The following posts appeared on Phase Zero last week:
An Intelligence Vet Explains ISIS, Yemen, and “the Dick Cheney of Iraq” : An Interview with Malcolm Nance
Soft power, all the rage in the ivory tower, but ever so slowly being eclipsed in the Defense Department as mission excitement builds for China and that old foe Iran, is here to stay in that way that the Pentagon knows how to overdo everything: write the regulations and doctrine, open specialty institutions, build an internal constituency. And of course, spend money, which in the military budget is a pittance but in comparison to other departments and agencies is a King’s ransom, which is why soft becomes hard, and everything that the U.S. government attempts to turn into non-military becomes military by default.
As Secretary Robert Gates nudged the rest of the government to do more so that the military didn’t have to do everything, and the commentators of everything-is-pathetic-except-for-the-military love to point out that the State Department can’t even find enough volunteers to man its hazardous posts in the perpetual warzone. Come to think of it, I wonder if DOD could if their assignments were equally voluntary.
But I digress. Institutionalized soft power a la Pentagon practice does take resources, and bodies, and pretty soon, hard power is compromised. So there’s a double loss for America: Military priorities get distorted, and the distinction between what is military and what is civilian fades.
This week, European Command (EUCOM) announced the opening of a new Joint Interagency Counter Trafficking Center in Stuttgart, Germany; a kind of unremarkable and typical blah, blah, blah, even for the once important European Command constantly looking for mission and relevance. The new center focuses on trafficking in drugs, weapons, humans and other illicit commodities. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Scraba, the center’s director, told American Forces Press Service that criminal networks were increasingly able to operate across national borders and build alliances. Among the greatest concerns, he said, is the convergence of drug and terror networks. The fusion center, the director says, has fewer than 40 staff members, and includes representatives of the FBI, DIA and other U.S. government agencies.
Fewer than 40 staff members indeed, but you gotta ask: Why is this paid for out of the defense budget? Why does the military have to take the lead for the interagency to work? How many additional contractors and supporters are really expended? How does this subtly impact and undermine core military missions? How does it slowly turn the military into a global law enforcement entity?
When the U.S. government started trumpeting the term narco-terrorism after 9/11, I took it to be a cynical effort to rename the war on drugs and the activities of the left-out combatant commands like Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in the new mono-focus of terrorism. The term in fact had been coined by President Fernando Belaúnde Terry of Peru in 1983, according to Wikipedia. The adoption by DOD was in fact cynical, but soon enough they discovered that the most pressing narco problem was in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a mission that initially they relegated to the Brits and the NATO partners, but have been slowly taking over. EUCOM’s center is really a product of endless fighting in Afghanistan.
EUCOM’s center joins the counter-narcotics and counter-narcoterrorism effort at Central Command (CENTCOM), which takes place in the Afghanistan and Pakistan Center (APC). SOUTHCOM has their new Countering Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC) division. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has both a CTF [counter-threat finance] team and a TNT/CNT [transnational terrorism/counter narcoterrorism] division. So does Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which has built up a whole group of Colorado Springs-based efforts fighting transnational criminal organizations (narcotics trafficking, human smuggling, weapons, money laundering/threat finance etc.), focused mostly on Mexico.
All of these field outposts feed into the counter-narcotics and counter trafficking intelligence efforts of the CIA – through its long-standing Crime and Narcotics Center — NSA, DIA, Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), etc. Even the Navy’s Nimitz Operational Intelligence Center has a Transnational Threat Department (TNT). This is not even to mention the two Joint Intelligence Agency Taskforces focused on the war on drugs: South (JIATF-S) in Key West and West (JIATF-W) at Camp Smith, Hawaii. The Department of Homeland Security, of course, has gotten into the act, opening an ICE Bulk Cash Smuggling Center and other organizations.
None of this particularly surprises me, even when budgets are supposedly so strained. But I can’t help continue to think that the entire effort is both cynical and ass-backwards. If we want soft anything, we have to lead with non-military efforts.
The Obama administration, not surprisingly, has made it worse, contributing to the mission creep into organized crime and human trafficking, through its Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to National Security, released in July 2011.
That Strategy called for DOD to enhance its support to law enforcement with the creation of the Narcotics and Transnational Crime Support Center. James Miller, the new Under Secretary of Defense for Policy called the Center “a dedicated DoD-led center that integrates military, intelligence, and law enforcement analytic capabilities to go after key nodes in global criminal networks.” It reflects, he says, “the added value that the Defense department brings to whole-of-government efforts against transnational organized crime.”
Kathleen Hicks, who replaces Miller as Principal Deputy, told Congress: “DoD should also consider how it can play a role in breaking the links among criminal organizations, terrorists, and insurgencies. As the President’s strategy states, “terrorists and insurgents are increasingly turning to TOC [transnational organized crime] to generate funding and acquiring logistical support to carry out their violent acts.” As the Department continues with its counterterrorism efforts around the world, it will be important to account for the links between criminal and terrorist entities.”
I’d never heard of this Center, and Internet research turns up very little. What I’ve pieced together is that it is located in Crystal City, Virginia, and the director reports to the Deputy Assistant Security of Defense for Counter Narcotics and Global Threats. Camber Corporation is providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) expertise to link the Center to NSA. Semper Fi Solutions, Inc. is providing CENTCOM liaison officers in Tampa to the Crystal City based center, as well as corruption and “predatory” analysts.
Other contractors providing intelligence support to the trafficking empire include: BAE Systems, Celestar, Delex Systems, Duer Advanced Technology & Aerospace (DATA), FedSys, Inc., General Dynamics Information Technology, L-3 STRATIS, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Prosync Technology Group, and SAIC. Parsons Corporation is working on the methamphetamine/precursor chemicals problem set for the DIA.
Finally, one has to ask, with all of the enhanced intelligence collection and sharing and border control that is part of the post 9/11 world, why is this problem getting worse? How is that possible, that borders are more porous? So much for the war against terrorism. No wonder they call it the forever war.
The National Counter-terrorism Center (NCTC) was in the news last week, with the government’s revised guidelines regarding its ability to acquire and retain information on Americans who have nothing to do with terrorism.
Then Greg Miller had a vivid almost-hilarious-if-it-wasn’t-national-security profile of the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) in The Washington Post, an article that assaults the notion that NCTC is the epicenter of the terror war. The CIA’s Center, in addition to commanding the drones that do the killing, actually gets out there while the NCTC is a northern-Virginia based bureaucracy. They’re so far out there in fact, that their director “Robert” – we can’t know his real name – is a convert to Islam. Just weird.
If I didn’t know that it takes weeks, even months, for a journalist to score such a profile, I’d think the Post piece was a direct response to NCTC getting all of the attention in the news. Bureaucracies do hate other bureaucracies getting credit.
But the same week that all of this was going down, I was trying to wrap my head around another organization: the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which is in Tampa, Florida. They had a job advertisement for a new civilian chief of their “Exploitation Division” that said in part:
“As Chief, Exploitation Division, leads, plans and organizes the technical analysis and collaborative exploitation efforts of the Directorate’s six (6) divisions with a combined staff of military, active and reserve, civilian personnel, contractors and Interagency Partners (CIA, FBI, NSA, OGA, NCTC, DOS, USAID, DOJ, DHS, DEA, USCG, ASD-SOLIC, DIA and NCR….
Conducts strategic analysis and manages the evaluation of technical data associated with ceased digital media, cellular communications/equipment, documents, currency and weapons systems while concurrently writing and providing strategic and operational exploitation assessments to the IATF Director and USSOCOM Commander…”
The job announcement, besides being in a language other than English and replete with all sorts of errors (what the hell is “ceased digital media” and what’s OGA – other government agencies – the usual acronym for the CIA if the CIA is already mentioned?)makes it sound like something that I thought was just a coordinating Task Force is actually another action arm. A little more digging and in fact IATF sounds redundant of both NCTC and CTC and whole bunch of other organizations and agencies; part intelligence analysis shop, part targeter, part planner, part doer.
SOCOM’s 2008 posture statement before Congress describes the IATF simply as “a catalyst to rapidly facilitate CT [counter-terror] collaboration within the U.S. government against trans-regional, functional and strategic level problem sets and opportunities.” An official Defense Department definition of an IATF is a “full-time, multifunctional advisory element of the combatant commander’s staff that facilitates information sharing throughout the interagency community. Through habitual collaboration, it provides a means to integrate campaign planning efforts at the strategic and operational levels and throughout all U.S. government agencies. IATF bridges the gap between civilian and military campaign planning efforts for potential crises and irregular challenges.”
According to SOCOM’s FY 2013 budget, “SOCOM’s IATF quickly fuses knowledge from multiple sources and collection methods, and then rapidly disseminates essential information to theater SOF and/or agencies for operational planning or investigation.”
Delve deeper though, and like the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, almost synonymous to it in fact, the IATF is more than just another staff organization. Ten of its contractors and their activities demonstrate that:
* A-T Solutions: Senior operational planning and execution support contractor to the IATF Synchronization Division. A-T Solutions support SOCOM’s core mission as the global synchronization of the U.S. government – minus the CIA and DNI, that is – for the global war on terrorism operations plan (CONPLAN 7500). It organizes the regular Global Synchronization Conferences of the dozen or more agencies and departments involved in fighting terrorist networks.
* Blackbird Technologies: Operational planning support contractor to the Counter-terrorism Branch.
* Circinus, LLC: Document exploitation and cultural analysis in support of Exploitation Team.
* FEDSYS, Inc.: Operational research and intelligence analysis support to the Counter Narco-terrorism (CNT) Branch and the counter-threat finance (CTF) Team. FEDSYS assists in coordination of U.S. government agencies, partner nations and the private sector to accomplish SOCOM’s CTF mission, including finance-oriented assessments to support development of case files, evidentiary material, designation packages, to include actionable intelligence on finance-specific entities. This includes data mining, data manipulation, and multimedia production to identify/detect, target and interdict terrorist, and/or illicit criminal finance activities.
* High Tech Crime Institute: Designer and sole producer of the EDAS FOX series of forensics computers, which USSOCOM currently uses for cell phone and computer hardware and software exploitation. The Institute supports IATF Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) Branch.
* JACOBS Technology: Analytical and language support to IATF Document and Media Exploitation (DOMEX) Branch.
* OverWatch Technologies: Technical support to the Science and Technology Directorate in development of special reconnaissance programs.
* Scientific Research Corporation: Cyber intelligence analytic support to the Special Projects Division. SRC performs geospatial analysis of networks and effects-based cyber target characterization (EBCT) studies; and create and maintains specific EBCT studies consisting of continually-refreshed, fused, all-source intelligence assessments of target sets to expose vulnerabilities and Centers of Gravity (COG) in support operational actions.
* Special Applications Group: Writing, editing and publishing support to the Special Project Division. The Special Applications Group produces counter-terrorism propaganda for IATF and SOCOM, including “Argus” magazine. The IATF Division works with intelligence and operations specialists, social scientists, geospatial analysts, and software engineers working with very large repositories of structured and unstructured multi-source data.
* Streamline Defense: Analytical support contractor to the IATF Fusion Division. Streamline Defense conducts operations and intelligence research, data collection, analysis, production, and dissemination in support of IATF’s efforts. Its contractors interpret and analyze raw data in the production of intelligence from multiple sources along four separate and concurrent lines of investigation, compile, collate, analyze, and evaluate all-source information to produce intelligence and operational design products on terrorists, terrorist organizations/networks (al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliated groups), non-government agencies, state sponsors of terrorism, and potential links worldwide.
According to military documents, the IATF Exploitation Division additionally sponsors the Naval Postgraduate School’s work in the development of social analysis models for both current interdiction and forecasting political and social movements. The IATF’s Counter Radicalization and Counter Facilitation Branch also works with national police agencies from Afghanistan to Africa and Australia to gain insight into and solve domestic and transnational problems.
After 9/11, Special Operations Command (SOCOM) informally established its standing interagency element comprised of military members and other departments of the U.S. government. In 2006, according to a military study on interagency cooperation, the IATF was chartered to ‘serve as a coordinating activity within DOD and across the interagency that integrates … efforts while also “solving discrete problem sets that support the War on Terror.” The SOCOM commander also assigned the IATF the command’s Time Sensitive Planning process and mission and with the responsibility to support host nation governments.
The IATF, the study said, became “one of the most substantially resourced staff elements within the command” with new state of the art facilities. According to the study, as of 2009, the IATF consisted of nearly 100 interagency personnel and had established formal and informal relationships with nearly every element of the United States Government. The IATF Executive director was originally a one-star general officer, but since late 2010, the head of the Task Force isn’t even a military man: The current director is Frank Shroyer, a career Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) official. Like so much about secret organizations and those developed since 9/11 to fight the forever-war (the new Africa Command’s deputy commander is a State Department officer), the whole-of-government approach is laudable, but I’m still uncomfortable with the obscuring of what is military and what is civilian, and I’m still opposed to the CIA targeting and killing with military means. Our practice undermines the distinction principle in the law of armed conflict.
SOCOM, moreover, funds nearly all of its contractor, travel and activities from sources external to the IATF. “The IATF budget is not a constraining factor in its functionality, the 2009 study concludes.
I’m sure that some special operations types will argue that the IATF is just a task force, an organization created (and necessitated by) the need for cooperation and coordination, for experience on the part of military people and others to work together. They will equally argue that SOCOM is the military and not the CIA, and that unlike the National Center (NCTC) – which is part of the DNI – the SOCOM it is a combatant command and not some Washington PowerPoint palace. So, on the one hand an explanation of the Task Force is that it doesn’t do anything – it’s just an interagency coordination group – and on the other hand the argument is that it is different than the intelligence organizations that don’t do anything. The warrior bureaucrats want it both ways.
The evidence indicates that SOCOM’s IATF does do something though, that it is much more than just an advisory element. But there is no denying that with its civilian director and its gaggle of contractor ex-military faux experts, it doesn’t command any forces or anything other than itself and its activities. What exactly it does do though, and how much of what it does it just redundant to other organizations, is virtually impossible to determine behind all of the ad-hoc-ery and euphemism and secrecy.
This is the general problem with the scourge of post-9/11 secret organizations: Enough money is available for multiple organizations – DNI, NCTC, SOCOM, CENTCOM, EUCOM, PACOM, SOUTHCOM, DIA, JIEDDO – to all develop task forces and special organizations that don’t actually fight, with ambiguous control over analyzing, targeting, and synchronizing. SOCOM as a combatant command is no exception, because on the one hand it has an actual three-star warfighting command – the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) – that actually goes out there and does the deed; and it had, until recently, a national Joint Task Force – the Center for Special Operations – that is supposed to do the staff coordinating of a global functional command. But on top of that, SOCOM, like so many other organizations, including the CIA, has merely grafted bloated ad-hoc and staff organizations on top of what already exists, organizations that in many cases have neither proven their usefulness or outlived their usefulness.
Still confused? That’s the way the bureaucracy stays in control and the money keeps flowing.
What ruins it for me in Bob Scales’ eloquent op-ed – “Too many wars, too few U.S. soldiers” — in The Washington Post about the Afghanistan shooting and the state of our Army (and armed forces) is that retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales also makes an unsatisfying argument on behalf of his institution and a military solution.
“A succession of national leaders,” Scales says, “fail to recognize that combat units, particularly infantry, just wear out.” Then it’s the media to blame for “trying to make some association between the terrible crime of this sergeant and the Army’s inability to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.”
Then, the conclusion: “the real institutional culprit is the decade-long exploitation and cynical overuse of one of our most precious and irreplaceable national assets: our close combat soldiers and Marines.”
I agree whole-heartedly with Scales, who I count as friend and colleague, that the young soldiers shoulder an “enormously disproportionate share of emotional stress.” And I believe something is very wrong.
Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Dunlap also has something to say about the Afghan shootings. I received this press release from Duke University, where the former deputy judge advocate general hangs his hat these days, offering up Dunlap for interviews:
The “news tip” extensively quotes Dunlap making an argument for a “major revamping of Afghan policy” and promoting his hobby-horse of what he calls the scourge of “lawfare.” Dunlap concludes:
“… given that it is virtually impossible to root out every potential rogue from the millions who serve in uniform, military planners may want to rethink the manpower-intensive strategies that have come to dominate American military policy, and especially counterinsurgency doctrine in which winning hearts and minds is said to be essential.”
I imagine that retired Air Force major general Dunlap, whom I always enjoy, isn’t suggesting a rethink in the same way Scales is. To the airmen, manpower-intensive means boots on the ground, in other words, an argument for more airpower.
So: More Army? More Air Force? A new, new counterinsurgency doctrine to fight forever wars? Those are our choices?
I come away hungry for a non-institutional, non-Washington oriented societal argument. Dunlap calls for “military planners” to rethink, which in the inferiority complex of the air force institution is code for the dominant ground service officers, the Army; Scales seems to only be able to name “national leaders” and “the media” for what he calls “exploitation and cynical overuse.”
One area where Dunlap is inadvertently wrong and Scales is right though is that there are not “millions who serve in uniform.” Well, not in the way Dunlap means that there are millions.
There are technically just over two million in the active duty and reserves; but the military is nowhere like it was during the draft days of Vietnam or the true mobilization of millions in World War II or the Korean War. And within that two million who serve are a far smaller number of deployable military personnel. And within that few hundred thousand who deploy into Afghanistan (or did into Iraq) are a far smaller number who leave the (relative) safety fortresses to fight. I know out there somewhere are some facts to back me up – that only a scandalously small percentage of all people in uniform have even ever deployed once to those actual countries; in other words, most do in fact shoulder the majority of the burden.
No one has cynically created this circumstance, but the military institution is well aware of this now ten-year old reality. Firepower has become so concentrated and networks have become so large and ubiquitous that only tiny numbers of soldiers are ‘needed’ on the front lines compared to Scales’ days. But as Scales and Dunlap both know, firepower isn’t what is going to win these wars, any more than a larger military or an air force/special operations dominated head-hunting campaign would.
We all share the blame for this ethical quagmire. We cede war-making to an increasingly isolated professional caste, we cede to them the design and makeup of the military, we facilitate and tolerate what Scales calls “exploitation” of a few as long as the dangers are kept away from us, and we don’t pay attention until our well-oiled and distant machine has a breakdown or an industrial accident. And once the breakdown occurs – the rogue soldier, the errant bomb, the Abu Ghraib – we expect the floor managers and professionals to fix the machine. To paraphrase someone: We are the machine.
The U.S. and Jordan will hold their largest military exercise ever in May, according to the state-run news agency Petra.
Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force and commander of the Marine component of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) is in Amman this week meeting with Jordanian military officials to prepare the 17 nation exercise. One of those participants will be Iraq, sending its military outside the country for the first time.
The theme of the exercise, officials say, is guerrilla warfare and “strategic threats.”
As one Arab commentator asks: “So who exactly will be this “Eager Lion” target?
“Strategic threats”? “Guerrilla warfare?”
The first Eager Lion exercise in this series – Eager Lion 11/Infinite Moonlight 11.2 – was held last year from June 11-30, and involved 14 other countries spread operating at six locations inside Jordan. This exercise also focused, according to CENTCOM, on “irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency.”
But behind the scenes, the Army’s 20th Support Command from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland participated. The official name of the 20th is Support Command (CBRNE) for chemical biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives. The unit was activated in 2004 to consolidate Army WMD response and search capabilities, and in Eager Lion last year, it held biological warfare identification exercises and radiological and nuclear response and civil defense training.
Military exercises happen all the time – check out my list of exercises – and some might just dismiss all of them and this one as well as routine, opportunities for militaries to get together, familiarize themselves with each other, practice basic skills. But every exercise of this size also includes so-called “strategic” purpose, a scenario that is generally made up to guide decision-making. Some country is made up – say Irandia, fighting with another made up country, say Israelandia – and they fight a nuclear war, or some external event in say a place like Syria spreads to Jordan.
Just because Iran, Israel, and Syria are in the news right now, and just because WMD are being bandied about doesn’t necessarily mean that this exercise is intended to mimic an actual real world scenario. After all, if the focus of this year’s exercise is also counter insurgency, one has got to mention the Palestinian population of Jordan or even the Jordanian people themselves, who might just spring into action someday. What “skills” do you think the U.S. is sharing?
The reality is that despite all of these questions, Eager Lion is also just an exercise, scheduled each year in the late spring/early summer, one that takes a year to prepare, to schedule the units to participate, to agree on all of the rules and complete all of the paperwork, etc., etc. In some way, however, it is also the making of foreign policies and the subtle steering of the future.
It once was the case, during the days of Saddam that these U.S.-Jordanian exercises were highly secret, proving cover for preparations for U.S. forces to deploy to Jordan in order to fight Iraq (which they did in 2003). Saddam is gone now, but the neighborhood is ever more complicated. I wonder what they are cover for now?
Virtually everything about the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, the Navy component of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the home of the famed SEAL Team 6, is secret. Other than the movie and the books that purport to tell the story of their killing of Osama bin Laden, the military is loath to officially even acknowledge the existence of the unacknowledged team or of so-called black special operations forces.
What makes them so special is the rigorous and meticulous training, and the resources devoted to their care and preparation. So a small government contract asking for 400 3-D shooting targets for DEVGRU, as it’s informally called, caught my eye. The targets – “vacuum formed hardened plastic … airbrushed and/or painted by hand” – are requested as:
Why so many RPGs? How white is the white skin tone?