Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."

14.8.08

Reorienting "Effects" Focus

General Jim Mattis, USMC, Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command, is continuing to demonstrate his leadership at the command who once claimed its Area of Responsibility was "the future". His latest salvo is at one of the "sacred cows" of the defense transformation movement: Effects Based Operations.

"EBO" in the modern sense was derived from the work done by CHECKMATE on the Air Staff (the targeteers who selected critical "nodes" for precision strikes nearly 20 years ago) and by then-Lt Col Dave Deptula, USAF (principal attack planner for the Operation DESERT STORM coalition air campaign in 1991). The evolution of various technologies (GPS, precision-guided munitions, integrated command architectures, over-the-horizon communications) ushered in many new warfighting concepts like EBO.

Despite much fanfare from USJFCOM J9 over the past decade, where EBO became the cornerstone of the "Rapid Decision Operations" overarching concept (and a constant source of chagrin for LtGen(ret) Paul Van Riper), earlier today General Mattis closed the door on EBO in favor of "time honored principles and terminology that our forces have tested in the crucible of battle and are well grounded in the theory and nature of war." His official guidance can be downloaded here.

This is an appropriate (albeit belated) adjustment by CDR USJFCOM to distinguish between "potentially good ideas" and "doctrine". Not just for EBO (an idea that suffered from vagueness and service parochialism since its inception) but also for "Operational Net Assessment" (ONA) and "System of Systems Analysis" (SoSA).

EBO never got over the "persistence" question (e.g., how long would "effects" endure), just as ONA never solved the "adaptability" question (i.e., how would enemy adaptations be accounted for in the model). Gen Mattis's assertion of JPs 3-0 and 5-0 is the proper thing for a Combatant Commander to do -- doctrine, not concept, drives operations. And just as doctrine itself is a reflection of shared values that have stood the test of time and culture, he correctly identifies USJFCOM's role in "help[ing] joint doctrine evolve as our views on effects and related concepts evolve."

However, one concern I do have is that this correction may stymie some of the forward-thinking elements of USJFCOM. J9 has suffered pretty severe budget cuts since my departure two years ago; this could indicate even more to come -- and a command orientation away from "Futures" to "Training" (J7) and "Systems Integration" (J8).

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3.7.08

Decisionmaking

("On They Came" by Mort Kunstler, c/o The Framery)

There has been much dialogue in the 'blogosphere lately regarding information, from Andrew Exum's recent critique of JP 3-13: Information Operations at Small Wars Journal (h/t MountainRunner) to Chet Richards on "Orientation" (the central concept to Boyd's OODA loop) and "Virtual Water Coolers". Earlier posts by ZenPundit, John Robb, Shlõk, Don Vandergriff, Kotare and Coming Anarchy's brilliant series on the Principles of War are excellent contributions to the topic of "decisionmaking", which I believe is the cornerstone of command and leadership.

What makes good leaders? Is it success? Luck? Perseverance? Or is the "harmonious association of powers" that Carl von Clausewitz described in On War (Book I, Chapter III: "The Genius for War")?

Consider the image above. On the afternoon of July 3rd, 1863, Maj. Gen. George Pickett and his division of 5,500 Confederate soldiers formed the right flank of a three-division assault across the gently rising slope from Seminary Ridge toward Cemetary Ridge in the fields south of the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. His shout, "Up, Men, and to your posts! Don't forget today that you are from Old Virginia," is inscribed on a monument at Gettysburg National Military Park. By the time Pickett's men had crossed Emmitsburg Pike and neared the Copse of Trees by the "Bloody Angle", more than half of his division would fall: 3,000 casualties in a matter of minutes, including 15 regimental commanders, six colonels and two brigadier generals.

What prompted a gifted leader like General Robert E. Lee to risk such a venture? Did the loss of Stonewall Jackson to friendly fire two months earlier at Chancellorsville neuter Lee's maneuverist spirit (a spirit that was alive and well with Hood's Texans, who defied direct orders and seized Devil's Den and Big Round Top on the Union left on July 2nd)?

Or did Bobby Lee see something his subordinates didn't? Did his rational calculus consider (a) Ewell's inability to take Culp's Hill on the Union right, (b) Longstreet's misinterpretation of his orders, thinking Lee only wanted him to turn the Union left rather than assaulting it to build on Hood's success the previous day, (c) the lack of coordination across a 3-mile-wide battlefront amongst his artillery, cavalry and infantry that dashed his hopes for a three-pronged assault, and (d) the near-breakthrough in the Union center (at the Copse of Trees) by Anderson the previous day?

The point is, complex adaptive environments have no unique solutions. Martin van Crevald, in Command in War, described two options for organizations needing to act with imperfect information: either increase its information processing capability (the choice of our modern U.S. military) or redesign the organization to allow it to operate effectively with less information (the essence of Boyd's Discourse and his "Organic Design for Command and Control" and the German concept of Auftragstaktik).

Based on the advice available to him on the scene, and his perception of the unfolding battle, Lee made the best choice he could at Gettysburg for the strategic interests of the Confederacy. Similarly, General George Meade (Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac) made great use of his subordinates (particularly Reynolds and Hancock) and -- knowing the Confederate States Army had moved into Pennsylvania -- chose the best line of defense with the Pipe Creek Line in northern Maryland.

Our challenge today is managing an ever-growing bitstream of data, and balancing our own cognitive load so that we are able to make effective decisions in high-stress, high-consequence, time-constrained environments. Some tools are useful in the context of social relationships and temporal "snapshots" (e.g., Twitter) while others give spatial correlation of resources ("Common Relevant Operational Pictures"). But none are adequate for all requirements.

The basic question we need to ask ourselves is: How much control do we really need? The most effective leaders are able to inspire their subordinates to strive for a common goal, then get out of their way. While information technology is beguiling in giving managers the chimera of perfect awareness, that awareness is a mirage on an ever-changing landscape of perception. Instead of focusing on what our subordinates are doing, or who should NOT see what we know through anachronistic classification practices, we should rather be managing our OWN cognitive load in order to anticipate emergent opportunities. MountainRunner sums up the debate nicely in his review of Exum's IO piece:
Understanding the value of shaping and managing perceptions is critical today just as it was critical throughout history. The difference is today fewer people are needed to mobilize for strategic effects, arguably making the precision and result of influence activities that much more important. We can’t afford to ignore this or get it wrong, but then we don’t have to get it absolutely right on the first cut. We must move ahead and realize that everyone is a strategic corporal and everything we do has information effects, some more than others.
Hear, hear!

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27.5.08

Tsushima Day

One of the most significant naval battles of the modern era took place this day, May 27th, in 1905, in the Straits of Tsushima between Japan and the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula.

Russia's expansion in northeast Asia in previous years collided with Japanese Realpolitik. Tsar Nicholas II refused to negotiate with Japan, seeing them as an inferior nation lacking the stature to be treated as a peer to Russia. So when Japanese forces seized Port Arthur (modern ShenYung) in the summer of 1904, the Tsar dispatched his Baltic Fleet of 45 ships to "teach" the Japanese a lesson.

Admiral Rozhestvensky and his fleet sailed for more than seven months, around Europe and Asia, approaching the Japanese mainland in late May 1905. At dawn on the 27th, Admiral Togo Heihachiro (aboard his flagship MIKASA) departed the port at Chinhae in Korea -- intercepting the Russian fleet just north of Okinoshima at 14:24 local time.

By sunset (19:30 local time, about five hours later), more than 4,000 Russian sailors were dead and another 7,300 were Prisoners of War. Admiral Rozhestvensky's flagship OSLYBAYA was sunk, along with dozens of other Russian ships. Japanese losses were minimal: three (3) small boats and just 116 killed in action.

Two lessons can be drawn from this encounter. First, the fact that the Russian fleet even made it to Japan is significant -- it was the largest, most complex endeavor by a fleet of that size, compounded by the increased logistics demand of modern ships.

Second, the logistics success was trumped by the monumental failure of Russia's strategic intelligence. Rozhestvensky's total surrender the following morning near Takeshima (Liancourt Rocks) underscored the tactical and technological success of the nimble, cohesive Japanese forces that swarmed around the hapless and confused Russian fleet.

The moral of this story is: never rest comfortably on your laurels -- especially when you're convinced that you have technical and numerical superiority. Tsushima represented a seismic shift in the balance of power in the world, and was the first time that a nation perceived by the "Concert of Europe" as a subject of colonization stood up and resoundingly defeated one of the great powers of the world.

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24.4.08

Return of the U.S. 4th Fleet

The Pentagon announced earlier today that, effective July 1st 2008, the U.S. Navy will reestablish the U.S. Fourth Fleet. FOURTHFLT will oversee operations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America, and will operate out of the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSOUTH) headquarters in Mayport, FL.

The inaugural COMFOURTHFLT will be RADM Joseph D. Kernan, present commander of Naval Special Warfare Command and the first Navy SEAL (and, by nature of Special Operations, and expert on irregular warfare and COIN) to ever command a numbered fleet.

From today's Miami Herald:

Fourth Fleet to sail again in Latin America
BY CAROL ROSENBERG

It's official: The Pentagon formally announced Thursday that it is reestablishing an administrative entity called the Fourth Fleet -- to oversee Navy vessels that sail the Caribbean, Central and South America. Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, who now runs the Naval Special Warfare Command, will be its new commander.

He becomes the first Navy SEAL, or officer who served in the Navy's elite commando unit, to serve as a numbered fleet commander.

No new headquarters are being created because it will operate out of the U.S. Navy's Southern Command satellite in Mayport.

"Reestablishing the Fourth Fleet recognizes the immense importance of maritime security in the southern part of the Western Hemisphere and signals our support and interest in the civil and military maritime services in Central and South America," Adm. Gary Roughead, the Pentagon's most senior naval officer, said in a statement released Thursday.

The organization becomes effective on July 1.

...

Technically, the Fourth Fleet would answer to the U.S. Southern Command in Miami but supervise the various Navy ships and aircraft that might be assigned to sail south of the U.S. border -- on missions ranging from humanitarian relief to stopping drug trafficking to training with other navies in the Americas.

"This change increases our emphasis in the region on employing naval forces to build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests," Roughead said.

The new fleet restores an institution that was established in 1943 in the South Atlantic as U.S. Navy warships searched for Nazi U-boats. It was disbanded after World War II.

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11.3.08

F-117s to be retired

Despite a U.S. defense budget in excess of a half-trillion (yes, that's a "t") dollars per year, the Air Force doesn't have enough resources to proceed with its modernization program. So, according to an MSNBC report posted this morning, "The Air Force decided to accelerate the retirement of the F-117s to free up funding to modernize the rest of the fleet." Program Budget Decision 720 (signed in December 2005) is coming to fruition six months ahead of schedule.

The F-117 NIGHTHAWK, developed by Lockheed's (NYSE: LMT) famous "Skunk Works", was the first ground attack aircraft designed with low-observable ("stealth") technology. Its first flight was in 1981, and its combat debut was in 1989 during Operation JUST CAUSE in Panama.

So while soldiers and Marines while away in forty-year-old helicopters (q.v. here, here and [from a 1995 report] here), our airmen need to retire dozens of mission-capable aircraft to get more RAPTORS.

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9.3.08

Battle of the Ironclads

In early March 1862, the fledgling navy of the Confederate States of America attempted to break the U.S. Navy's blockade in the Hampton Roads of Virginia, at the confluence of the James, York, Elizabeth and Nansemond Rivers. The Commonwealth of Virginia had seceded from the Union less than a year prior (on April 17, 1861), though parts of the Commonwealth remained in Union control (e.g., the western counties -- soon to become the state of West Virginia -- and Fortress Monroe, at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula).

The U.S. Navy retained command of the seas, and imposed a naval blockade on the CSA to restrict their trade -- and their ability to generate revenues to sustain their secession. While northern states were the most populous (shown by Lincoln's victory in the 1860 presidential election -- despite winning zero electors from Southern states or from New Jersey) and most heavily industrialized (with 80% of total U.S. manufacturing capacity and 67% of U.S. rail lines), nearly 50% of America's GDP in the mid-19th century came from cotton. In fact, southern output of cotton was more than 80% of the entire world's production.

When the Commonwealth of Virginia seceded, the U.S. Navy vacated the oldest shipyard in the nation (Gosport Shipyard in Portsmouth, VA, on the Elizabeth River) and scuttled the steam frigate "USS MERRIMACK" in place. The Confederacy raised her and rebuilt her as an ironclad ram, rechristening her as "CSS VIRGINIA".

On the morning of March 8th, 1862, the VIRGINIA steamed into the Hampton Roads with the intention of breaking the Union blockade. Ramming USS CUMBERLAND below the waterline and then forcing the surrender of USS CONGRESS, VIRGINIA returned to port after darkness for repairs. The next morning, she returned to finish off the Union fleet -- but encountered a new arrival to the scene: USS MONITOR, the first true "ironclad" commissioned by the U.S. Navy.

Though the ensuing battle ended in a standoff, the event proved decisive for the Union -- which preserved the blockade's stranglehold on CSA trade.

Our home in Virginia was just a few miles south of the waters where the Battle of the Hampton Roads took place. As proof that to the victor goes the spoils, even south of the Mason-Dixon Line, U.S. Interstate 664 (the western edge of the Hampton Roads' "beltway") crosses the battle site via the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (changing VIRGINIA back to its original U.S. Navy name -- albeit without the "k").

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2.2.08

5GW Attack on JFCOM?

Yesterday a good friend from Virginia sent me an article from "DataTech Government Newsletter" that harshly criticizes the "Training Transformation" program at U.S. Joint Forces Command (one of ten joint [all-service] Combatant Commands in the U.S. military). Besides harshly maligning the corporate culture at my former employer (claiming the parking lot isn't full until nearly 9:00am, and almost empty shortly after 4:00pm), it also accuses the Joint National Training Capability of failing to deliver a product despite a budget of over $170 million.

The curious thing about this article is that "DataTech Government Newsletter" returns zero hits on a Google search. And a search for "Bob Gerlach", the alleged "AFU Correspondent" who penned the article, yields a similar doughnut of results. Furthermore, there is no date in the excerpted pages as one would expect from a legitimate publication. And the reference to the current four-star USJFCOM commander (Gen. Jim Mattis, USMC) as "Lt Gen Mattis" (using the U.S. Air Force honorific for a three-star general, not the U.S. Marine Corps "LtGen") further erodes the credibility of the piece. Lastly, the subsequent article references a non-existent "North American Health Logistics Forum" (again, zero Google hits) and "Section 16 under USC Code [sic] 27", the portion of U.S. federal law that addressed Prohibition and has been repealed for more than seventy years. You can download the excerpted 1.4MB .PDF file here.

Could this be an elaborate hoax -- an attack designed to change the very context by which an entity is perceived -- to discredit U.S. Joint Forces Command's training activities? When I asked a former colleague I was told that not only are they aware of this piece, but that Major General Kamiya (the Joint Training Director) distributed it to all personnel. When faced with an anonymous foe who wants to distort perceptions, I think MG Kamiya's response was very appropriate.

[Crossposted at Dreaming 5GW]

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31.12.07

Armed Forces Bowl


Shortly after noon today (Eastern time), the Golden Bears of Cal will grudgingly face the Falcons of the U.S. Air Force Academy in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Cal, once on the brink of a national #1 ranking, lost six of their last seven to barely scrape by the six-win threshold for bowl eligibility (and needed the Univ. of Arizona to lose their final game to secure the sixth seed on the PAC-10 bowl card).

Cal has a history of "going through the motions" in what it considers sub-par bowl games -- e.g., the trouncing they took in the 2004 Holiday Bowl when they thought they deserved a Rose Bowl berth. So I am expecting the 9-3 Air Force to win big.

[Update: Though Air Force took a quick 21-0 lead, two things helped Cal stage a 42-36 comeback victory: Coach Jeff Tedford benched longtime QB Nate Longshore in favor of redshirt freshman Kevin Riley, and Air Force senior QB Shaun Carney suffered a severe knee injury. Best wishes for a quick recovery for Cadet Carney!]

The Armed Forces Bowl, in its fifth year, will feature much pageantry of the U.S. military, including fly-overs of several different varieties of aircraft, "Thank You's" to veterans, and a "service spotlight" on each of the DoD armed services during each quarter. However, in what I consider a poignant statement of the future direction of military transformation, the parachutists who skydive into Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, won't be the Golden Knights of the U.S. Army.

Instead, the parachutists who land on the turf at TCU's stadium will be contractors from Blackwater USA's Parachute Team -- proving that just about anything can be outsourced....

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28.12.07

[Moblog] Coffee with Kao

CINCHOUSE and I crossed the Bay this morning to meet up with innovation guru and author Dr. John Kao. John is the author of jamming and, most recently, Innovation Nation (which I reviewed back in October). A great morning with great Cuban coffee and excellent conversation!

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22.12.07

Bloggers for Nuclear Policy

Überblogger ZenPundit has vectored me to a "group blog request" by Cheryl at WhirledView on nuclear weapons policy. This topic was an early passion of mine, while an undergrad physics major at Berkeley in the closing days of the Cold War, so I am happy to participate.

However, I disagree with Cheryl's premise that current U.S. policy is "stuck in the Cold War"; the National Nuclear Security Administration's just-released "Complex Transformation" plan seems like the right plan for continuing to convert our nuclear stockpile to one that is relevant and sustainable for the 21st century.

Three topics I'll cover in this post:
  • Great Power War
  • Stockpile Management
  • Future Challenges
Living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (a city founded solely because of the Manhattan Project in World War II), there are daily reminders of the role this city played in bringing a terrible war to an end. The old guard posts still stand on the Oak Ridge Turnpike and Scarboro Road, and the three facilities with cryptic alphanumeric names (X-10, K-25, Y-12) still adorn signs and maps.

One thing that becomes clear, touring the various historic sites around Oak Ridge, is the magnitude of effort needed to manufacture nuclear weapons. This is not something where a couple centrifuges can be turned on in a basement and voilà! you have material to build a bomb. The undertaking is complicated, laborious and time-consuming -- and this is a good thing. The skill sets needed to preserve and maintain a credible stockpile are scarce -- and this is not so good of a thing (I'll cover this in "stockpile management" below).

This creates a taxonomy of "Nuclear Powers":
  1. Those that have it
  2. Those that want to have it
  3. Those that don't want it
  4. Those who can never make it
Obviously, those in the first category want to preserve their "exclusivity" -- because after all, the logic of nuclear warfare is that you can never logically use them. This led to policies like the Baruch Plan after World War II (which the Soviets rejected because, in their opinion, it would have preserved the U.S. nuclear monopoly) and today's proper emphasis on nuclear non-proliferation (a great success to date, in my opinion).

Since "great power war" has faded in likelihood, some nations have active nuclear research programs -- ostensibly so they can join the "great power club" and garner increased international standing. This demonstrates the continued effectiveness of deterrence within the nation-state system (where even the most despotic rulers are still governed by some semblance of rational self-interest).

The fourth category ("those who can never make it"), therefore, is the most worthy of attention. A transnational terror organization lacks the resources to develop their own program, so they would have to resort to theft in order to obtain a weapon. (Note that I am deliberately focusing on nuclear weapons, not the other varieties of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" like chemical or biological.) Therefore, in order to minimize the likelihood of an al-Qa'eda-like organization obtaining a nuclear weapon, we should focus our attention on stockpile management.

Since the end of the Cold War, many old weapon systems have been dismantled in order to diminish the U.S. arsenal -- both to abide by international treaty obligations, and to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. This requires a labor force with the same skill sets necessary to manufacture weapons: not just physicists and engineers, but master machinists, pipe fitters and other skill trades. This is an area where international cooperation should continue to increase -- especially between Russia (which has the largest cache of weapons in the world) and the United States.

Therefore, the three "core values" of a relevant nuclear policy for the 21st century are:
  1. Maintain a credible deterrent (because it's the dominant "control mechanism" in international politics)
  2. Preserve the industrial base (both for demobilization of existing stock as well as for continued research and development)
  3. Continue emphasizing non-proliferation
We can never put the nuclear djinni "back in the bottle". So long as we live in a world ruled by conflicting interests, total disarmament will never be a practical solution.

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1.8.07

The more things change ...


... the more they stay the same.

I'm in Virginia for my old command's "Industry Symposium", and it's amazing how little has changed since my departure last year.

Gen Lance Smith, USAF, Commander of USJFCOM (as well as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation) noted USJFCOM is "the only interagency combatant command." At least until Africa Command is formally stood up in the coming months.

Even though the complexity of USJFCOM's "social network" is growing exponentially (the biggest change was the inclusion of more collaboration partners in their dialogue regarding force providing, training, integrating and transformation), only now are they looking for tools to help them manage such a complex mesh.

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