenna.
PUMA modules Micro Laser Marker (uLM) and Tactical Compact Comm Relay (TCCR)
RAID Mobile Tower
Rapid Attack Identification, Detection and Reporting System
Rapid Deployment Integrated Surveillance Systems
Rapid Reaction Tunnel Detection (R2TD)
Rapidly Elevated Aerostat Platform (REAP) Model XL R3500B
Rapiscan Eagle T1000
Raptor X
Raven GPU
RC-50/60 Modular Robotic Control System
RCV Buffalo Duke V3
Relevant ISR to the Edge 3G
RG-31 Medium Mine Protective Vehicle (MMPV)
Ringtail Common Tactical Vision
RoadHawk
Roadmaster
ROAMER Net
Robot upgrades
Robotic Bobcat with a Laser Vibrometry Imaging and Detection System (LVIDS)
Robotic Deployment System 2 on RG31A2
Robotic Pointman – Mini Flail
Route Clearance Interrogation System (RCIS) Type I
Route Clearance Interrogation System (RCIS) Type II
Route Clearance Mounted Detection & Marking
Route Clearance Mounted Explosive Hazards Survivability and Force Protection
Route Clearance Optic System
Route Clearance Vehicles Panther
Route Clearance Vehicles-Mine Protection Clearance Vehicle
Route Clearance Vehicles-Vehicle Mounted Mine Detection
Rucksack Portable UAS Pop
Rucksack Portable Unmanned Aircraft System
Sand Dog
Sapphire Detection System
Sarnoff fused color and thermal image camera
Saturn Arch
SCI Technologies TOCNET-G3
Semi-Autonomous Tactical Squad Robot
Sense Through The Wall (STTW)
SENTINEL Enhanced Target Range Acq & Class
Sentinel Hawk
Serval
Shop Equipment, Contact Maintenance System
Sickle Stick 2.0
Silicis 26-foot ISR balloon for robotic flight or tethered aerostat
SKYLARK I – Long Endurance (LE) UAS
Slingshot
Small Robot Standardization Effort
Small Tactical Multi- Payload Aerostatic System
Small Unit Support-IED Defeat (SUSI)
Small Unit Unmanned Aircraft System
Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) XM1216E1
Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle IBCT Increment 1
SOCOM Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) Version 1.1
SOFCOAST MAKO ISR Manpack Balloon
Sparrow Sentry System for Vehicles – Portable
Speckles Unmanned Aircraft System
Speech to Speech Smart Phone
Spring
Standoff Suicide Bomber Detection System
Stingray
Strider
Subterranean Operations
Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures
Supersonic Pulse-jet IED eXcavator
Sweat GUTR
Symphony CREW
Sync-Think Eye-Tracking Rapid-Attention Computation (Eye-TRAC) with 850 IR LED
Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator Payloads (SAR/GMTI)
Tactical – SIGINT Payload
Tactical Assured GPS Reference System
Tactical Reconnaissance And Counter-concealment Enabled Radar
Tactical UAS
Tactical Unmanned Ground System
Tactical Unmanned Ground System (TUGS IBCT Inc 2)
Talon 3B Engineer
TALON IV Engineer
TARIAN
Team Stove
Terrapin
TH-HYTEC
Threat Detection Fire Control System (Crosshairs 2)
Thru The Wall Radar
Towed Artillery Digitization Fire Control System
Trojan NexGEN
TROJAN SPIRIT LITE
Trojan SWARM
TUAS Shadow Simple Key Loader
Unattended Transient Acoustic MASINT System
Unmanned Aircraft System Class I
Unmanned Aircraft System Class I (UAS CL1 IBCT Inc 2)
Unmanned Aircraft System Live Training System
Unmanned Cargo/Logistic Resupply
Urban Unattended Ground Sensors IBCT Increment 1
URSUS
VADER (Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar)
Vanguard
Vector Sensor
Vehicle 360 deg fused thermal and visual camera to auto track up to 10 objects
Vehicle Observation Sensor System (VOSS) on the Medium Mine Protection Vehicle
Vehicle Optics Sensor System on the MRAP BAE RG-33L
Vigilant Pursuit
Viper Strike
Warlock-DUKE V2
Warlock-Duke V3
Weaponized Reconnaissance Against Insurgents by Targeting HELLFIRE
Whistler
Wideband Remote Monitoring Sensor: AN/FSQ-234(v)1
Wolfhound
Wolverine System
Zebra Imaging Tactical Digital Holograms (TDH)
Zion Bobcat

American Coup excerpt on Salon

You can read an excerpt of American Coup on Salon dealing with secret domestic preparations for a biological and chemical attack.  The book is on sale at your local bookstores and at Amazon.

 

 

American Coup and the Syria Debate

Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, 8 September 2013

NATIONAL SECURITY

Programmed to act

By William M. Arkin

The drive last week to attack Syria for using weapons of mass destruction is an American straight-jacket of the most confining sort.

Before President Obama decided to ask Congress to authorize the use of military force, the arguments for and against were flying. Is it legal? Is the intelligence accurate? Do we know the right targets? Can missiles or aircraft overcome supposedly robust Syrian air defenses? Will U.S. military and Syrian civilian lives be spared? Are we really helping the Syrian people? How will the rest of the world react? Can we achieve our objectives? The horror of chemicals, the gassing of innocent civilians, terror weapons; the hyperbole reserved for the evil of weapons of mass destruction is only matched by equally grave phrases — American credibility on the line, catastrophe, World War III — used to describe the costs of action or inaction.

That’s the thing with WMD.

They hover above every other concern, foreign and domestic. They are a national security trump card accorded a special place befitting being the most coveted and detested of all objects.

In close to 40 years I’ve been working on issues relating to the military, I’ve watched this never-ending theater of WMD. Over decades and diverse administrations, justifications for the use of force — limited and full scale — have constantly revolved around weapons of mass destruction. Protection against them, real and imaginary, has served itself as justification for government excess and a curtailment of our freedoms. So much so that even today, from august international bodies that sit on high to the recognized wise that populate academia to human rights activists and even peaceniks, the common mantra is that WMD cannot be tolerated. We stop everything because it is WMD and we fret about the consequences of both action and inaction because it is WMD.

We do so because of a little known and little understood entity that truly drives American national security practices: It’s called The Program.

Founded in the darkest days of nuclear threat during the Eisenhower administration, The Program began as a limited system given responsibility for survival of the government. The nuclear arms race ended, but The Program never completely went away. And since 9/11, like everything else about national security, its mission and focus has expanded. The main reason again is WMD.

An accepted assumption passed down from Clinton to Bush to Obama is that an exceptional threat that once just existed in all-out nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union transformed into an everyday threat. And not only that, but in an age of terrorism and global connectedness, WMD manifests not just from foreign regimes or terrorist groups, but also in common components — pressure cookers, a nasty virus, a keyboard — anything that could be the trigger for societal breakdown, even if it comes in the form of natural disasters or just system failures.

As the agent of survival, The Program is also the survivor.

To conceive of what The Program is, think Wall Street. It is a place, but it is also allusively the entirety of certain interests. It is made up of the equivalent of banks and financial institutions — actual offices in departments and agencies of government; people, policies, objectives — but it is not ruled by one man or entity, yet it acts in unison and with united purpose. It has a nominal headquarters that culminates in the White House but it has become more permanent than the elected who occupy it. And though it is budgeted and the Congress even participates in its workings, it is neither legislated nor publicly sanctioned. The Program exists through a system of sealed envelopes — four dozen formal Presidential Emergency Action Documents more secret than anything that has been revealed about the National Security Agency of late, arrangements that instruct a surviving entity of what to do if a nation-destroying calamity befalls Washington or the United States.

Because Doomsday is now thought by the experts in government to be any day, and because the potential battlefield is anyplace and every place, the work of The Program, and its power, has dramatically expanded. A survival apparatus operates behind the scenes as if survival is perpetually and instantly at stake. There’s no overt conspiracy here, unless one considers the supremacy of this impenetrable and unchallenged ideology.

Successive presidencies have granted The Program extraordinary powers and extralegal action beyond anything sanctioned in the Constitution or public laws. This is precisely because whatever would activate the need for overt takeover would surely be necessary to preserve or even restore the nation’s institutions and laws. Extraordinary secrecy safeguards The Program, but in an always hyperbolic society where threats redefined as mass destruction are seemingly everywhere, not too many questions are asked.

With the discussions that began last week, we will be back again in this cycle, whether it’s with Iran’s WMD or North Korea’s or even al Qaeda’s. At the highest reaches of government, the inherited and ingrained assumption will be that when it comes to WMD violating law to uphold law is allowable, even warranted. And not only that, but because of WMD and the vulnerability of modern society, political compromises and legal violations will be endorsed to prevent or forestall mass destruction.

The Program is a subtle American coup that condemns us to perform the same rituals and set down the same red lines oblivious to the stranglehold that this way of thinking and mode of governance has on our nation. If the program were effective at improving our national security, if at the end of any given year the powers that be concluded that they had made progress and could loosen the reins of secret government and return to some state of normalcy, then one might reluctantly agree with the Washington tune that everything is a trade-off between security and freedom.

Not only does this never happen, but policies of torture and warrantless surveillance and government assassination of American citizens persist and flourish, our freedoms and values actively undermined in a state of martial life that is both invisible and all-encompassing.

For The Program, Syria is just business as usual.

It’s not as if the thousands who toil away behind the scenes have an opinion one way or another. Nor are they necessarily pulling any strings. But the business of doing the nation’s dirty work demands a complex web, and the mission to connect the dots to every potential hiding place creates an almost unlimited mandate.

What The Program endeavors for is for the American people to get with the program. Fear of mass destruction and the righteous action associated with WMD forms a perfect cushion and shield, survival and sustenance assured for noble purposes.

William M. Arkin is author of “American Coup: How a Terrified Government is Destroying the Constitution;” and co-author of the best-selling book and newspaper series “Top Secret America.”

NSA Tailored Access Operations

Found a little more about Tailored Access Operations (TAO), the Computer Network Exploitation/Computer Network Attack (CNE/CNA) operation of NSA, long known, but mentioned in the Washington Post article last week revealing the National Intelligence Budget.  The Post describes TAO as “surreptitiously installing spyware and tracking devices on targeted computers and mobile-phone networks.”  I think that description is too broad.

Tailored Access Operations, or sometimes called Defense Tailored Access Operations, is part of the S3 Data Aquisition, or the Signal Intelligence Directorate.  It is made up of six subordinate elements (branches):

  • S321:  Remote Operations Center (ROC)
  • S323: Data Network Technologies (DNT)
  • S324: Telecommunication Network Technologies (TNT)
  • S325: Mission Infrastructure Technologies (MIT)
  • S327: Requirements & Targeting (R&T)
  • S328: Access Technologies Operations (ATO)

The Remote Operations Center is the primary CNE operation of the U.S. government to gain access and intelligence from computer networks in direct support to cyber security & network warfare missions.  It is made up of the following divisions:

  • NOC: Network Ops Center
  • ORD: Operational Readiness Division (Training)
  • IOD: Interactive Ops Division
  • POD: Production Ops Division
  • AOD: Access Operations Division

The Network Warfare Team (NWT) provides liaison between the military and TAO.

Two tool development organizations are also subordinate to TAO:

  • TNT- Telecommunications Network Technologies
  • DNT- Data Network Technologies.

WMD in Iraq: What I Wrote; Ten Years Later

Here is the column I wrote about WMD in Iraq before the 2003 war:

A Hazy Target; Before going to war over weapons of mass destruction, shouldn’t we be sure Iraq has them?

Los Angeles Times, Sunday, March 9, 2003, Part M, Page 1

William M. Arkin

For all their differences, proponents and opponents of war with Iraq agree on one thing: The paramount threat posed by Saddam Hussein is his possession of chemical and biological weapons.

“The one respect that we think most about and worry most about is an enemy with weapons of mass destruction,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz said last month. Opponents of war with Iraq have much the same view.

Administration leaders argue that only war can smoke out Hussein’s hidden biochemical capabilities. Doves argue that we must rely on inspections because attacking Hussein could provoke him to use chemical or biological weapons; if Israel were hit, they warn, the result could be nuclear war. By different routes, the two sides arrive at an almost obsessive focus on Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons.

Each side has practical as well as principled reasons for doing so. For the administration, equating chemical and biological weapons with nuclear weapons — and warning that, sooner or later, Iraq’s weapons will find their way into terrorists’ hands — has become a way of making the case that war with Iraq is essential to protecting American lives at home.

For those who oppose the U.S. position, treating chemical and biological weapons as weapons of mass destruction akin to nuclear weapons justifies diplomacy and brinkmanship because of the seeming horrendous consequences of failure.

The question is whether these weapons in fact form a foundation sufficient to support all the weight being placed on it.

Instructively, the one place where policy is not being driven by the focus on chemical and biological weapons is inside the American armed forces.

For one thing, while not dismissing the seriousness of chemical and biological warfare, most field commanders are reasonably confident they can handle any such attacks Hussein can mount. For another, they understand all too well the mass destruction a full-scale war might inflict.

Moreover, most know that, after nearly four months of renewed weapons inspections by the United Nations and the most intensive effort in the history of the U.S. intelligence community, American analysts and war planners are far from certain that chemical and biological weapons even exist in Iraq’s arsenal today.

Incredible as it may seem, given all the talk by the administration — including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s discourse last week about continuing Iraqi deception — there is simply no hard intelligence of any such Iraqi weapons.

There is not a single confirmed biological or chemical target on their lists, Air Force officers working on the war plan say.

No one doubts that Iraq has consistently lied and cheated about its proscribed arms capabilities. This is a country that has used chemical weapons against Iran and against its own population, a country that fired missiles at Israel and its Arab neighbors in 1991.

And the rundown of Iraqi weapons that remain incompletely accounted for since the 1991 Gulf War is daunting: 6,500 bombs filled with chemical agents, 400 bombs filled with biological agents, 31,500 chemical munitions, 550 artillery shells loaded with mustard gas, 8,500 liters of anthrax.

Moreover, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency analysts believe that Hussein’s forces could launch two types of short-range missiles, rockets or artillery that are capable of carrying chemical agents. The analysts say Iraqi aircraft or unmanned drones could mount sprayers to disperse chemicals or biological agents.

Analysts also think it possible for Iraqi commandos to penetrate coalition lines with small quantities of these weapons.

And U.S. intelligence has received reports that Special Republican Guard units, as well as secret police and security services charged with defending the regime, have been given bio-chem protective gear. President Bush, in his Feb. 8 radio address, said the administration had intelligence “that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons.”

“We cannot rule out of course that Saddam might try in some kind of desperation to use chemical or biological weapons,” National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said, echoing the administration line.

Yet, in fact, there is as much uncertainty as certainty about Iraq’s capabilities, as well as about the military effectiveness of any 11th-hour resort to chemical and biological weapons. So much of what the U.S. believes is based upon Iraq’s history, not knowledge of current conditions.

Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said as much when he told Congress last month that U.S. beliefs were “based on … past patterns and availability … that he will in fact employ them.”

But the thinking that lies behind such statements when made by military professionals is quite different from that underlying the pronouncements of Rice and Wolfowitz.

When Maj. Gen. John Doesburg, the Army’s top biological and chemical defense commander, says the United States must assume Hussein thinks “it’s OK to use chemical agents, because he’s done it,” the general is simply engaging in the kind of worst-case thinking that professional soldiers are trained to do.

“What does he plan to do? I have no idea,” Brig. Gen. Stephen Reeves, Army program officer for chemical and biological defense, said at a Pentagon news conference last month.

Military leaders like Doesburg and Reeves do not mean to suggest that chemical and biological weapons are the battlefield equivalent of nuclear weapons. And they certainly do not mean to suggest such weapons are so uniquely horrific that they should drive the nation’s policy decisions — either toward or away from war.

Among other things, using chemical and biological weapons effectively is so difficult that this alone has always been considered a major impediment for Iraq. The weapons are unpredictable. Weather conditions are a major factor. Chemical and biological agents also have to avoid exposure to heat, light or severe cold.

When U.N. weapons inspectors were in Iraq during the 1990s, they found it had turned toward unmanned ground vehicles and sprayers as platforms for delivering chemical and biological weapons because Iraqi engineers could not master the technology for delivering such weapons in missiles or artillery shells; loaded into the warheads, the chemical and biological material was usually incinerated when the warhead exploded.

Moreover, “it takes a lot of chemicals to have a significant effect on the battlefield,” Doesburg told Bloomberg News. “We don’t suspect he has the stockpile.”

According to war planners, three aspects of U.S. military strategy are specifically related to preventing the use of such weapons once open hostilities begin.

First, initiating the use of force across all fronts, with simultaneous air and ground operations, will communicate what Wolfowitz calls “the inevitability” of Hussein’s demise. “No one wants to be the last one to die for Saddam Hussein,” he said.

Second, the war plan itself favors smaller and more highly dispersed formations to limit exposure to the kinds of brute-force chemical attacks that occurred in Iraq’s war with Iran.

Third, early air and special operations assaults, particularly in western Iraq, will seek to disrupt any potential attacks on Israel.

Despite so little hard evidence of Iraq’s capabilities, U.S. troops have been vaccinated, trained, equipped and dressed to prepare for chemical and biological war. For military units, all this is no more than prudent planning.

For the rest of us, we must take care that apprehension about weapons of mass destruction — whether generated from hawks or from doves — does not become a substitute for thinking through the justification to go to war, a decision that could have consequences for years to come.

There have been recent reports that U.S. Marines in Kuwait were literally using “sentinel” chickens to aid in the early detection of chemical and biological weapons.

“I just have to tell you from personal experience,” said Reeves, “having had a great-uncle with a chicken farm, chickens are spectacularly nervous animals. They will literally worry themselves to death.”

Exactly.

Eager Lion Now Supplants Bright Star as Largest U.S. Exercise in Middle East

The details emerging about the Eager Lion 12 military exercise in Jordan are almost as scary as the speculation circulating in the press about a Syria (or Iran) mission preparation.  Jordan and the United States continue to insist that the exercise has no connection with any real-world events.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) now says that the exercise is “the largest annual exercise in the Central Command area of operations,” supplanting Bright Star, the exercise series previously conducted in Egypt.  I guess the masters of war planning have a lot of faith in the stability and resilience of the Jordanian government, come to think of it, just like they did about Egypt.

Eager Lion, which most press reports refer to as including 17 participants, actually includes 19 participants, according to CENTCOM.   They include Australia, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, France, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Spain, Romania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.  The exercise is touted as “building relationships,” but the 19 nations weren’t named until May 15th: I suppose it’s more like a furtive affair than a relationship.  It’s interesting to note that Turkey, previously reported as participating, evidently is not; and that Iraq is there.

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit offload from a Navy Landing Craft Utility vessel at the Royal Jordanian Naval Base in Aqaba, May 2, 2012, to begin their participation in Exercise Eager Lion 12. (Official Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein)

And though special operations is the undeniable focus, more than 1,000 U.S. Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit stormed ashore – okay maybe didn’t storm, but landed – in a display of amphibious readiness.  What surprised me in the belated announcement of the Marines May 2nd landing is that the Marine Corps casually referred to the augmented battalion and its Iowa Jima assault ship as the “forward-deployed crisis response force.”

I didn’t even know that there was such a crisis response force, and nothing was reported in the news media when it was deployed in March.

The on-scene U.S. commander for Eager Lion 12 is Maj. Gen. Ken Tovo, who in his day job is Commander Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and for the exercise is Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Spartan (CJTF Spartan).  Tovo is one of the most talented officers in our Army’s senior ranks and clearly is one of our nation’s Special Operations Forces’ superstars,” CIA Director David Petraeus said in an email to the Tampa Tribune.  There’s an odd hit job on Tovo on Examiner.com, as if anything is actually known about the man.

In Defense of Defense of the F-22

Should we say Bravo! to the Air Force for doing its job, for doing what the military services are supposed to do, which is to train and equip, to advocate for their mission and specialty, and then to move out smartly when overruled by higher ups?  Or should we just shut down the junior service because it’s so pathetic?

The Air Force received the final, 187th F-22 Raptor jet last week in Georgia, destined to join the 3rd Wing’s 525th Fighter Squadron, stationed at the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.  Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz was on hand to blather on about “America’s first 5th generation fighter aircraft,” thanking the line workers, and then heading back to his Pentagon credenza, where no doubt he was preparing to weather the onslaught.

First came ABC News, with Senator Take-No-Prisoners McCain repeating the old bombast that the F-22 is useless because it has never been used in combat.  In almost seven years not a single one of the jets, which cost an estimated $420 million-plus each, has ever been used, ABC said.

60 Minutes followed, sucking all of the oxygen out of any decent discourse, scoring the coup of having actual pilots “without permission … blow the whistle on a plane they love to fly.”

The GAO piled on.

Lockheed Martin tweeted and tweeted in response how fabulous the plane is, oblivious to what was going on all around.  The Air Force produced Gen. Mike Hostage – no kidding – to tell us that the F-22 was in fact being deployed and used all over.  This nation needs this airplane – and every one of them,” he said. “I wish I had ten times as many as I have.”  Really only the Air Force Association and the network of retired airpower advocates have joined the battle, attempting to answer the F-22 critics.

They are all missing the point.

There’s so much to be said about the news media and how opportunistic it is, stuck in a mode of having to make every story a bombshell.  There’s so much to be said about the Air Force, which just can’t get beyond its institutional inferiority complex and can’t see the big picture because it is constantly bunkered and under attack.  There’s so much to be said about the idiocy of the public defense debate stuck in some 1980’s mode of waste, fraud, and abuse, weapons-won’t-or-don’t-work.

But the real issue is that we have no defense policy, no national security strategy.  We’re fighting in Afghanistan and no one other than the government and military supports it or cares; we’ve declared terrorism an existential threat that isn’t one; we’re pivoting to Asia to unstick ourselves from the Middle East, making believe that there is some military solution in the future; we’re hanging on to and hostage to gajillions of dollars of nukes – “not used in combat” in 60 years, get it?; we’re watching new constituencies in favor of perpetual war emerge – homeland security, the intelligence community, special operations, the cyber warriors, the counter-IED kingdom, the counter-threat finance sleuths, the counter-narcoterrorism fighters – and seem oblivious to the age of special interests that takes advantage of the absence of a national security strategy.  No wonder every Congressman and woman just tries to get and save bases, contracts, and weapons in their districts and states: The Defense Department and the federal government has completely failed to articulate in any useful way why x is needed and y isn’t, so it all boils down to politics, what’s best for the district or State, and every special interest just establishes alliances to pursue what it can get.

The F-22 symbolizes all of this dysfunction, particularly that part about our debate stuck in some weird 1980’s time warp.   But what’s really happening is that the plane is just too good, too good for even the pilots, too powerful, too fast, too flexible, too magnificent.  And as such, it should be seen as part of a sea change, as a seam between an old era and a new, rather than some industrial object to be audited.

Like the 10 last-inch-seeking hyper-reliable MIRVs that we finally stuffed on top of the triple-somersaulting MX missile in the 1980’s (and then abandoned for being too much), the F-22 is too much for what is really needed for our national security, which is to say, that just because it’s the best doesn’t mean it’s buying us anything.

I’m an agnostic one way or another about the airplane, but do appreciate the details of its capabilities, including how fabulous it is as an intelligence platform, how it can dog fight and bomb at the same time…  The real question we have to ask ourselves is whether 187 of anything carrying two or twenty bombs, no matter how accurate, is going to defeat a China or Russia?  Of course it isn’t; it’s a “deterrent,” it’s a symbol; it’s a lab experiment.   It’s all sorts of things that might actually be good for America except that we can’t really determine whether that’s so unless we look at our national security in a lot broader way, shorn of love for boots on the ground and hate for the fly boys, shorn of pro-Europe and Pacific and anti-Middle East, shorn of COIN versus big war.

Is this my only choice: More killer drones?  More main battle tanks?  More opaque spending on intelligence and special operations?  More cyber this and that?  More PTSD?

In which case then, I’ll take the F-22s.   Everything that the drones and the tanks and the magnificent covert operators represent seem both more mischievous and dangerous for the future of America.

Operation Chimichanga practices North Korean strike?

Three B-1 bombers from the 37th Bomb Squadron, stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota took off in the early hours of April 4 on a ten-hour bombing mission to Fort Yukon, Alaska as part of a complex long-range Strategic Command “anti-access” bombing mission dubbed Operation Chimichanga.

The exercise, starting with a simulated warning order to bomb targets in a classified country, included multiple live fly participants and command and control elements, finishing with battle damage assessment and an after action report.

Participants included F-22 Raptors and E-3 AWAC command and control aircraft assigned to the Alaskan 3rd Wing, along with F-16s from Misawa AB, Japan, and KC-135 aerial refuelers from Eielson AFB, Alaska.

F-22s and F-16s escorted the B-1s “into an anti-access target area,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Kunkel, 90th Fighter Squadron commander.

It was also the first time that increment 3.1, an air-to-ground bombing software upgrade was used on F-22’s, which also acted as follow-on forces, to assess B-1 bomb damage at the target and follow with an immediate restrike.

The B-1 bombers were also carrying new long-range radar evading AGM-158 joint air-surface standoff missile (JASSMs).

North Korea or Iran, take your pick.

Ten air forces meet in Bahrain to do what?

Front page Bahrain-based Gulf Daily News today: The largest air exercise since 1988, involving 10 nations — Bahrain, the United States, plus Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan?

Is there so much surplus military money to throw around that now that the Iraq war is over, these large exercises are coming back with a vengeance?  Or is there some desire to send messages to countries like Iran that everyone’s ready?

And where’s Iraq in this?  Some Arab spring, eh?

[Note: Updated April 9, 2012:  The exercise is called "Initial Link."]

Gulf Daily News frontpage, Sunday, April 8, 2012.

Are the Marines Landing on the Beach of a new Cold War?

Nothing quite says the start of a new war than Marines hitting the beach, so the news this week that the first of 2,500 Marines hit the beach in northwest Australia put some substance to the Obama administration’s declaration of a “pivot” to Asia.

The shift – refocusing U.S. foreign and military policy away from its fixation on the Middle East – is partly a public relations ploy, partly “strategic,” but there is also a cynical element: The national security establishment and big spenders yearn for an old school problem to tackle, one where classic geopolitics rule and Red is Red.  The only problem – the only problem? – is that declaring China the next enemy more likely makes it so.  And that’s idiotic.

The good news here is that after declaring its eternal commitment to Afghanistan and the terror war, the pivot can and should be read as the true desire on the part of the establishment to extricate the United States from the Middle East quagmire.  I’m not saying that the U.S. will give up on fighting terrorism or abandon Israel; the United States has declared everything from al Qaeda to the Arctic strategic and seems to be unable to have it any other way.  But the last big declaration of national military strategy — that everything was being dropped to focus singularly on counter-insurgency (COIN) and irregular warfare – seems to be in the process of being supplanted.  Not only didn’t COIN sit well with many traditionalists, but it also didn’t provide enough script to engage the entire cast.  After all, how many ships and bombers are needed to muck about in the jungle?

So, the United States and Australia are beefing up their cooperation under the guise of joint exercises, and there’s even talk of stationing ships or submarines down under.  The Australian government assures its public that the U.S. won’t have permanent bases in the country, as if somehow that’s the issue.

Meanwhile, Guam is being stuffed with more air, naval, and Marine forces; and Japan is fully wired into the anti-North Korea-cum-China missile defense shield.  Military cooperation with Indonesia is on the rise; the Singapore Defense Minister is in Washington this week; a submarine and tender are publicly in port in Malaysia.  Other Asian nations are being enlisted in the nascent efforts to “contain” China.

There’s a scene is George Bush the elder’s book with Brent Scowcroft – A World Transformed – where the two end their chapter on Desert Storm, the first war with Iraq under Saddam Hussein in 1990-1991: after only four days of ground combat, the Republican Guards have been routed, a ceasefire has been agreed to at Safwan, the coalition has triumphed.  The next chapter gets back to the situation in a crumbling Soviet Union, and it is abundantly clear that the two couldn’t wait to get off their Middle East detour and get back to the men’s work that they were so familiar with.

“The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay,” President Obama declared last November when he visited Australia.  It is a declaration that has a feel of impatience for a president who came to office promising to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and so many other things that he hasn’t been able to maneuver.

Here to stay is so much more homey and stable, and in the pivot to Asia – to China – Obama can collect together many happy allies:  In Washington, the Congress, think tanks, lobbyists, and opinion-shapers are all game.  The new cyber warriors can hardly wait to get to their keyboards.  In the U.S. military, there is a strong Pacific legacy and institutional bloc, even after 10 plus years of war they are far more powerful than the junior varsity at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the rather unglamorous command headquarters stuck in Florida and under lock-down in Qatar.  Success at pivoting takes the heat off of the white hot poker of Iran.  It even disses those arrogant collective annoying do-gooders in Europe, making it clear that America is a global power while they are, as Rumsfeld once said, just old.  And in the public mind, though I can’t prove it, China – even if it might be confusing why we would pick a fight or militarize our relationship with them – represents a more dignified and clear-cut peer competitor.  The Middle East in contrast is so messy and unresolved.

One can write, almost without thinking twice, the words that the Asian-Pacific region offers greater threats and opportunities to American security (and economic) interests than do Iraq or Afghanistan.  Serious thinkers and armchair strategists are writing variations of this more and more frequently.  China’s nukes, China’s economy, China’s spreading influence beyond Asia; it’s all there the ingredients for a good-ole Cold War.