Posts Tagged war

Industry Talk: Pentagon Contracting Policy Is Faulted By The CWC And Center For Public Integrity

Our report is not an attack on contractors. In general, contractors have provided essential and effective support to U.S. personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the costs have been excessive, largely because of a shrunken federal acquisition workforce and a lack of effective planning to use contractors and the discipline of competition.

That is great that the CWC made this distinction, because it is very easy for the government to place blame on private industry (agent), and not blame the Pentagon (principal) for any of this. I should also note that in the second article below, the author correctly placed blame on President Obama for not following through with his campaign promises. Here is the quote:

President Obama weighed in on the problem both as a candidate in 2008 and in a presidential memo in 2009. The center also cited a memo promising efforts at greater use of “multisource, continuously competitively bid” contracts issued in 2010 by Defense Undersecretary Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s senior procurement chief.
But “campaign pledges and memos have made little headway in combating the problem,” wrote analyst Sharon Weinberger, whose team studied a dozen government reports and investigations and interviewed eight former government officials and experts.

And this is the statistic that really stands out. This administration has had plenty of time and opportunity to make things right and follow through with promises, and they have not done this.

Meanwhile, the Center for Public Integrity’s research findings, which it will unfold daily this week in a series called “Windfalls of War,” include an analysis of federal data concluding that “the Pentagon’s competed contracts, based on dollar figures, fell to 55 percent in the first two quarters of 2011, a number lower than any point in the last 10 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.” The center noted that the issue of noncompetitive contracting practices has been examined many times by the Government Accountability Office, the Defense Department’s inspector general, and the Commission on Wartime Contracting.

I can’t tell you how frustrating this has been to watch. The US government has so many reports and data points to draw conclusions from. We have been contracting for the last ten years and have numerous lessons learned to apply to our contracting machine.  How many more reports or suggestions or critiques does it take?

Now one thing that I noticed in the first article that I wanted to point out, is this quote:

Projects that are or may be unsustainable are a serious problem. For instance, U.S. taxpayers spent $40 million on a prison that Iraq did not want and that was never finished. U.S. taxpayers poured $300 million into a Kabul power plant that requires funding and technical expertise beyond the Afghan government’s capabilities. Meanwhile, a federal official testified to the commission that an $11.4 billion program of facilities for the Afghan National Security Forces is “at risk” of unsustainability.

Unsustainable projects, equipment, or weapons systems are an area of conflict that just kills me. We threw so much money at these conflicts, and the war planners and strategists determine projects that must be built to support the war effort. These projects create jobs and they give the local population something to do, other than picking up a gun and joining the insurgency.

But what happened to commons sense in this planning?  Why build a prison that Iraqis do not want?  Why build a power plant that would require money and expertise that a country does not have? It’s like giving some kid without a drivers license and makes 500 dollars a year, a Porche, and expecting them to be able to pay for the insurance, gas and maintenance of the thing. Let alone thinking they have the skills necessary to drive that vehicle safely. It is just irresponsible, and that is the way we should be looking at war planning and how we help these countries.

I would also be interested to read how many of these types of wasteful or unsustainable projects were the contributors to this $30 billion dollar figure? Of course I will concede to the fact that there have been wasteful or fraudulent companies, but over all I still put the blame on those leaders that came up with this war planning and oversaw this contracting process.

Finally, here is the list of suggestions that the CWC put up as a teaser. This is an interesting list, but I do disagree with the inherently governmental portion.

Security Council meetings to ensure that the many agencies involved in contingency contracts or grants are properly resourced and coordinated;
-Making more rigorous use of risk analysis when deciding to use contractors, rather than assuming that any task not on a list of “inherently governmental function” is appropriate for contracting;
-Requiring that officials examine current and proposed projects for risk of unsustainability, and cancel or modify those that have no credible prospect of operating successfully; and
-Creating a permanent inspector general for contingency operations so that investigative personnel are ready to deploy at the outset of a contingency, and to monitor preparedness and training between contingencies.

To me, contractors are certainly capable of doing anything the military can do. To include offensive operations. I have brought up examples of this kind of offensive capability, both American and other. Companies like the AVG’s Flying Tigers, our early privateers, or companies like Executive Outcomes all showed the potential of privatized offensive operations. So private industry can do the job, and to me, the decision to use private industry for such a thing should be based on the national security of a country, and of the military leaders tasked with protecting a country, and not on some false idea that industry is not capable of such things. Private industry is a tool in the toolbox of national security, and the survival of a country is ‘inherent’. –Matt

 

 

Reducing waste in wartime contracts
By Christopher Shays and Michael Thibault,
August 28, 2011
At least one in every six dollars of U.S. spending for contracts and grants in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, or more than $30 billion, has been wasted. And at least that much could again turn into waste if the host governments are unable or unwilling to sustain U.S.-funded projects after our involvement ends.
Those sobering but conservative numbers are a key finding of the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will submit its report to Congress on Wednesday. All eight commissioners agree that major changes in law and policy are needed to avoid confusion and waste in the next contingency, whether it involves armed struggle overseas or response to disasters at home.
Tens of billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted through poor planning, vague and shifting requirements, inadequate competition, substandard contract management and oversight, lax accountability, weak interagency coordination, and subpar performance or outright misconduct by some contractors and federal employees. Both government and contractors need to do better.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Publications: The Frequency Of Wars, By Mark Harrison And Nikolaus Wolf

“In other words, the very things that should make politicians less likely to want war – productivity growth, democracy, and trading opportunities – have also made war cheaper. We have more wars, not because we want them, but because we can. Finally, under present international arrangements this deep seated tendency is not something that any one country is going to be able to control.”

This paper was fascinating and I highly recommend reading it.  Some of the findings will be surprising to some folks, and especially the cause of increased war. Or even ‘whom’ is the cause of increased war…

I also wanted to tie this into my Opensource Military Hardware post, because this DIY concept meshes well with the conclusions of this paper. Opensource concepts, like DIY wireless nets that the Fablab is producing, or opensource software construction, are ideas that are spreading.  It is the ability to empower individuals or communities to create the kind of product or service that they want, based upon their needs and financial standing.

To not depend upon someone else to make it for you, but to have the means to design and create it yourself is a powerful thing. It is about choice and not being dependent on someone else. You can either buy the store bought, expensive cookies, or learn how to make those same cookies with a little work and some research. Or you make those cookies, because the store no longer has those cookies.  And if you can make that cookie cheaper, and even better than the store bought cookies, all because you were well informed, like with a recipe wiki or some forum, then now you can see the power of this concept as applied to other industries.

To piggyback the conclusion of this paper, opensource will probably be the next trend that will further empower states and non-state actors to wage war. And specifically poor countries and 4th generation war practitioners. Organizations at war, no matter what their wealth and size, will always have a military industrial base.  It could be a couple of guys in a garage, welding rocket pods to jeeps, or it could be a massive industrial complex that produces stealth bombers and tanks.

I think what is interesting to ponder though, is that with today’s wars, the small scale industrial bases of today’s enemies, have certainly been able to hold their own against the west’s massive industrial bases. It is as simple as some ‘maker’, creating an EFP at the cost of ten dollars, and using that device to destroy a multi-million dollar M-1 Abrams tank.  Of course there are other examples of competing industries during times of war, and we are witnessing such things in Libya or Mexico. All of these groups are trying to figure out how to exploit the weakness of the other side’s weapons and hardware.

With more collaboration and information sharing, the learning curve for how to exploit these weaknesses increases. Opensource concepts really speed things up, and I think organizations around the world will recognize the power of such a thing. Simply because they will see how it is applied to ‘productivity growth, democracy, and trading opportunities’ and come to the conclusion that this could also be used to make war ‘cheaper’. Cheaper gives politicians a choice and the ability to say ‘we can’ go to war.

As a sidebar, it is also interesting to note that contractors are a big part of today’s war fighting, because we too give politicians the ability to say ‘we can’ go to war. That whole adage that ‘you go to war with the army you have, not the one you wish you had’, has kind of been tweaked thanks to the concept of contracting. A country can go to war with the army ‘it was willing to pay for during times of peace’, and instantly supplement that force with a highly flexible support mechanism. A support mechanism that ‘you do not have to pay for during times of peace’, and one that gets absorbed back into other industries and society when war is over. Probably the biggest advantage of this support mechanism is that it ‘chooses’ to serve and work in a war.

Politically speaking, not having to implement a draft is incredibly attractive to a country’s leaders, and further gives them the ability to say ‘we can’ go to war.  Using an army of choice, equates to organized violence that is created out of passion/desire/commitment, and not created by forced labor. Might I also add that a well compensated contractor, still must make a commitment to exposing themselves to a war. Thus this choice is as much a patriotic choice, as it is a financial one for many that go. Because if it was all about the money, then all of society would rush the door called ‘contracting’ and compete in this industry. As it stands now, there is only a select segment of society that is willing to risk life and limb in a war and service in the military or as a contractor is something they have committed too.  And personally speaking, I would much rather participate in a venture of the willing, as opposed to being a slave in an army of slaves.

Of course then we go back to the discussion of just because we can, should we?  And that is a matter for politicians and the country they have sworn to protect to get into. All I am trying to do with this post, is to ponder this study and speculate on the future of warfare. –Matt

Wars steadily increase for over a century, fed by more borders and cheaper conflict
28th June 2011
New research by the University of Warwick and Humboldt University shows that the frequency of wars between states increased steadily from 1870 to 2001 by 2% a year on average. The research argues that conflict is being fed by economic growth and the proliferation of new borders.
We may think the world enjoyed periods of relative freedom from war between the Cold War and 9/11 but the new research by Professor Mark Harrison from at the University of Warwick’s the Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy, and Professor Nikolaus Wolf from Humboldt University, shows that the number of conflicts between pairs of states rose steadily from 6 per year on average between 1870 and 1913 to 17 per year in the period of the two World Wars, 31 per year in the Cold War, and 36 per year in the 1990s.
Professor Mark Harrison from the University of Warwick said:
“The number of conflicts has been rising on a stable trend. Because of two world wars, the pattern is obviously disturbed between 1914 and 1945 but remarkably, after 1945 the frequency of wars resumed its upward course on pretty much the same path as before 1913.”

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Afghanistan: As Troops Draw Down, Security Contractors Will Fill In The Gaps

The latest news these days is the draw down in troops. It has been expected and talked about, but now it is becoming reality. I have yet to read any analysis on how the security contracting industry itself will be impacted by this draw down, so this is my attempt at such things. I believe given all of the investment into Afghanistan’s reconstruction and security, that our industry will be in high demand as the troops pull out. It will also be a dangerous time period because of security vacuums created by a lack of troops, or a lack of Afghan police/military.

Below I have posted three stories that discuss all of the foreign investment or organizations interested in reconstruction in Afghanistan. The troops might be pulling out, but these investment projects will still be there, and they will be ongoing for awhile. With that reduction in troop related security, someone is going to have to fill that security vacuum. I believe that ‘someone’ will be a combination of local security contractors, and expats.

Not to mention that the State Department mission in Afghanistan will be ongoing for awhile. So WPS is going to be a viable source of employment for security contractors in Afghanistan and elsewhere. DoS and USAID both have reconstruction projects, government mentor-ship programs and diplomatic missions to maintain as the troops draw down.  Security contractors are going to be vital to the continuation of those missions.

The other source of work that will be ongoing in Afghanistan is training police and military.  The troop draw down strategy is highly dependent upon Afghanistan’s ability to provide it’s own security and stand on it’s own.  As US troops pull out, these training missions will probably require even more contractor trainers. And let’s not forget about NATO, and their inability to provide training assets. Contractors will be an essential part of maintaining this aspect of the strategy.

Then of course there are the foreign investments in mining in Afghanistan.  The mines and the railroads required to ship that stuff out of the country, are necessary for the reconstruction and stability of Afghanistan. It will also help to pay for this massive army we have helped Afghanistan build, and hopefully sustain. (although foreign donors will continue to be the main source of maintaining this army)  So local security contractors will be essential for those projects, and expat security contractors will be required to handle the PSD of engineers and upper management.

Probably the most important things to remember about the draw down is that troops must be approved by congress, but there is no limit as to the number of security contractors that can be hired. Matter of fact, the only limit to security contractors is financial. So if the investments and interest in Afghanistan is still there, contractors will continue to be very important. Probably more important than ever, just because the enemy will want to exploit the draw down of troops is an excellent time to attack and turn up the pressure. We will see….-Matt

The US Isn’t the Only Donor in Afghanistan

As U.S. Pulls Back, Fears Abound Over Toll on Afghan Economy

In Afghanistan, who will pick up where the U.S. leaves off?

The US Isn’t the Only Donor in Afghanistan
06/22/11
Jordan Dey
Fmr. US Director, UN World Food Program
As the Obama Administration announces its Afghanistan drawdown tonight, much has been said about what will change — the number of troops — but there has been virtually no discussion of what will remain largely the same — the continued assistance of more than four dozen countries, 20 UN agencies, and hundreds of NGOs in providing everything from road-building contracts to health care investments in Afghanistan.?As President Obama has shifted US foreign policy from the unilateralism of the Bush Administration to a more collaborative approach with our allies there is no country on earth where that multi-country approach is more apparent than Afghanistan. And, no country on earth where the US is better prepared to reduce its footprint, and leave some work to others.

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Letter Of Marque: Thomas Jefferson On Privateering, July 4, 1812

Today is the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, and I thought it would be cool to post his original paper on the concept of privateering, and why it should be used during the War of 1812.  I plan to link to this page often in the future, when ever I talk about the history of the concept and how important it was to the US strategy back then.

The other thing I wanted to point out is the article written in 1882 about the paper that Thomas Jefferson wrote, and the statistics the author presented. I have not seen these statistics before, and they are pretty interesting.  Of course the author of the article was certainly impressed with the concept of privateering and it’s effects on an enemy. The author made this point in the article, that really stuck out for me. That the British were certainly concerned about American privateers:

One at least of the London journals, the Statesman, foresaw the danger from privateers in 1812. When war was threatened, it said: “America cannot certainly pretend to wage a maritime war with us.  She has no navy to do it with.  But America has nearly a hundred thousand as good seamen as any in the world, all of whom would be actively employed against our trade on every part of the ocean, in their fast-sailing ships of war, many of which will be able to cope with our small cruisers; and they will be found to be sweeping the West India seas, and even carrying desolation into the chops of the Channel.”
All this, and more, the two hundred and fifty privateers accomplished.  They cruised in every sea, and wrought such havoc with British commerce as had never been known before.  Coggeshall’s history of the service enumerates about fifteen hundred prizes taken by them in the two and a half years of war, and these were not all of the captures by privateers alone; while the government war-vessels, in their cruises, added considerably to the number.  The fortunes of the privateers were of the most varied kind.  Some of them made long cruises without falling in with a single British merchantman of which they could make a prize.  Others took enough to enrich every man of the crew.

Very cool stuff and there is way more in this old, but extremely informative article. Check it out. –Matt


Thomas Jefferson On Privateering
July 4, 1812
“What is war?  It is simply a contest between nations of trying which can do the other the most harm.  Who carries on the war?  Armies are formed and navies manned by individuals.  How is a battle gained?  By the death of individuals.  What produces peace?  The distress of individuals.  What difference to the sufferer is it that his property is taken by a national or private armed vessel?  Did our merchants, who have lost nine hundred and seventeen vessels by British captures, feel any gratification that the most of them were taken by his Majesty’s men-of-war?  Were the spoils less rigidly exacted by a seventy-four-gun ship than by a privateer of four guns?  And were not all equally condemned? Read the rest of this entry »

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Building Snowmobiles: For Total War And Netwar, You Need Both A ‘Defense Industry’ And An ‘Offense Industry’

Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of all their available resources and population.
In the mid-19th Century, “total war” was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare. In a total war, there is less differentiation between combatants and civilians than in other conflicts, and sometimes no such differentiation at all, as nearly every human resource, civilians and soldiers alike, can be considered to be part of the belligerent effort. -General Ludendorff, Clausewitz, General Lemay

Netwar is a term developed by RAND researchers John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt to describe an emergent form of low intensity conflict, crime, and activism waged by social networked actors. Typical netwar actors might include transnational terrorists, criminal organizations, activist groups, and social movements that employ decentralized, flexible network structures.-wikipedia

Very cool and this was by far the most interesting article I have read about netwar or networks in this current war.  Bravo to General McChrystal for writing this and sharing. It is food for thought, and I highly recommend reading this thing.

Probably what really jumped out at me after reading this, is that mimicry strategy is what McChrystal is talking about here.  Funny how this pattern continues to repeat itself in war fighting.  It also really complements what John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt talked about with Netwar. But most importantly, McChrystal and the authors of this concept both agreed that the best way to defeat a network, is with a network.

Now this is where I want to add my little angle to the whole concept.  I personally think that the US military is not nimble enough or organized properly to act like a network. Even these leaders and strategists mentioned have agreed on that point. Sure, maybe some of the special forces units within the military might be able to accomplish this, but will there be enough SF teams to keep up with all the cartels, pirates, terrorists, and cyber-hackers?

What about the police, both federal and state?  With transnational terrorists, criminal organizations etc., are there enough law enforcement to keep up with the deluge? In both the military and police examples, I do not think that they can match the size, spread and scope of today’s miscreants.  An example is the drug war against the cartels. It is overwhelming the Mexican government, and the US is not doing that great of a job either, despite all the efforts of law enforcement.

In the war against these folks like Al Qaeda, pirates or the cartels, I have doubts that there are enough military, police or intelligence assets to keep up with the formation of all of these networks. And the simple fact that Osama Bin Laden is still free to move around in this big world of ours, indicates to me a problem. When trying to locate a needle in the haystack, the more folks you have participating in that process, the higher the chance of finding the thing or person you are looking for. Many hands make light work, so to speak.

So what is missing is scalability of the current netwar that governments are waging against these viruses of society. What I propose is that what is missing is an equally decentralized and flexible network that can compete with the growth of these non-state actors and their enterprises.  What I think is missing in this war, is a licensed and regulated market that profits from our enemy’s destruction. One created to promote netwar (or whatever works). That last part is crucial.

I have talked about the concept of the Letter of Marque and Reprisal in the past, and of how important privateers were to early America.  I have also highlighted what makes the drug cartels or modern day pirate industries so strong–and that is the drive of monetary gain or profit.  With terrorists, their profit is a different currency that is spiritually based. A suicide bomber profits from their act, because they are told and belive that they have secured a better life in heaven (or whatever place they go). Everyone does what they do, because of personal gain.  It could be monetary gain, spiritual gain, political gain, etc.  The point being is that this gain or profit, is what fuels their enterprise.  In order to defeat that enterprise, you need an enterprise that is equal in size and scope and vitality.

I believe that a purely government venture is a half measure. The full measure of war against these non-state actors, is to include private industry in the process of destroying these folks. Today’s private industry is not used in this way, and the resistance against such a thing indicates the ego and naivety of today’s war planners and law enforcement leaders. No one likes to admit that they are overwhelmed and they certainly do not want to compete with private industry.

It’s kind of like how the Postal Service viewed companies like Fedex or UPS in the beginning. But of course the government postal system and private industry are still in existence today, and they co-exist just fine. If anything, they learn from each other and the competition drives innovation in each group. If you go into a Post Office today, they look and feel like a Fedex or UPS store, and their prices and even customer service are comparable.

Now to apply this example to the war effort, imagine a company like Dyncorp capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden? I mean after Gary Faulkner did his thing in Pakistan, all types of feathers were ruffled, and everyone in government, military and the media were all balking at the idea of an individual without any government guidance going after OBL? Talk about ego…. I think most Americans, and most of the world wouldn’t care who nabbed this guy or how it was done–just that he was captured or killed–end of story.

And this is the point I am trying to convey.  I think a private company or individual could be quite effective in this war, if given the license and legal authority to do so by their government. But what is most important to this relationship between private industry and government, is that once given the approval, a company can organize, hire the talented people, find the most suitable ideas for the task, purchase the best equipment and weapons, and create a winning strategy to gain profit.  That is a very powerful concept.  Those companies that are not innovative or are hard working, will not succeed.  But those companies that get it, and have the flexibility needed to do what they got to do, will be rewarded by profit, and that profit will drive that engine of innovation for the fight.

Not only that, but once successful companies come onto the scene–whether small or large, then others will copy what they are doing.  Pure mimicry strategy, but at the business/war fighting level.  You see the same pattern with today’s pirates, cartels, and terrorists. They too use mimicry strategy, and copy the models of operation that give them the most profit and reward.  Money or spiritual reward is what fuels the engines of these industries, and as a result, they are unstoppable. Piracy and the drug trade are prime examples, and following the rules of mimicry strategy, it would take an industry to stop these industries. Or at least keep up, because in the end, not only do you want to copy what they are doing, but add one or two things to the model of operation that gives you the edge.

Now for those that are reading this and saying, ‘what happens if these privateer companies, turn into pirates’? Funny, that is exactly the argument that the US government used after they wanted to get rid of the privateer concept and develop a fully functional navy.  The war planners used all sorts of excuses to get rid of the competition of private industry.

Of course there were privateers back then that went on to be pirates, but to me, this very small percentage of possible outcomes of this industry, are far outweighed by the positives of using private industry in this way.  I would also suggest that out of the thousands of security contractors that have cycled in and out of today’s security contracting industry, that a few might have gone on to commit crimes back home and abroad–but that is the 1 percent of 1 percent. To me, I have yet to see this ‘privateer to pirate’ phenomenon that folks continue to use as an argument against private security.

Most have served honorably, and most do not sell their services to criminal organizations. Of course there are few, and of course there are also corrupt cops or unethical and immoral military folks that do crimes as well.  Criminal acts and bad behavior are things that happen in all organizations.  And even during the Revolutionary War, most privateers went back home to be fishermen or work in shipping. Piracy was a crime that attracted criminals, pure and simple, and to classify all privateers as criminal because of the acts of a few, is dumb.

So going back to the Letter of Marque and Reprisal, which happens to be a law that the US congress has the right to use, would be just one way of licensing and regulating this private industry designed to destroy our enemies. If that is too unsettling to the powers that be, then modify the ITAR and issue license that way. I would also require companies to be bonded, and I would reopen Prize Courts so that asset seizures could be another way that companies could profit from the destruction of our enemies.

Another argument that I continue to hear against the concept, is that the Hague forbids privateering and the issuing of Letters of Marque and Reprisal.  In my view, it is not the Hague that stops us from doing this–it is a lack of political will and courage to toss out old and outdated treaties and do what is most important.  That is to win the war that is of national interest, and of the interest of the people. If winning wars is the priority, and the current war has a virus in the form of networks, then in order to compete with such networks will require an equal amount of networks–plus whatever innovation/edge.

Finally, there is another point I wanted to make, and that is today’s ‘Defense Industry’ profits off of creating weapons and equipment for the war effort, or providing defensive or logistics services in the war zones. In terms of war fighting, all companies benefit from the war continuing, and there is not a market mechanism in place to put a stop to that process. Winning a war stops that process though.

To me, what makes better sense is to create an ‘Offense Industry’, which is purely focused on destroying the enemy as quickly and as efficiently as possible, and essentially working itself out of a job. I compare it to the commercial hunting of the Buffalo in the wild west–when there was no more buffalo left (or enemy), the hunters worked themselves out of a job.  What fuels a ‘Defense Industry’ is war, and what fuels an ‘Offense Industry’ is the destruction of an enemy.  Or at least that is the goal when you create, regulate and license an ‘Offense Industry’.

Also, it should be the goal of politicians and war planners to win the war as quickly as possible, once a war has been deemed necessary to fight.  As time drags on, the enemy will learn how to compete against you, because they too have learning organizations and continuous improvement as part of their plan.  To me, if winning a war is a priority, then it should also be a priority to send everything you got at the problem to finish it as soon as possible.

The current war is coming up on the ten year point, and I have yet to see Osama Bin Laden’s head on a pike. Nor have I seen any ‘Closing Business’ signs in front of cartel businesses in Latin America. Nor have I seen today’s pirates whimpering back to their countries because piracy sucks. And we are definitely not seeing today’s lone wolf hackers or state sponsored cyber criminals receiving any threats that would give them pause. Total war (and netwar) require the strategic use of all available manpower of a nation, and/or world effort, and that requires both a vibrant Defense Industry and a well regulated and licensed Offense Industry among the fielded armies in this endeavor. Or we can continue to depend upon the few and the overwhelmed to win these wars. –Matt


It Takes a Network
The new frontline of modern warfare.
March/April 2011
BY STANLEY A. MCCHRYSTAL
From the outset of my command in Afghanistan, two or three times each week, accompanied by a few aides and often my Afghan counterparts, I would leave the International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul and travel across Afghanistan — from critical cities like Kandahar to the most remote outposts in violent border regions. Ideally, we left early, traveling light and small, normally using a combination of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, to meet with Afghans and their leaders and to connect with our troops on the ground: Brits and Marines rolling back the enemy in Helmand, Afghan National Army troops training in Mazar-e-Sharif, French Foreign Legionnaires patrolling in Kapisa. Read the rest of this entry »

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Libya: The Toyota War Part 2–Gaddafi Forces Adopt Rebel Tactics

This is smart, and pure mimicry strategy at it’s finest–copy your enemy, and then add one or two things to give you an edge. In this case, the edge is training, cohesion and organization.  Gaddafi has also been in this kind of war before when Libya was fighting Chad.  If you remember, that war was called the Toyota War, because both sides ended up using the cheapest, most abundant and fastest vehicles they could to out maneuver the other other guy.

The other part of this that is smart is that the coalition air forces will have a tougher time distinguishing between both sides, and the potential for civilian casualties increases. Air power is great for taking on open desert military targets, but taking out these types of targets takes a lot more effort because of the potential screw ups in the matter.

The other day, Gaddafi’s forces were also able to take advantage of the weather and make a drive against a disconnected and unorganized rebel force. That shows a knowledge of the limitations of this no-fly zone, and I am sure they studied other no-fly zones like in Iraq, or the use of air power in places like Afghanistan.  They identified a weakness in the hardware, and exploited it.

Which takes us back to what will continue to hurt the rebels, and that is a lack of training, cohesion and organization.  The Gaddafi side is already ahead of them in this regard, and his military has the experience and lessons of the Toyota Wars to draw upon. He is also showing agility, which was highlighted by Chet over at his Fast Transients blog.

It also emphasizes the importance of the ‘people’ element of wars. You cannot depend upon hardware to win wars, and having a no-fly zone alone will not accomplish the task of regime change there. And as you can see, Gaddafi’s forces have quickly adapted to this no-fly zone and has continued to press the fight. –Matt

Libya crisis: Gaddafi forces adopt rebel tactics
30 March 2011
Ras Lanuf has now changed hands for the fourth time in three weeks. BBC world affairs editor John Simpson in Tripoli has been assessing the fighting.
Colonel Gaddafi’s forces have changed their tactics.
The Libyan army has not always been known for its efficiency or its high morale.
Now though, it has shown a remarkable degree of flexibility, and has chosen to adopt tactics used by the rebels only a few days ago, when they were sweeping along the coastal road, apparently unstoppably, in the direction of Sirte. Read the rest of this entry »

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