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July 19 2014

July 21, 2014




U.S. Sees Risks in Assisting a Compromised Iraqi Force



WASHINGTON — A classified military assessment of Iraq’s security forces concludes that many units are so deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran that any Americans assigned to advise Baghdad’s forces could face risks to their safety, according to United States officials.

The report concludes that only about half of Iraq’s operational units are capable enough for American commandos to advise them if the White House decides to help roll back the advances made by Sunni militants in northern and western Iraq over the past month.

Adding to the administration’s dilemma is the assessment’s conclusion that Iraqi forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki are now heavily dependent on Shiite militias — many of which were trained in Iran — as well as on advisers from Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force.

Usama al-Nujaifi, the former speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, spoke on Sunday in Baghdad about the delay to name a new speaker.

Shiite militias fought American troops after the United States invaded Iraq and might again present a danger to American advisers. But without an American-led effort to rebuild Iraq’s security forces, there may be no hope of reducing the Iraqi government’s dependence on those Iranian-backed militias, officials caution.

The findings underscore the challenges ahead for the Obama administration as it seeks to confront militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has seized major cities in Iraq, all but erased the Syrian-Iraqi border and, on Sunday, staged a raid less than an hour’s drive from Baghdad.

At the center of the administration debate is whether to send more military advisers, weaponry and surveillance systems — and, if so, in what numbers, at what cost and at what levels of risk — to a country that American combat troops left in 2011, but that now teeters on the brink of collapse.

While sending American advisers to Iraq would expose them to risks and could embroil them again in conflict, waiting to act may also limit the administration’s ability to counter ISIS and encourage the formation of a more inclusive government in Baghdad.

“There’s risks to allowing things just to try to resolve themselves, particularly when there are interests that could affect our country,” Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week when asked why the Americans should not let the warring factions in Iraq fight one another.

The Pentagon’s decision this month to rush 200 troops, plus six Apache helicopter gunships and Shadow surveillance drones, to the Baghdad airport was prompted by a classified intelligence assessment that the sprawling complex, the main hub for sending and withdrawing American troops and diplomats, was vulnerable to attack by ISIS fighters, American officials have now disclosed.

“It’s a mess,” said one senior Obama administration official who has been briefed on the draft assessment and who, like two other American officials briefed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing review and the delicate nature of the assessment.

The draft of about 120 pages is now being reviewed by Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East. General Austin could make changes or request additional information from the assessment teams in Iraq, but a final version is expected to be sent to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top Pentagon officials this week, officials said.

Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, declined on Sunday to comment on the draft assessment, saying in a statement, “Though the initial work of the assessment teams is largely complete, senior leaders have yet to formally receive or review it.”

The assessment does not contain specific recommendations. Those will be developed separately by the Central Command and the military’s Joint Staff once the final report is forwarded to the Pentagon and shared with President Obama and his top national security aides.

As ISIS advanced across northern and western Iraq, six teams of American Special Operations forces were rushed in to assess an Iraqi Army that was trained and equipped by the United States at a cost of more than $25 billion, but which experienced a drop-off in training after the American withdrawal and has been greatly handicapped by Mr. Maliki’s push to appoint commanders based more on political loyalty than military skill.

The assessment, which took two weeks to prepare under the guidance of Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard of the Army, graded the strengths and weaknesses of units down to the brigade level, examining their equipment, ammunition, sectarian makeup, morale, leadership and other indicators. Each unit’s overall capability was rendered in a blunt color-coded chart: green if capable; red if not.

One of the assessment’s conclusions was that Iraqi forces had the ability to defend Baghdad, but not necessary hold all of it, especially against a major attack. Already, the capital has been targeted by ISIS car bombs.

Several retired Army generals who oversaw the effort to build the Iraqi Army before the United States withdrawal said American advisers still could make an important contribution.

“We must not only commit the right number of advisers, but they must go to the right places — in the field with Iraqi security forces,” said Michael D. Barbero, a retired lieutenant general who was in charge of training the Iraqi forces from 2009 to 2011.


In Baghdad, middle-class Sunnis say they prefer militants to Maliki

By Abigail Hauslohner July 12 


BAGHDAD — The Sunni worshipers who visit the main mosque in this relatively affluent neighborhood of west Baghdad are a far cry from Islamist extremists.

“We are intellectuals,” the mosque’s imam, Aday Moussa, said of a group that includes doctors, professors — and, especially, former members of Saddam Hussein’s army and security services.

The worshipers and other Sunnis interviewed in Baghdad said they have little affinity for the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State that routed Iraqi forces last month and declared a “caliphate” across a vast swath of the country.

But as the militants take aim at Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, these educated, professional Sunnis leave no doubt that their sympathies lie with the insurgents.

“It’s a revolution against oppression,” Moussa said. “We believe there will be a zero hour here in Baghdad soon. The Sunnis have nothing to lose.”

Iraqi Sunnis span a wide spectrum, including rural tribal sheiks, violent jihadists, urban intellectuals and whiskey-swilling adherents to the old ruling Baath party. They are deeply divided — a fact that Nouri al-Maliki and his fellow Shiite leaders hope to exploit at a moment of national crisis.

But the militants’ sweep to power in Sunni-dominated provinces has been fueled to a significant degree by support from these other Sunnis. It has been an unlikely alliance, born of a sense of disenchantment voiced in Baghdad by men such as Moussa and his neighbors — in terms that cast a long shadow over Iraq’s future.

In a divided capital where flags of the Shiite faith flutter above army checkpoints, members of both sects murmur about that zero hour — an imagined moment when Sunni militants from the north and west wreak havoc on Shiites and bring Baghdad under their control.

“We sympathize a lot with the revolutionaries,” said a 33-year-old government bureaucrat in the Sunni-majority neighborhood of Amiriyah in west Baghdad. “And at the same time, we’re afraid of the response by the government.”

The bureaucrat was among a dozen Sunni residents of Baghdad, including former military men, who spoke with surprising fervor in interviews over the past week about the fact that they prefer the Islamists to the Shiite-led government that has marginalized them.

Maliki and his allies are widely seen here as having systematically discriminated against Sunnis, targeting them for arrests, torture, recrimination and violence over the decade since a Shiite-led government rose to power after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The Iraqi bureaucrat gave only his nickname, Abu Maryam, which means “Father of Maryam,” because he fears arrest by the Shiite militias and Shiite-dominated security forces who, he and his wife said, prowl the neighborhood at night, snatching young men and searching homes for weapons.


How the Islamic State is carving out a new country

Bodies have begun to turn up daily in Baghdad’s streets, in scenes reminiscent of the sectarian killings that ravaged the country in 2006 and 2007. Recently, militiamen seized two young men from a nearby mosque shortly before dawn, Abu Maryam’s wife said. No one knows what happened to them.

In recent days, the victims have included a middle-aged man, shot in the head in the Shiite neighborhood of Shabab; a younger man, shot in the head in the Sunni neighborhood of Ghazaliyah; and a woman and her son, fatally shot in their home in the predominantly Shiite New Baghdad area.

Some Sunnis interviewed made clear that they despise the Islamic State militants but that their feelings about the group’s territorial gains are more complicated.

“They are not Muslims,” said a Sunni heart surgeon in Yarmouk who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said he feared reprisals. “Their solution — to cut and to kill people — that’s not Islam.”

But the surgeon said that he agrees with the militants that Maliki’s government should be defeated — although he said he would prefer that it be at the hands of the Sunni tribesmen fighting alongside the extremists.

Like other middle-class Sunnis and former military men interviewed, the surgeon said he has been underemployed and increasingly angry since U.S. forces invaded in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated regime.


Fighting the extremists

In its effort to placate growing anger on all sides, Iraq’s parliament is expected to convene Sunday. It is under pressure to form a new government, possibly led by someone other than Maliki, in the hope that political change could help turn back the militants’ advance.

Some signs of intra-Sunni friction have emerged in areas controlled by the Islamic State, including sporadic fighting between militants and the more-secular former Baathists in Salahuddin province in central Iraq.

The United Nations has said that 13 Sunni clerics were executed last month in the northern city of Mosul for refusing to pledge allegiance to the militants. Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni who until recently was speaker of parliament, said further splits in Mosul have been ignited by the militants’ kidnapping of some former Iraqi military commanders in Mosul.

But Nujaifi and others say Iraq’s sectarian divisions run so deeply that it will take more than a new government to turn the tide.

Nabeal Younis, a political science professor at Baghdad University, said the Shiite-dominated government and its security forces must be restructured to allow more Sunnis — even those disillusioned with Maliki — to join Baghdad and fight the insurgents.

“When the people feel that the government is a national, patriotic one, working for all Iraqis rather than a few people, they’ll fight,” he said.

Seven years ago, U.S. forces in Iraq backed what was known as the Awakening movement by working with Sunni tribal leaders to fight the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to the Islamic State. After the U.S. military handed over administration of the program to the Iraqi government, the Awakening fell into disarray, a collapse that critics blame on Maliki’s government.

“They didn’t pay their salaries or arm them. On the contrary, they were arresting them, and charged them with being terrorists,” Nujaifi said. He and other Sunnis suggested that Iraq might have averted the current crisis if Maliki had chosen a different course.

Meanwhile, Baghdad is bracing for more bloodshed.

“If the different parties don’t work together as soon as possible, I think it’s going to be very dangerous,” Younis said. He likened the capital to a dormant volcano. “If there is an explosion, it will be hard to stop.”



Pentagon Delays Navy’s Carrier Drone Program

By Kris Osborn Friday, July 11th, 2014 3:45 pm


The Pentagon has delayed the carrier-launched drone program amid ongoing reviews of the program’s requirements and has considered drafting a new, joint capabilities document for the Navy aircraft, defense officials told Military​.com.

A planned competition among defense companies has been put on hold as the Pentagon examines plans for the drone and responds to criticism from lawmakers that the initial requirements have been too narrowly configured.

A formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, which had been planned for release by the Navy later this month, has been suspended due to concerns that the requirements do not fully allow for the development of stealth characteristics and other key attributes such as weaponry and payload.

“It appears that the release of the RFP will again be put on hold,” a high-level defense official said.

The Navy plans to deliver a carrier-based drone by 2020, called the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, system.

The decision emerged as the result of a preliminary Defense Acquisition Board, or DAB, which criticized the existing requirements for disproportionately favoring long-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over stealth technologies and strike.

Criticism of the requirements has come, in large measure, from analysts, defense officials and lawmakers such as Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the House’s Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee.

Discussion at the DAB centered on the need to create a new, joint Capabilities Development Document, or CDD, for the UCLASS program designed to ensure that the RFP addresses more expansive requirements including stealth, weaponry and electronic attack.

A new, joint CDD would likely include substantial input from other services, such as the Air Force, the defense source said.

Through the engineering of stealth platforms such as the B-2 bomber, the Air Force has extensive experience designing low-observable or stealth aircraft.

Analysts have questioned whether the platform can adapt over time or whether features like stealth and electronic attack need to be engineered into the original design at from the start.

In particular, low-observable or stealth specifications are needed to help the UCLASS evade increasingly sophisticated enemy air defenses and a broadly scoped payload or weapons delivery capability is needed to maximize its effectiveness for future engagements, lawmakers and Pentagon officials have said.

Furthermore, the UCLASS drone will need to overcome what the Pentagon refers to as anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD threats, meaning adversaries with increasingly sophisticated long-range missiles and air defenses, among other things.

One source explained if the UCLASS is configured to carry the extra fuel needed for longer-endurance missions, then it will need to be built with a larger vertical signature and therefore have a less-stealthy design. For this reason, advocates for more expansive requirements have favored planning for more aerial refueling of the drone in order to ensure that it is engineered with a stealthy, low-observable design.

While not willing to comment publically on plans for stealth or low-observability for UCLASS, Navy program officials have maintained that the program’s requirements do call for a weaponized strike platform as well as an ISR vehicle. However, the weapons capability is something that is described as incremental, meaning it will be engineered into the platform over time, Navy officials explained.

Critics however, have questioned whether this is possible and favored building an original design at the beginning of the program with stealth and weaponry factored into the construction and engineering.

Last summer, the Navy awarded four contracts valued at $15 million for preliminary design review for the UCLASS to Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.


What Happened to America’s Most Important Arctic Ships?

The nation’s fleet of ice-cutting ships is getting older, and congressional action to modernize it isn’t moving at breakneck speed.

By Marina Koren

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July 11, 2014


The service’s fleet of icebreakers, ships designed to navigate and cut through ice-covered waters in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, is getting older. The vessels themselves are slowly deteriorating, and by 2020, naval experts say the country’s icebreaking capabilities will run out.

The powerful ships, which can break through ice up to 6 feet thick, monitor sea traffic, conduct scientific research, and carry out search-and-rescue missions for other nation’s ships at both ends of the world. Their presence alone allows the U.S. defend its national security, economic, and environmental interests in the Arctic region, whose vast natural resources have several countries vying for more control.

The Coast Guard currently has four polar icebreakers. The Polar Star, commissioned in 1976, was reactivated in late 2012, after spending eight years getting repairs for worn-out motors. The Polar Sea, commissioned in 1977, has been docked in Seattle since 2011, inoperative because of engine problems.

A third icebreaker, the 14-year-old Healy, has less ice-cutting capability; it mostly supports research. The nation’s fourth and final icebreaker is the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a small research vessel built for the National Science Foundation in 1992.

Because of their speed and strength, the polars Star and Sea are the most crucial vessels of the U.S. presence in the polar regions. But both are several years beyond their intended life service of 30 years, and Coast Guard officials are unsure how much life the Polar Star has left. A Coast Guard study in 2011 found that the military service needs at least three active, heavy-duty icebreakers to properly carry out its North Pole duties. For the next few years, if nothing changes, it will have only one.

The timeline for getting a brand new icebreaker appears to be less certain than ever. In its budget submission for fiscal 2013, the Homeland Security Department said it planned to award a construction contract for the ship within the next five years. In its submission for fiscal 2015, there’s no mention of a construction contract at all.

A January 2011 report from the DHS inspector general found that the Coast Guard “does not have the necessary budgetary control” over its polar icebreakers, “nor does it have a sufficient number of icebreakers to accomplish its missions in the polar regions.”

The budgetary control lies with Congress, which must determine how to modernize the Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet: repair the ships, or build new ones? But the push to address the aging fleet isn’t exactly moving at breakneck speed. A House reauthorization bill for Coast Guard spending for the next two years passed in April. A Senate version, which includes funding for reactivating the Polar Sea, remains in committee. Late last month, Reps. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., and John Garamendi, D-Calif., wrote a letter to the Coast Guard, asking the service to reactivate the Polar Sea so the U.S. doesn’t fall behind in the Arctic.

Repairing and reactivating the Polar Sea for another seven to 10 years of service would take three years and cost about $100 million. A new icebreaker designed to last 30 years would cost $852 million. In its latest budget proposal, the Coast Guard requested $6 million for a preliminary plan to acquire a new icebreaker. Last year, it was granted just $2 million for the project.

In March, Adm. Robert Papp, then the commandant of the Coast Guard, told Congress, “It’s going to be tough to fit a billion-dollar icebreaker in our five-year plan without displacing other things.”

No country has yet laid full claim to the Arctic region, which is home to 15 percent of the world’s oil and a third of its undiscovered natural gas. But the U.S. is about to gain a lot more responsibility there, thanks to its turn as the chair of the Arctic Council, a forum of polar nations, next year. A young and capable fleet of icebreakers would certainly come in handy then.


By Sandra I. Erwin

The export of China’s armed drones illustrates how a country can succeed in the international arms market even when its technology is not the world’s best.
China’s drone exports are an example of availability trumping technology, says a new industry survey. Foreign nations’ ability to rush products to market and lax export controls are giving the U.S. defense industry a run for its money, according to a recent survey of 350 aerospace and defense executives conducted by Avascent and FleishmanHillard.
China’s unmanned aviation exports are a cautionary tale. The country has developed three armed drones, and their export is unhindered by treaties, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime, analysts Jon Barney and Matthew Breen write in a white paper.

China’s Yilong unmanned aircraft made by Aviation Industry Corp., not coincidentally, resembles a U.S. Air Force Predator. “Deploying what has been a signature U.S. battlefield advantage may be too much to resist,” the white paper says.
Saudi Arabia, a reliable buyer of U.S. weaponry, is reportedly interested in armed Chinese drones, which could displace or augment costlier systems such as attack helicopters. Barney and Breen estimate that from 2014 to 2017, spending on unmanned aircraft outside of the United States will grow by 16 percent per year, and procurement of combat drones will increase from $359 million in 2014 to $1.18 billion by 2019. Although the drone market is a small slice of the military aviation pie, analysts see it as a vivid example of what is happening in the defense market and of the “daunting long-term challenge” coming from China.
Sweden’s recent success with the Saab Gripen fighter also should be a warning sign for U.S. firms, the paper says. Saab updated its Gripen fighter with advanced electronically scanned radar and electronic warfare systems that are typically found on bigger, more expensive jets, and is offering it at bargain prices — including leasing arrangements — that put U.S. fighters at a competitive disadvantage, contends Barney. “The company’s double-barreled approach on price and capability gives it a disruptive presence as its deal with Brazil showed.” Brazil picked the Gripen over the Boeing F/A-18 and the Dassault Rafale last year after a lengthy marketing campaign.

With a military budget of $618 billion in 2013, the United States accounted for 37 percent of global military expenditures. But U.S. defense budgets are flattening out while spending in the rest of the world is expected to top $500 billion in 2016, up from just over $300 billion in 2008, says Barney. “The rising tide in global defense spending is creating a much more competitive market than is currently appreciated. Industry leaders forecasting easy wins are setting themselves, and investors, up to be disappointed.”

In the survey, 80 percent of executives said they believe they will face a tough competitive environment overseas, but only 6 percent of them are confident that their companies are well prepared to play in this field. Russia is a perennial rival, but other “aggressive new competitors have arrived, with China cited as the top challenger,” he says. Surveyed executives also cited Israel, India, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates as emerging rivals.

American firms also appear vulnerable in markets where the U.S. has long held leadership positions, the survey says, such as unmanned aerial platforms, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, missiles, and satellites. According to one executive, the competition for international defense deals  is “heating up to fever pitch due in part to lagging U.S. sales but also due to ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] throttling the market to such a narrow family of products, and fewer companies able to effectively navigate the international business culture.”



Air Force’s James aimed ‘deep’ at nuke corps ills


— Jul. 14, 2014 2:36 PM EDT


WASHINGTON (AP) — When Deborah Lee James became top boss of the Air Force seven months ago she had no inkling a nuclear crisis was brewing. But once it erupted in the form of exam-cheating by dozens of missile launch officers, she quickly announced conclusions that no Air Force leader before her had dared state publicly.

The nuclear missile corps’ problems run deep, she said, morale is “spotty” and forceful fixes are needed.

James reached those conclusions in January after a short visit to the three Air Force bases that operate intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. She met not only with commanders but with the rank-and-file, including enlisted airmen who keep the missiles running properly and junior officers trained to launch them.

“I walked away believing there was something systemic, cultural if you will, that went beyond cheating and (that’s) why I felt like we needed to not just address cheating — yes, we have to fix that — but we need to go farther than that,” she said in an Associated Press interview in her Pentagon office overlooking the Potomac River.

To her it seemed natural to acknowledge this publicly, although others in the Air Force had chosen not to.

“I hope and believe I am a straight talker,” she said. “I think it’s better to just say it. Don’t mince words. And so I thought it was important to just stand up publicly and say what seemed to be obvious to me.”

Her candor and crisis management have won praise from Republicans and Democrats alike.

“She has forged relationships with troops and listened to their inputs,” said Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “She has identified shortfalls in ICBM leadership and made corrections. That is a sharp difference from the way Air Force leadership has handled these issues in the past.”

James, 55, is only the second woman to serve as Air Force secretary, the service’s top civilian official. She took office in December 2013 following months of Associated Press reports documenting problems inside the nuclear missile corps, starting with the sidelining in April 2013 of 19 launch officers at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota for what commanders called attitude and performance flaws. It was an unprecedented action and coincided with the AP’s publication of an internal email from an officer at Minot complaining of “rot” inside the ICBM force.

Senior Air Force officers at the time generally dismissed the reports, saying any problems were localized and limited.

“I don’t particularly agree that we have any compelling problems” in the ICBM force, Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the top nuclear weapons staff officer at Air Force headquarters, said in June 2013. “The morale of our crews out there — I’ve been out there — is exceedingly, exceedingly, good.”

James took a look for herself in January 2014 and saw something different, worse than she had imagined. She traveled to each of the three ICBM bases after disclosing at a Pentagon news conference that 34 launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana had been implicated in a cheating scandal and a small number of those were also suspects in an illegal drug use investigation. (The number implicated in the cheating later rose to nearly 100.)

Before James hit the road she quickly gathered enough information about the dimensions of the cheating to satisfy herself that it did not amount to “a major problem that could be of catastrophic consequences.”

“But still, why did this happen and what is going on?” she asked herself.

What she found was a set of interconnected problems that went deeper than the cheating. She spotted morale issues, with airmen asking, in essence, why is it that the Air Force claims the nuclear mission is its No. 1 priority and yet missile facilities are in poor shape and spare parts are in short supply?

“Some of the things I saw had been of a longstanding nature,” she said. “So why had these things not gotten fixed before? It’s a good question, and I can’t really answer that.”

James, a native of Rumson, New Jersey, never served in the military but spent a decade — from 1983 to 1993 — as a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, which has oversight responsibility for the Defense Department. From 2002-13 she was a senior executive at Science Applications International Corp. in McLean, Virginia.

John Hamre, who was on the professional staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee while she was a counterpart on the House side, said he was not surprised that she quickly sized up the nuclear problem and attacked it head on.

“She is wise enough to know that you cannot fudge your way through a political problem if you don’t solve it. It keeps coming back. The way she handled the ICBM problem was typical Debbie James,” said Hamre, who also worked closely with James from 1993-97 when he was the Pentagon’s budget chief and she was assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. Hamre, who later was deputy defense secretary, is now president and chief executive officer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

James said she was surprised by the ICBM crisis, but not unprepared.

“Life comes at you fast and furious sometimes,” she said with a grin




‘Six Californias’ plan may make 2016 ballot

Laura Mandaro, USAToday 9:43 a.m. EDT July 15, 2014


SAN FRANCISCO — A plan backed by venture capitalist Tim Draper to split California into six states has gained enough signatures to make the November 2016 ballot, the plan’s backers say.

A Twitter account belonging to the nonprofit Six Californias tweeted on Monday that “#SixCalifornias will be submitting signatures in Sacramento tomorrow for placement on the November 2016 ballot. Stay tuned for coverage!”

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the campaign, said it’s gathered more than the approximately 808,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot, Reuters reported.

Draper is a founding member of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetsen, known for its investments in successful growth ventures such as Hotmail, Baidu, Tesla Motors and Skype. Recently, Draper won the federal government’s auction of bitcoins once owned by online drugs portal Silk Road. He’s championed the political break-up of the state for over a year, but it’s taken until recently for the plan to gain some momentum.

Draper and other supporters of the break-up argue that the state’s 38 million people would be better served by smaller governments and elected officials who would be able to work more closely with their constituents.

“If we have six Californias and we in effect dissolve the one we’ve got, those six allow us a new start,” Draper says in a video posted on the Six Californias website. Each state, which would have its own capital and legislature, would be able to write its own constitution.

The six carved out states would look like this:


•Jefferson: The northern part of the state, including Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

•North California: The wine country counties of Sonoma and Napa, as well as the Sierra Nevada region.

•Silicon Valley: Including San Francisco, San Jose and most of what’s considered the San Francisco Bay Area.

•Central California: The vast central valley farm region, including Tulare and Fresno counties.

•West California: Including Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

•South California: Including what’s called the Inland Empire of San Bernadino and Riverside, plus San Diego.


The plan has met with resistance from California’s Democratic majority, and a Field Poll found 59% of Californians surveyed were against the plan, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio didn’t mince words criticizing the plan. He tweeted Monday:

But interest in the plan has been strong enough to send Draper and his campaigners to Sacramento — for now, the one and only capital of California. They’ll reveal the exact number of signatures they received on Tuesday in a news conference, according to the Chronicle.


Australia:- Inquiry into unmanned aircraft calls for new laws

by Press • 15 July 2014


An extensive inquiry into the into the operation and risks associated with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has catalogued a raft of serious safety concerns, cautioning that new privacy laws could be needed to control intrusive surveillance enabled by airborne cameras.

A report issued on Monday into the use of so-called ‘drones’ by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs says that although the remotely-controlled devices are set to revolutionise farming, mining, policing, science and other industries, safety has now “become a prominent concern, with numerous injuries and near-misses reported across Australia.”

The House of Reps report comes as law enforcement and emergency agencies, commercial operators and hobbyists continue to buy what are officially termed ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft’ (RPAS) in ever increasing numbers.


Now the trend is now forcing policy makers to weigh-up the risks and rewards of the technology.

Canberra’s ‘drone committee’ is now pushing the Abbott government to consider “legislating for a tort of privacy, as proposed in the discussion paper of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Inquiry into Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era” because of the potential for intrusive abuse of the machines.

Part of the worry is that increasingly cheap flying machines coupled with ever more powerful cameras could create an airborne paparazzi surveillance state that would be nearly impossible to evade as they fly up and peer into bedroom windows.

However emergency services, transport operators and aviation regulators are just as concerned that the proliferation of RPAs in the hands of overenthusiastic amateurs could cost lives in the event of collisions or equipment failures.

In particular, the report cites evidence from aviation authorities who argue that while commercial and private aircraft are built, tested and certified to high levels of reliability based on globally recognised standards, cheap hobbyist devices are not built to anywhere near the same quality.

Regulators, like the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) are not holding back in terms of expressing their concerns.

“The difficulty with the proliferation of these [unmanned aerial systems] … is that they are not built to any standard,” CASA’s Director of Aviation Safety, John McCormick, is quoted in the report as telling the inquiry.

“There is no international standard at this stage. So their ability to maintain altitude, their ability to maintain heading, their ability to suffer equipment failure and then not crash, have not been established.”

Adding weight to those concerns is what now appears to be an inevitable increase in drone-related safety incidents both on the ground and in the air.

One now well-publicised incident involved a drone crashing into a pylon of Sydney Harbour Bridge and landing on the train line below. The report says that the operator of the drone had said that he had assumed the device had landed in the water, however footage posted to the internet from the device’s camera showed “Sydney transport workers retrieving the RPA.”

Another RPA incident involved a night time near miss for a rescue helicopter in Newcastle that was forced to take evasive action after the chopper crew realized airborne lights they had spotted at 1000 feet were not a larger aircraft at some distance away but a smaller object that was much closer.

“CASA regulations forbid recreational RPA users from sending their craft higher than 400 feet or from flying RPAs over populous areas. They also forbid RPA operators from flying them within five kilometres of an aerodrome,” the report said.

Despite the increase in safety and privacy problems, many organisations are urging caution that more stringent regulation of RPA’s should not ground a developing legitimate industry that offers governments and private clients substantial benefits that ranges from spotting bushfires to managing mining stockpiles or weeds.

The Australian Federal Police told the inquiry that it was using RPAs in situations that would ordinarily use a cherry picker to get a view. The unmanned aircraft were advantageous because they were ultimately more transportable.

Lindsay Pears from the Queensland Department of State Development, Industry and Planning told the Committee that there were concerns that recreational and uncertified commercial users could harm a fledgling industry.


“A lot of the professional operators in the industry are really concerned about that… it could totally disrupt the market at an embryonic stage of growth,” Mr Pears is cited as telling the inquiry.

The committee heard that professional RPA operators were keen to access and comply with regulations as they emerged.



USAF Secretary: New Groups Will Focus on Industry Cooperation

Jul. 15, 2014 – 11:07AM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND — The US Air Force is in the process of standing up two study groups to understand how to streamline the acquisition process, according to the service’s secretary.

Deborah Lee James told reporters at the Farnborough International Airshow here that she is seeking better relations with industry to understand how the service can become more nimble in its interactions with business.

“I also care about an industrial base and I’ve been trying to bring the message with me that we collectively are working to streamline processes and procedures,” James said. “Get away from as much rigidity as we’ve had in the past, think about doing our requirements a little differently and having a more open dialogue with industry to try and jointly work those problems.

“Exportability of our US products is important.”

Earlier, James addressed a crowd at the US international pavilion and discussed her plan for improving communications with industry.

“We’re still too rigid in our processes and procedures,” James told the crowd. “We still take too long too frequently to get things done.

“We have got to learn to talk to each other freely,” she added.

To make that happen, James said she has established two groups. The first is comprised of senior leaders from the Air Force and industry with the goal of figuring out what are the major roadblocks to speeding up business. Some good suggestions, such as improved communication about industry days, have already been floated, James said.

The second group is focused on IT and business systems, and is still being assembled.

“Many of you know we have had some programs that we’re not very proud of in the Department of Defense, IT types of systems that haven’t delivered,” she said. “We don’t want any repeats of that.”

James said the service will unveil a blueprint for the future of the Air Force in the next few weeks, one based around reviews of what the Air Force will look like in 10, 20 and 30 years, ordered by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.


Europe In Focus

James also took note of how important Europe is, as both a strategic and industrial partner.

“Obviously, Europe is hugely important to us,” she said. “Everybody talks about the rebalancing to the Pacific, that’s important too, but never ever losing sight of the importance of Europe and NATO.”

But that importance had been obscured in recent years, with the service part of the very public “rebalance” toward the Pacific. And previously, the focus had been on Afghanistan and Iraq. Europe seemed to be a relatively stable and peaceful region, but that changed when Russia invaded Ukraine and the US rotated force structure to Europe in a clear show of force.

“Yes, by necessity,” Gen. Frank Gorenc, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, said when asked if the Ukraine situation had changed the US posture toward Europe.

When Gorenc talked with Defense News in February, he defended the Air Force’s role in Europe despite a public perception that the Middle East and Pacific dominate the service’s focus. The need for US forces in the region no longer seems to be in doubt, but questions about what happens next remain.

While noting that he was “satisfied” with the US response to the Ukraine crisis, Gorenc did note the situation gave an “impetus for creating discussion” around the current relationship of American and European forces.


Predator XP makes first flight

Jul. 15, 2014 |



The Predator XP, an updated version of the ubiquitous Predator UAV, has made its first flight.

The flight occurred June 27 at Castle Dome Airfield, U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground Range Complex in Arizona, according to a General Atomics news release. “During the company-funded 35-minute flight, Predator XP demonstrated its ability to launch, climb to operational altitude, complete basic airworthiness maneuvers, and land without any discrepancies,” General Atomics said.

Upgrades to the XP include triple-redundant avionics, an Automatic Takeoff and Landing System (ATLS), a Lynx multi-mode radar with Maritime Wide Area Surveillance (MWAS), high-definition electro-optical video, an improved Claw sensor control and image analysis software system, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for maritime vessel monitoring and tracking, and a more efficient propulsion system.

The next tests will verify the UAV’s design, including flight safety, automatic takeoff and landing, payload and communications testing, as well as beyond line-of-sight satellite communications control. Otherwise, the UAV’s specifications are similar to the original Predator. The General Atomics Web site lists the XP as having a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet and an endurance of 35 hours.

“This first flight represents a major milestone for GA-ASI’s newest product line designed and developed for our international allies worldwide,” said General Atomics president Frank Pace. “We are now positioned to restart the Predator production line and proceed directly to full production in anticipation of new customer orders.”



The Future of Warfare: Small, Many, Smart vs. Few & Exquisite?

T.X. Hammes    

July 16, 2014


In the 1970s, faced with the USSR’s overwhelming superiority in numbers, the Department of Defense decided to compensate by focusing on high technology platforms. This led to the highly successful F-15, F-16, F-18, Abrams tanks, and Bradley fighting vehicles. Since then, the United States has continued to pursue cutting edge technology that has resulted in the highly capable F-22 and, when the testing and software development is complete, perhaps a highly capable F-35. Unfortunately, cost has accelerated faster than capabilities. And thus numbers have declined precipitously. The U.S. Air Force initially planned to buy 750 F-22s, but the high cost led Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to cap the program at 187. Nor has the Air Force been alone in pursuing top end systems. The Navy attempted an entirely new concept with “Streetfighter.” Meant to be a low-cost, highly capable ship to replace the Navy’s frigates and minesweepers for operations in brown water, it evolved into the Littoral Combat Ship. High cost and poor performance led the Navy to cut their planned purchase from 55 to 32 with potentially more cuts in the future. Similarly, the Zumwalt class destroyer program was initially planned for 32 ships, but rising costs mean only three will be built. The result has been a pattern of fielding exquisite platforms in diminishing numbers at great cost.


While it was the right decision to pursue high end systems in the 1970s, dramatic improvements in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, biology, and nano-materials are changing the cost/effectiveness calculation in favor of the “many and simple” against the “few and complex.” The convergence of these technologies and the steady decrease in costs even as capabilities increase is rapidly expanding the destructive power, range, and precision of weapons that soon will be both widely available and relatively cheap. As Frank Hoffman has noted, we are putting ourselves on the wrong side of a self-imposed cost curve.

To illustrate how small, many, and smart are emerging as major shifts in warfare, this article will start by examining why it is now possible to create small, smart, and cheap platforms that have sufficient range and combat capability to fulfill the very challenging role of power projection. It will then examine the implications for U.S. defense.



The last decade has made the global public familiar with expensive high end drones. Yet, perhaps the most interesting developments have taken place at the low cost end of the spectrum. In 1998, an industry/university consortium flew a composite drone from Newfoundland to Scotland on two gallons of fuel.By 2003, a hobbyist launched a GPS-guided model airplane/drone that flew autonomously from Newfoundland to precisely the right landing point in Ireland. Built of balsa and plywood with a tiny gasoline engine that burned less than one gallon of fuel in the 26 hour flight, it was cheap enough that the hobbyist built 23 to ensure he could be the first hobbyist to fly across the Atlantic. He made it with the third launch. In the intervening 12 years, governments, hobbyists, and businesses have steadily increased the range and capability of these platforms. Hobbyists and businesses have made use of the rapid technological convergence to decrease the cost of long-range, autonomous systems at least an order of magnitude. Today they are routinely flying smart systems with intercontinental range — they lack only a payload to be a precision weapons system. Their composite construction and very low energy usage mean they will be very difficult to detect.

Of even greater concern, these small, inexpensive drones are designed specifically to be used by people with no particular skills and no in-house maintenance system. Most still require a remote human operator. But flying them has become so easy that realtors and wedding photographers are using quad-copters with stabilized camera mounts to film properties and events. Industry has already taken the next step and provided farmers with inexpensive autonomous drones to monitor their crops. As one article explained:

What “drones” means to Kunde and the growing number of farmers like him is simply a low-cost aerial camera platform: either miniature fixed-wing airplanes or, more commonly, quadcopters and other multibladed small helicopters. These aircraft are equipped with an autopilot using GPS and a standard point-and-shoot camera controlled by the autopilot; … Whereas a traditional radio-­controlled aircraft needs to be flown by a pilot on the ground, in Kunde’s drone the autopilot (made by my company, 3D Robotics) does all the flying, from auto takeoff to landing. Its software plans the flight path, aiming for maximum coverage of the vineyards, and controls the camera to optimize the images for later analysis. … At the heart of a drone, the autopilot runs specialized software—often open-source programs created by communities such as DIY Drones, which I founded, rather than costly code from the aerospace industry.

Since air is the simplest environment, it is not surprising that fully autonomous, cheap, and long-range drones emerged there first. They will be followed quickly by maritime and ground systems. In 2010, Rutgers University launched an underwater “glider” drone that crossed the Atlantic Ocean unrefueled. This year, the U.S. Navy has launched an underwater glider that harvests energy from the ocean thermocline and plans for it to operate for five years without refueling.

In short, small air and sea platforms have demonstrated the capability of achieving intercontinental range while producing very little in the way of radar or heat signatures.



While most of the public focus has been on high-end drones conducting anti-terror strikes, the Chinese have fielded the Harpy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV). Initially developed in the 1990s by Israel as an anti-radar system, the Chinese version has a range of 500 km and a 32kg warhead with multiple types of seeker heads. One Chinese configuration has 18 Harpies in box launchers mounted on a single truck bed (other configurations use 6 launchers per truck). Essentially, these are expendable drones capable of saturating defensive systems. Both China and Israel have displayed these weapons at trade shows in an effort to sell them to other nations. The system is currently operational with the Turkish, Korean, Chinese, and Indian Armies. Today, the Israeli version has an electro-optical sensor to attack non-emitting targets and an extended range of 1000 km. One can assume China has made similar improvements to its systems. This system represents a first step toward inexpensive swarms. Yet Harpy class UAVs, while expendable, are still relatively expensive and thus major deployments of weapons of this class require a well-funded state military.

The primary driver of how many systems are purchased is cost. But additive manufacturing is driving down the cost of many manufactured products. Today researchers in England have prototyped a printed drone that will cost roughly $9 a copy. And additive manufacturing is not only low end products.

Mark Valerio, vice president and general manager of military space for Lockheed, told Reuters, “In the next decade, we will completely change the way a satellite is designed and built. We will print a satellite,”

Valerio suggests such a satellite will cost 40% less than current models. These trends indicate that dramatic cost decreases will be the norm for these widely used and increasingly capable commercial drones.

We don’t have to wait for additive manufacturing, either. The U.S. Navy has announced it will repurpose the commercially produced Slocum Glider – a five foot long, autonomous underwater research vehicle. The glider can patrol for weeks following initial instructions, surfacing periodically to report and receive new instructions. Such drones are being used globally and cost about $100,000. Clearly such drones can be modified into long-range autonomous torpedoes or mine delivery vehicles. For the cost of one Virginia class submarine, a nation could purchase 17,500 such drones. Additive manufacturing can and likely will reduce the cost of these systems even more. And the skills needed to build and employ a glider are orders of magnitude less than those needed for a nuclear sub.

“Smart” sea mines should be a particular concern for the United States. Simple contact and influence mines have the distinction of being the only weapon that has defeated a U.S. amphibious assault – the landing at Wonson, Korea in 1950. While lanes were eventually cleared through the primitive minefields, forces attacking up the west coast of Korea had already seized the amphibious objectives before the first amphibious forces got ashore. Frustrated at cruising up and down the coast as the Navy tried to clear the mines, the Marines nicknamed the landing “Operation Yo-Yo.” Not much has changed. In February 1991, the U.S. Navy lost command of the northern Arabian Gulf to more than 1,300 mines that had been sown by Iraqi forces …” These were simple moored sea mines.

Since 1950, mines have become progressively smarter, more discriminating, and more difficult to find. They have sensors which can use acoustic, magnetic, and other signals to identify and attack a specific kind of ship, allowing – for example – commercial vehicles to pass unmolested. As early as 1979, the United States fielded CAPTOR mines. These are encapsulated torpedoes that are anchored to the ocean floor. When they detect the designated target, they launch the captured torpedo to destroy it out to a range of 8 KM. Today China possesses “self-navigating mines” and even rocket propelled mines. We are seeing early efforts to use unmanned underwater vehicles to deliver mines. Since commercially available drones are already crossing the ocean autonomously, pairing drones with mines will almost certainly make it possible to mine sea ports of debarkation and perhaps even sea ports of embarkation.

Ashore, mobile land mines/autonomous anti-vehicle weapons are also under development. The natural marriage of IEDs to inexpensive, autonomous drones is virtually inevitable. The obvious targets are parked aircraft, fuel dumps, ammo dumps, communication sites, and command centers. Non-state and state actors alike will rapidly transition to drones that can hunt even mobile targets.

Today’s inexpensive drone systems mean states and even non-state actors can afford large numbers of lethal air, sea, and ground drones. Within the decade, U.S. forces should expect to be attacked by these weapons on every combat deployment.



We can also expect the inexpensive autonomy seen in today’s agricultural drones. The autonomy has been made possible by impressive technological advances combining tiny sensors, GPS modules, microprocessors, and digital radios, all of which are dropping in price and are commercially available.

These same technologies can be applied cheaply to military systems. While the Pentagon faces the “Innovator’s Dilemma” and will be severely challenged to keep costs low, other nations, start-up companies, and non-state actors will not face the same bureaucratic hurdles and thus are likely to produce cheap, smart, and deadly drones using commercially available parts. They won’t be highly reliable or reusable. They won’t need to be. If only half of a swarm works correctly, it may be more than sufficient to overwhelm advanced defenses. John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt’s concept of swarming drones is on the verge of realization.


Don’t Look Back, They Are Not Behind Us

Unfortunately for the West, autonomous drones will initially favor the less technologically advanced actor because their targeting problem is simpler. For instance, a non-state actor may not own armored vehicles or aircraft, so its autonomous drones only have to find and attack any armored vehicle or parked aircraft. They do not have to discriminate but simply fly a pre-programmed route to a suspected target area and identify the target. Target areas for many locations in the world–to include most airfield flight lines–can be determined using Google Maps. Cheap optical recognition hardware and software that provides rough target discrimination is also becoming widely available. If the software of a farmer’s autonomous drone can point and shoot a camera, it can point and shoot an explosive device.

Clearly, these commercial products have demonstrated the ability of autonomous drones to reach a target area, but what weapon could it use? Commercially available quadcopters carry the 3 ounce GoPro camera and are achieving flight times of over 30 minutes. Against the thin skin of an aircraft, a simple point detonating 3 ounce warhead is sufficient. Against armor, the drone designer may choose the heavier and more complex explosively formed penetrator. This will obviously require larger drones but will also provide standoff distance. In 2009, the U.S. Army told CNN that such weapons can penetrate armor from 100 meters. This potential marriage of proven, cheap technology represents a direct threat to a wide range of potential targets.

The addition of cheap, persistent air and space based surveillance will provide the information necessary to use these cheap drones. Sky Box Imaging, which was recently purchased by Google, is deploying CubeSats. Their goal is to sell half-meter resolution imagery with a revisit rate of several times a day – to include interpretation of what the buyer is seeing. A buyer could track port, airfield, road, and rail system activity in near real time.


While the cheapest of these systems can carry only small payloads, the rapidly developing field of nano-energetics or nano-explosives will dramatically increase their destructive power. As early as 2002, nano-explosives demonstrated an explosive power twice that of conventional explosives. Since research in this field is classified, proprietary, or both, it is difficult to say what, if any progress has been made since that point. But even if double the power is as good as it gets, a 100% increase in destructive power for the same size weapon is a massive increase.

Western forces should not assume they will have the technological edge when deploying to a conflict zone. The higher standards for target discrimination will inhibit their fielding of autonomous lethal but cheap drones. In this field, they should expect to the non-state or less ethical state to be the first to field such systems. Implications

The convergence of technologies and techniques is already producing small, smart, cheap, and long-range drones capable of carrying significant payloads. Fuel gels and nano-explosives will increase the range and lethality of these commercially available systems. Additive manufacturing will dramatically reduce the costs. The Pentagon needs to rethink the exquisitely capable but extremely expensive weapons procurement programs it is pursuing. While these systems were a major factor in the tactical successes of the last 24 years, the United States needs to think hard about the shift from exquisite and very few to cheap and very many.

For instance, rather than insisting on building the next generation bomber, we need to examine how best to execute the mission of effective long range strike. Even if one accepts the mantra that “we must be able to hold at risk what they value,” this does not mean the United States needs a new bomber. We need to consider other approaches. For instance, what other strike platforms could we purchase for the same investment as the proposed Long Range Strike Bomber?

In 2012, Air Force Chief of Staff General Norman Schwartz projected a cost of $550 million per Long Range Strike Bomber. Tom Christie, the Pentagon’s Chief Weapons tester from 2001 until his retirement in 2005, is skeptical. He thinks $2 billion per aircraft is a more accurate estimate. Christie’s estimate aligns closely with the experience of building the B-2 bomber. A 1997 report from the Government Accountability Office showed that while initial estimates for the B-2 were $456 million in 1997 dollars, the actual cost was $2.1 billion per aircraft. While not usually included in the estimates the extremely high operating costs of stealth aircraft must also be included. According to U.S. Air Force data, the B-2 costs $164,000 per flight hour to operate. We should plan for similar or higher operating costs for the Long Range Strike Bomber.

The 2012 Pentagon budget shows Tactical Tomahawks costs $1.1 million per Tactical Tomahawk for a buy of only 196 missiles. This missile boasts a 1,000 pound warhead and “features a two-way satellite data link that allows the controller to switch target during flight to pre-programmed alternate targets or redirect it to a new target.”

According to the Naval Air Systems Command, the older Tomahawk Land Attack Missile cost $607,000 in FY-1999 dollars. Using the U.S. Navy Deflator figure for Procurement, the Tomahawk currently costs $785,000. Due to advances in additive manufacturing production techniques, the cost should drop to $470,000. This year, the University of Southern California’s School of Engineering revealed a method for 3D-printing multi-material objects in minutes instead of hours.

Even if you think we will get the next generation bomber for less than the current B-2, a single Long Range Strike Bomber would pay for 4000 Tomahawks. Given the historical record of bomber costs, it is more reasonable to assume that we will pay at least half again as much per aircraft for the new generation. Thus we could buy 6000 Tomahawks for the price of a single next generation Long Range Strike Bomber. And of course, every month the bomber fleet will consume tens of millions in operating costs – which otherwise could purchase even more Tomahawks. For the price of a single bomber, we could provide a full load out for all Tomahawk capable ships in the fleet.


Advances in additive manufacturing, composite materials, energy densities in gel fuels, and nano-explosives indicate we will be able to build longer range, more powerful, and stealthier cruise missiles for much less money than the loitering Tomahawk.


Historical precedents

Remembering the history of another era of rapid, broad technological change might help DoD decision makers put the problem in perspective. In the early 1900s, navies were making very rapid technological gains in metallurgy, ammunition, explosives, engines, and communications. The 1906 launch of Dreadnought ushered in thebattleship era, and within a decade, capital ships were powered by turbines, had main batteries of 14-inch guns, rudimentary wireless, and vastly improved armor. By the beginning of WWI, battleships were considered the decisive weapon for fleet engagements, and the size of the battleship fleet was seen as a reasonable proxy for a navy’s strength. The war’s single major fleet action, the Battle of Jutland, seemed to prove these ideas correct.

Accordingly, during the interwar period, battleships received the lion’s share of naval investments. Displacement more than doubled, from the 27,000 tons of the pre-WWI New York class to the 48,500 tons of the Iowa class. The main batteries shifted from 14-inch to 16-inch guns, secondary batteries were improved, radar was installed, speed increased from 21 to 33 knots, cruising range more than doubled, and armor improved. Yet none of these advances changed the fundamental capabilities of the battleship. This is typical of mature technology, for which it costs much more to improve performance than it does for immature technology.

In contrast, naval aviation was in its infancy in 1914. Aircraft were slow, short-legged, lightly armed, and primarily used for reconnaissance. Air combat was primitive; attempts to bring down opposing aircraft included pistols, rifles, and even a grappling hook. After the war, aviation remained an auxiliary and was funded accordingly. While the Navy built 18 new battleships during the interwar period, it built only eight carriers, a total that includes the conversion of a collier (USS Langley) and two cruisers. And yet by 1941, carrier aviation had developed to the point that it dominated the naval battles of WWII.

The Navy’s failure to understand where genuine technological advantage lay carried real opportunity costs. In the late 1930s, the Navy spent heavily on fast battleships, eventually commissioning 10 and starting construction on two more. These ships turned out to serve primarily as very expensive anti-aircraft escorts for the fleet carriers. (Most naval shore bombardment was done by older battleships that dated to the 1920s.) One has to wonder: if the Navy had dedicated even half of the battleship funds spent in the 1930s to naval aviation, how different would the opening year of the war been?



Investment in highly capable and expensive new weapons systems is predicated on specific assumptions about the future. Unfortunately, it is a truism that one can never predict the future with certainty. Thus a hedging approach is more functional than a predictive approach. With the widespread commercial shift to small, many, and smart systems as a substitute for a few, exquisite systems, it is time for the United States to rethink its equipment procurement approach.

The critical military functions will remain – but how we accomplish them will change. Rather than investing everything in a single type of fighter or a long range bomber, it makes more sense to limit our buys of these systems and augment them with systems that conform to small, smart, and many. For missions like reconnaissance, strike, jamming, communications relay, and others, the United States needs to explore relatively cheap and even disposable systems.


Obviously, this will not be a rapid shift. For instance, the United States is already heavily committed to the F-35. But rather than buying over 2400 F-35s and continuing to build Ford carriers, we should examine limiting the buy of F-35 to six or seven hundred. These aircraft, along with the current inventory of approximately 180 F-22s, this will provide sufficient numbers of aircraft for high end penetrating missions. For other missions, existing and upgraded F-15, F-16, and F-18s can carry the load – particularly when augmented with large numbers of inexpensive penetrating platforms. Rather than expensive manned Wild Weasel SAM suppression platforms, we could employ cheaper but more capable versions of the Harpy 2. Cheap platforms even reduce the need for air-to-air capability. Rather than destroying the aircraft in the air, swarms of cheap penetrators would strike at an opponent’s base.

In a similar ways, our current inventory of carriers will ensure that we have these ships available until the 2040s or later. We can continue to build Fords to ensure that carriers operate until the Navy’s goal of 2100 – or we can seriously investigate how the convergence of robotics, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, biology, and nano-materials is going to change the character of future conflict. Rather than decades-long, monolithic procurement programs, we can return to the process we used early in the days of aviation. This was a time of wide commercial innovation in a variety of fields – internal combustion engines, metallurgy, design, radios, ordnance. It was impossible to predict which designs would work best. The industry used a model of build, test, improve, test, improve; only afterward did the Navy or War Department actually field the systems. The cost was low enough that they could abandon an aircraft if it was not working. Despite investing a fraction of the money it spent on battleships during the interwar period, the Navy developed the carrier aviation team that dominated WWII naval warfare.

It is critical that we examine the few exquisite systems we are planning to buy – aircraft, ships, armor — and see if their missions could be accomplished by many, smart, cheap platforms. Given the inherent political advantages of large, complex systems, this will be a difficult step. The F-35 is a poster child for the difficultly of reconsidering a program of record. Built in 45 states at a cost of $399 B for 2,443 aircraft and with expected lifetime operating cost of $1 trillion, the F-35 has powerful Congressional support. Further, U.S. doctrine and powerful service constituencies heavily favor these exquisite systems. This is natural since doctrine and preferences are usually based on experience and current U.S. experience is based on exquisite systems. These two powerful factors will make it difficult to dispassionately examine other options. However, we must do so soon. Our experience with the F-35 shows that the decision to pursue a different path needs to be taken before the new system gains a powerful constituency that insists it be built regardless of its capability.

T. X. Hammes is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the U.S. National Defense University.  The views expressed here are solely his own and do not reflect the views of the U.S. government, Department of Defense, or the National Defense University



Senate Panel OKs Pentagon Spending Bill, But Its Fate Is Uncertain

Jul. 17, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — A US Senate panel on Thursday approved nearly $550 billion in military spending, while also proposing to keep alive weapon systems the Pentagon wanted to retire. But senior members made clear it may never see the Senate floor.


The chamber’s Appropriations Committee unanimously approved legislation that would give the Pentagon $489.6 billion in base spending and $58.3 billion in war funding. It would block a long list of weapon system retirement proposals, or Pentagon plans to not purchase systems next year to save money.

For the US defense sector, the proposed $547.9 billion total figure is another major victory — even amid warnings from sector executives that their firms will take big financial hits due to sequestration.

But the chamber for years has failed to pass agency spending bills due to an ever-intensifying Republicans vs. Democrats flap over amendments and process.

Sources for months have predicted the Senate likely will have to pass a short-term continuing resolution in late September to fund the government until after the November midterm elections and then provide a government-wide omnibus that might include a full defense bill, which would be pre-conferenced by House and Senate appropriators.

Senior Senate Appropriations Committee leaders, including a Senate Democratic leader, cast new doubt on the panel’s 2015 Pentagon spending bill’s fate.

Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said at the hearing’s start that she hopes the panel will eventually move legislation to keep the government funded and open. She never mentioned the defense bill getting to the floor.

About an hour later, Appropriation Defense subcommittee Chairman Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said this of a conference process with the House: “I hope we get that far.”

Notably, the legislation, which will be marked up by the full committee on Thursday, would provide $848.7 million not requested by the White House to refuel the USS George Washington aircraft carrier.

The other three defense committees did the same, meaning America almost certainly will maintain 11 carrier battle groups.

The bill would block the Air Force’s plans to retire the A-10 attack plane fleet by shifting $338 million from lower-priority items.

Another protected priority was the Navy’s E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare fleet.

The measure floats the idea of reviving the F136 engine program, killed in 2011 after the Pentagon decided it was no longer worth continuing development of a second F-35 power plant.

It also would cut the Obama administration’s proposal to spend $5 billion on a new counterterrorism program by over $3 billion.

The panel approved two dozen pre-negotiated, non-controversial amendments in a single bloc. It also killed, by a 9-21 vote, an amendment that would have placed restrictions on using funds allocated by the bill to pay for US military operations in Syria.

During that debate, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, charged the Obama administration with asking for $500 million to train and equip vetted Syrian rebels. Other senators joined her, a further example of how the White House’s $58.6 billion overseas contingency operations request is hitting resistance on Capitol Hill.


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, July 19, 2014

These are not happy times for President Obama and his party, although it’s far from clear if Republicans can capitalize on that.

One-in-three voters (32%) think the president should be impeached and removed from office. But most voters think electing an opposition Congress is the better way to halt or change his policies.

However, as Kyle Kondik points out in his commentary this week, that may be easier said than done, requiring Republicans to do something they haven’t done since 1980.

The GOP needs a net gain of six seats to take charge of the Senate, but more voters than ever think U.S. elections are rigged to favor incumbents.

Democrats have just a one-point edge on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot, but they’ve held a narrow lead on the ballot for most weeks this year.

On the plus side for the GOP, favorable views of the president’s new national health care law now tie their low for the year. Only 11% say they have been helped by Obamacare.

Then there’s the wave of young illegal immigrants that’s hit our southern border in recent weeks. Most voters want to send them home as quickly as possible, while the Obama administration searches for places to move these illegals all over the country.
But even Maryland’s liberal Governor Martin O’Malley who has his eye on the presidency has told Obama not to ship them to his state. That’s no surprise since 57% of voters nationwide oppose housing these illegal immigrants in their home state.

[O’Malley, by the way, still has a lot of convincing to do – even in his home state – if he’s going to run for the White House in 2016.]

Americans have some definite ideas, too, about how illegal immigration can be stopped.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a TV interview last weekend that opposition to the president’s agenda is due in part to race. But most voters don’t buy that racism plays a big part in opposition to Obama.

It doesn’t help the president that for the second week in a row, just 25% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest finding this year.

More Americans than ever say they owe more money than they did last year.

With inflation worries at recent highs, the number of Americans who are paying more for groceries also has risen to its highest level in over two years. There’s an increasing lack of confidence, too, that the Federal Reserve Board can keep inflation under control.

Fifty-one percent (51%) still say, looking back, that the bailouts of the financial industry were bad for the United States.
Despite those bailouts, just half (50%) of Americans are confident in the nation’s banking system, compared to the 68% who felt that way in July 1968 just before the Wall Street meltdown.

Half of voters continue to believe that there is a conflict between economic growth and fairness, and most still consider growth to be more important. However, the number who consider fairness more important continues to inch up, and those voters favor the president.

Perceptions of the housing market remain perhaps the best thing Obama has going for him these days. Homeowners are more confident about their home’s current value than they’ve been in several years. A record number of homeowners now say their home is worth more than what they still owe on it.

Fewer Americans believe this month that it’s a good time to sell a house in their area, but still the level of confidence in the local housing market is higher than it has been for several years.

The level of consumer and investor confidence also remains higher than it has been for much of the time since the meltdown.

And through it all, the president continues to earn the same daily job approval numbers he’s gotten for most of his time in office.

In other surveys this week:

— Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker have proposed bipartisan legislation to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, in part to reduce the U.S. prison population. But while most voters agree with restoring voting rights to non-violent felons, they are less enthusiastic about requiring all states to raise the minimum age someone can be tried as an adult.

— Appointed Republican Senator Tim Scott holds a big lead over Democrat Joyce Dickerson in his first election bid for a full Senate term in South Carolina.

— An increasing number (48%) of voters are voicing support for gay marriage.

— Republican Mary Fallin is in a surprisingly close contest for reelection in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the 2014 gubernatorial race in Oklahoma.

— Even as Detroiters vote on a bankruptcy plan that would make major cuts in retired public employee benefits, voters nationwide aren’t overly optimistic about the Motor City’s chances of recovery.

Americans still strongly prefer a traditional printed book to reading on an electronic device like a Kindle or a Nook.


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