Sunday, November 29, 2015

‘Gray Zone’ conflicts far more complex to combat, says Socom chief Votel

 Along the lines of "observe" I would say that one of the key contributions SOF can make is through area assessments, civil information management, and target audience analysis all of which contribute to the most important aspect of the human domain:  situational understanding - we have to move past situational awareness which can be provided by drones, and technical intelligence to situational understanding which allows us to understand the conditions and strategies which will allow us to devise policies and strategies and campaign plans to protect our interests.  And in some cases situational understanding may lead to an appropriate decision to not act.

Excerpts:

So given all that, what can special operators do in the Gray Zone?
“We are most valued-added when we can engage early ... and can get out and understand what’s happening in the areas and helpidentify options for our political leadership and other military leaders out there to help them address, prevent, deter actions from taking place out there,” Votel said. “What I think the Gray Zone offers to us, is the ability to get out there to shape, or detour, or influence things before they become catastrophes. That’s kind of the big idea, we want to get left of problems, and not just show up and try to deal with a bad situation.”
Though they don’t get the kind of headlines spurred by direct action missions like the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, one of Special Operations Forces’ main efforts is to observe, train and equip host nation forces in those Gray Zones.
Those kinds of training missions are taking place in Iraq, with the Iraqi Security Forces and Kurds, and have been set in motion for Kurds and Arabs in Syria.
But they also take place around the globe, Votel stressed.
​My thesis:

The future is characterized (not exclusively of course) by states and non-state actors conducting UW (revolution, resistance and insurgency (RRI)) and thus there is a requirement to conduct Counter-UW. SOF is organized, educated, trained, equipped and optimized for both
​ ​
(but does not conduct them unilaterally or in a vacuum but as one element of the means in support of a joint campaign and national strategy)
​Special Warfare (including u
nconventional warfare
, counter-unconventional warfare and support to political warfare​)
 can provide a strategic capability to operate in this gap
​ (the gray zone between peace and war)​
.  To be effective, elements of the US military and Intelligence Community must continuously assess potential, nascent, and existing resistance organizations around the world on a day-to-day basis.  Assessments will contribute to understanding when USG interests and resistance objectives can be aligned and provide the intellectual foundation to determine if a UW campaign is warranted or if opponents’ UW campaigns should be countered
​.

​And a standing "PIR" for resistance (
​basic ​
information that should be sought on every deployment):

•Who is the resistance?
–Leaders, groups, former military, in or out of government, etc.
•What are the objectives of the resistance?
–Do they align with US and friends, partners, and allies?
•Where is it operating?
–From where is it getting support?
•When did it begin?
–When will it/did it commence operations?
•Why is there a resistance or the potential for resistance?
–What are the underlying causes/drivers?
•How will it turn out?
–E.g., what is the assessment of success or failure of the resistance?
•Most important  -  An expert recommendation: Should the US support or counter the resistance and if so how?

‘Gray Zone’ conflicts far more complex to combat, says Socom chief Votel


Army Gen. Joseph Votel calls the Islamic State “a non-state actor attempting to operate like a state.” TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO
Army Gen. Joseph Votel calls the Islamic State “a non-state actor attempting to operate like a state.” TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO
By Howard Altman | Tribune Staff Howard Altman on Google+
Published: November 28, 2015   |   Updated: November 28, 2015 at 09:51 PM
TAMPA — Between peace and all-out war exists the Gray Zone.
To Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, the Gray Zone is a familiar place of ambiguity. It’s a place where the Islamic State operates. A place where Russia has taken on Ukraine.
And it’s home to many other spots, hot, lukewarm or otherwise, around the globe.
“The Gray Zone,” said Votel, “really defines this area between ... for the most part healthy economic, political competition between states, and open warfare.”
It’s a place, he said, where “actors, sometimes state actors and sometimes non-state actors, act in a manner just below what would normally take us into normal open warfare.”
In September, Socom, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, issued a paper on Gray Zone challenges. The paper says that while traditional war might have been the dominant means of deadly conflict, Gray Zone challenges have now become the norm, and that countering foes like the former Soviet Union in many ways proved far less complex than taking on current adversaries.
Last week, Votel sat down to talk to The Tampa Tribune about his vision for Gray Zone conflicts, how the command he leads fits into that paradigm, and how commandos are ideally suited for a mental and physical space that challenges much of what we have come to know about the nature of conflict.
“It is certainly the most challenging environment that I have experienced in 35 years of military service,” Votel said.
It is an especially important topic, given that the Gray Zone is a space that Army Green Berets, Rangers, Delta Force and aviators, Navy SEALs and special warfare boat crews, Marine Raiders and Air Force special operators will be operating in for many years to come
(Continued at the link below)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thoughts on Countering Unconventional Warfare

Given Section 1097 of the National Defense Authorization Act directing the SECDEF to develop a strategy to counter unconventional warfare we need now give some thought to this issue since it is in the act passed by Congress.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1735/text#toc-H57D78DE2C41D4347BF5202B774B80E94    

Let me provide you with a few comments and some background.  If you have not seen the White Papers from USASOC on Political Warfare and Counter-Unconventional Warfare I recommend perusing them.  They can be downloaded from my blog at the links below. 

I have been focused on countering unconventional warfare for years for a number of reasons.

1)  Our enemies are conducting their unique forms of unconventional warfare; Russia, Iran, China, Al Qaeda, ISIS (I think AQ and ISIS are much broader than "simply" terrorist organizations.  We need to recognize the strategies they are using and attack those strategies.  And of course we have to effectively operate in the "Gray Zone" that space between peace and war where the majority of threats operate and conflict occurs.

2)  By focusing on our enemies conducting their unique forms of UW my intention is to influence people to recognize that we have to operate in the Special Warfare realm and not just the Surgical Strike realm (though I want both/and and not either/or - we have to effectively employ both capabilities in a complementary and mutually supporting way).  

3)  I believe that focusing on terrorism has caused us to think too tactically while a focus on UW can drive us to think more strategically and holistically about the problems we face which are complex political and military problems.

4)  I am disappointed that the NDAA focuses on DOD but of course that is all the HASC can really influence.  I think that USASOC's White paper makes it clear that DOD cannot be the lead in Political Warfare (which includes counter unconventional warfare) but that SOF makes a unique DOD contribution to its conduct.

More of my thoughts are in the commentary in posts at my blog links below.

SOF Support to Political Warfare

USASOC Counter Unconventional Warfare White Paper

USSOCOM White Paper- The Gray Zone


The ‘new’ type of war that finally has the Pentagon’s attention


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Obama signs defense bill, finalizing military retirement overhaul

Here is what Speaker Ryan says about the President signing the NDAA 2016 today.  Below the Speaker's statement I have pasted my favorite section (1097) fro the NDAA directing the SECDEF to develop a DOD strategy to counter unconventional warfare threats.  Below that I included the language from the markup from the HASC subcommittee which mentions both Russia and Iran.  Notice what the Military Times highlights in the article - including development of gender neutral standards and as the title says a retirement overhaul.

November 25, 2015|Speaker Ryan's Press Office
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement after President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act passed by the House of Representatives in a vote of 370-58 on November 5, 2015:
"By signing this legislation, President Obama is now required to come up with a real, comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS. That is the ultimate solution to this crisis. In addition, his signature reaffirms longstanding prohibitions on the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States. Overall, this bill takes the next steps to building the 21st century military that we need. I commend Chairman Mac Thornberry and the House Armed Services Committee for their leadership on behalf of our troops and their families."


https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/1735/text#toc-H57D78DE2C41D4347BF5202B774B80E94      SEC. 1097. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE STRATEGY FOR COUNTERING UNCONVENTIONAL WARFARE.
(a) Strategy Required.—The Secretary of Defense shall, in consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the heads of other appropriate departments and agencies of the United States Government, develop a strategy for the Department of Defense to counter unconventional warfare threats posed by adversarial state and non-state actors.
(b) Elements.—The strategy required under subsection (a) shall include each of the following:
(1) An articulation of the activities that constitute unconventional warfare threats to the United States and allies.
(2) A clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the Department of Defense in providing indications and warning of, and protection against, acts of unconventional warfare.
(3) An analysis of the adequacy of current authorities and command structures necessary for countering unconventional warfare.
(4) An articulation of the goals and objectives of the Department of Defense with respect to countering unconventional warfare threats.
(5) An articulation of related or required interagency capabilities and whole-of-Government activities required by the Department of Defense to support a counter-unconventional warfare strategy.
(6) Recommendations for improving the counter-unconventional warfare capabilities, authorities, and command structures of the Department of Defense.
(7) Recommendations for improving interagency coordination and support mechanisms with respect to countering unconventional warfare threats.
(8) Recommendations for the establishment of joint doctrine to support counter-unconventional warfare capabilities within the Department of Defense.
(9) Any other matters the Secretary of Defense considers appropriate.
(c) Submittal To Congress.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees the strategy required by subsection (a). The strategy shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may include a classified annex.

(d) Unconventional Warfare Defined.—In this section, the term “unconventional warfare” means activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.



Section 10XX—Department of Defense Strategy for Countering Unconventional Warfare 

 This section would required the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the President and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to develop a strategy for the Department of Defense to counter unconventional warfare threats posed by adversarial state and non-state actors. This section would require the Secretary of Defense to submit the strategy to the congressional defense committees within 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act. The committee is concerned about the growing unconventional warfare capabilities and threats being posed most notably and recently by the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The committee notes that unconventional warfare is defined most accurately as those activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area. The committee also notes that most state-sponsors of unconventional warfare, such as Russia and Iran, have doctrinally linked conventional warfare, economic warfare, cyber warfare, information operations, intelligence operations, and other activities seamlessly in an effort to undermine U.S. national security objectives and the objectives of U.S. allies alike. 


Obama signs defense bill, finalizing military retirement overhaul

  • by 5:32 P.M. Est November 25, 2015 
  •  Nov. 25, 2015 
  •  2 min read 
  •  original
After an extra month wait, the annual defense authorization bill is finally law.
President Obama signed the budget and policy bill on Wednesday, marking the 54th consecutive year the measure has survived Washington political fights to become law.
The most significant result for troops is the renewal of dozens of specialty pay and bonus authorities, and a massive overhaul of the military retirement system.
Starting in 2018, newly enlisted troops will no longer have the traditional 20-year, all-or-nothing retirement plan. Under the changes, it will be replaced with a blended pension and investment system, featuring automatic contributions to troops' Thrift Savings Plans and an opportunity for government matches to personal contributions.
The new system is expected to give roughly four in five service members some sort of retirement benefit when they leave the military, as opposed to the current system which benefits only one in five.
The $607 billion authorization bill also includes comprehensive defense acquisition reform and language designed to stop Obama from closing the detention facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
White House officials had objected to that language and hinted at a possible veto. But similar language in the measure each of the last six years didn't stop the president from signing past authorization measures into law.
Obama did veto an earlier draft of this fiscal 2016 authorization bill, but over broader fiscal fights that were resolved last month when lawmakers approved a new two-year spending plan that goes around mandatory budget caps for both defense and nondefense programs.
The legislation is only half the annual budget process for Congress. Lawmakers still need to pass a defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2016 to start new programs and acquisition plans. Congressional leaders are hopeful that can be done before Dec. 11, when a short-term budget extension expires.
But finalizing the annual defense authorization bill is a significant step forward in that larger process, and gives Pentagon planners a host of other policy updates as well:
  • Allowing personal firearms on stateside bases — Lawmakers are requiring Defense Secretary Ash Carter to develop a plan by the end of this year that would allow stateside base commanders to decide whether to allow their service members to carry personal firearms on duty, or in areas where that is currently restricted by the military. Any such plan would not supercede local laws.
  • A pay freeze for general and flag officers — Troops will see a 1.3 percent pay increase in January, lower than the rate of expected private-sector wage growth but more than their senior officers will get. General and flag officer pay will stay at fiscal 2015 levels.
  • Another ban on a new BRAC round — Like in past years, the measure includes a prohibition on defense officials starting another base closing round. But lawmakers did include language allowing military officials to conduct studies on how much excess capacity exists in their stateside footprint, which could ease the path to such a move in the future.
  • A ban on "paid patriotism" with sports leagues — The bill includes language that would prohibit the department from entering into contracts "making payments for honoring members of the Armed Forces at sporting events," in response to congressional reports that several professional sports teams were given tens of thousands of dollars to conduct on-field military appreciation events.
  • Easier rules for military animal adoption — The measure changes the rules on adopting military dogs and other animals to make it easier for former handlers and families of injured handlers to adopt them following their military service.
  • Developing "gender-neutral" standards for military jobs — In response to a push to open more military specialties to female troops, lawmakers want Pentagon leaders to craft "gender-neutral occupational standards" that would allow "decisions on assignments (to) be based on objective analysis."
Read or Share this story: http://militari.ly/1jkjPQ2

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tactical Operations for Strategic Effect: The Challenge of Currency Conversion

The 48 page report can be downloaded here. http://jsou.libguides.com/ld.php?content_id=16765138

Anything by Colin Gray is worth reading.

I think this is very important:

As Dr. Gray posits, "the concepts of tactics and strategy are ones misused abusively on a habitual and widespread basis throughout the U.S. defense community." The author makes the case that "tactics concern military action, strategy is all about the consequences of such behavior." If there is confusion about these two concepts—and the author believes there is—then charting a sensible relationship between them is impossible. This monograph attempts to clear up that confusion by using historical examples where strategy and tactics have failed each other. One such historical example is the lack of strategy issued by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In fact, Dr. Gray contends that "If any single factor is able to lead in explanation of the failure of the [Confederate States' Army] CSA in the Civil War, most plausibly it was the persisting neglect, even just incomprehension, of strategy." The author argues the tactical action and strategic effect disconnect is repeated throughout U.S. military history including the current conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
Tactical Operations for Strategic Effect: The Challenge of Currency Conversion

   


Foreword

            Dr. Colin Gray's Tactical Operations for Strategic Effect: The Challenge of Currency Conversion examines in depth the conversion of tactical behavior with its strategic consequences. This topic should be of great interest to the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community because special operations has recently been the 'option of choice' when dealing with various foreign policy crises. SOF are sent on these missions because of their skills and small-scale mission sets. More importantly, however, is the belief that these tactical operations will have a strategic effect. Unfortunately, that conversion does not always happen. Dr. Gray addresses this conversion by breaking down what is meant by using the term tactical versus strategic. As Dr. Gray posits, "the concepts of tactics and strategy are ones misused abusively on a habitual and widespread basis throughout the U.S. defense community." The author makes the case that "tactics concern military action, strategy is all about the consequences of such behavior." If there is confusion about these two concepts—and the author believes there is—then charting a sensible relationship between them is impossible. This monograph attempts to clear up that confusion by using historical examples where strategy and tactics have failed each other. One such historical example is the lack of strategy issued by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In fact, Dr. Gray contends that "If any single factor is able to lead in explanation of the failure of the [Confederate States' Army] CSA in the Civil War, most plausibly it was the persisting neglect, even just incomprehension, of strategy." The author argues the tactical action and strategic effect disconnect is repeated throughout U.S. military history including the current conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

            Dr. Gray's analysis is broken down into three main parts: problem, argument, and solution. The first part, the problem, explores the disharmony between the levels of action and desired consequences. For the SOF community, this problem addresses how "SOF should be conducted with, and in purposeful devotion to, action and other activities that contain or represent strategic sense for the promotion of the desired effect." While this sounds straightforward in theory, Dr. Gray reminds the reader it is difficult to obey in practice. The second part, the argument, distinguishes between the two sets of ideas of strategy and tactics and explains why the distinction is of vital importance. SOF tactical actions are assumed to be highly skillful, yet these actions are often dismissed as strategically insignificant based on the small scale of the operation. Gray argues that strategic is not another word meaning big or large in scale but rather the value of SOF can be found in their ability to strategically target a critically important part of an enemy. In the final part, the solution, the author argues that SOF operations need to be better understood by those outside and inside the SOF community. Dr. Gray states that "neither the SOF community nor the rest of the military establishment, including the allies, really understands the proper roles that should be assigned SOF." The goal is to have the necessary direction and leadership providing solid strategic sense so SOF may achieve the effects needed to advance U.S. policy. This will not be easy, nor will it happen quickly, but getting it right will allow tactical operations to convert to strategic effect for the nation.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's Time to Upgrade the Defense Department

This initiative is long overdue.  Below are some comments that I made in response to to the one by Colin Clark in Breaking Defense today.  My 2009 proposal for a new national security act is at the link below as is a link to my blog with the political warfare white paper.

Comments:

From a Mentor:
It would be helpful if they asked if DOD is best of organized to execute it's role in political warfare....and then conclude we need a Joint Special Warfare command.

This would be in line with section 1097 of the NDAA which directs the SECDEF to come up with a strategy for countering unconventional warfare which is something I have been working on for a long time.

At this link  is the USASOC White Paper on SOF Support to Political Warfare.  

Some good questions below.  It will be interesting to read what Jim Locher says in his testimony.  Here is my short answer to a next Goldwater-Nichols.  Consider development of a professional National Security Corps of professional practitioners who are educated and trained in the national security process of how to make policy and strategy and then are assigned throughout the interagency (with assignments to multiple agencies over their careers)  to ensure all agencies have sufficient focus on the national security mission.  Jim Locher once told me that there are only two executive branch agencies that claim national security and national defense as their primary overarching mission and that is DOD and the CIA.  My 2009 recommendations are at this link: http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/a-national-security-act-of-2009


Since the choice and testimony of witnesses is crucial to the Kabuki of Hill hearings, t’s most interesting that Jim Locher, described by the committee as “a primary author of Goldwater-Nichols,” is expected to say that the US military “has not adapted its organizational approaches to keep up with the world it faces.”

Locker, who now works with the Joint Special Operations University, will tell the SASC that “decision-making must be faster, more collaborative, and more decentralized. The Pentagon’s inadequate capacity represents a major deficiency.”

Ultimately, Locher will tell the SASC that, even though the US military performs better than most of the rest of the government, that still isn’t enough, especially in the face of enormous changes in threats, economics and other globals strategy drivers.


Conclusion:

This oversight initiative is not a set of solutions in search of problems. We will neither jump to conclusions nor address only symptoms. We will take the time to look deeply for the incentives and root causes that drive behavior. And we will always, always be guided by that all-important principle: First, do no harm.

It is my hope that the cause of reform will not be ours alone. Reforming, reshaping, and reimagining our defense institutions to meet the challenges of a more dangerous world will require drawing on the wisdom of our nation’s best defense experts, so many of whom are War on the Rocks contributors and readers. I hope our oversight initiative will start a broader conversation that will help inform and improve our reform efforts.

Finally, this must and will be a bipartisan endeavor. Defense reform is not a Republican or Democratic issue, and we will keep it that way. These are vital national security issues, and we must seek to build a consensus about how to improve the organization and operation of the Department of Defense in ways that can and will be advanced by whomever wins next year’s elections. Such bipartisanship is in keeping with the best traditions of the Senate Armed Services Committee and all those charged with providing for the common defense.

It's Time to Upgrade the Defense Department

  • by Sen. John Mccain 
  •  Nov. 10, 2015 
  •  6 min read 
  •  original
The worldwide threats confronting our nation, now and in the future, have never been more complex, uncertain, and daunting. America will not succeed in the 21st century with anything less than the most innovative, agile, efficient, and effective defense organization. I have not met a senior civilian or military leader who thinks we have that today.
That’s why the Senate Armed Services Committee is conducting a major oversight initiative on the future of defense reform. The purpose of this effort is to ask what problems are impeding the performance of the Department of Defense, define these problems clearly, and rigorously consider what reforms may be necessary. Last month, we began a series of hearings to consider the strategic context and global challenges facing the United States, defense strategy, the future of warfare, the civilian and military organizations of the Department of Defense, and its acquisition, personnel, and management systems. Much of this is the legacy of the Goldwater-Nichols reforms that were enacted in 1986. These will be the subject of the committee’s hearing today.
In no way is this effort a criticism of the many patriotic, mission-focused public servants, both in and out of uniform, who sacrifice every day, here at home and around the world, to keep us safe. To the contrary, it is precisely because we have such outstanding people that we must strive to remove impediments in our defense organizations that would squander the talents of our troops and civil servants.
Some would argue that the main problems facing the Department of Defense come from the White House, the National Security Council staff, the interagency process, and the Congress. I couldn’t agree more, especially about the dysfunction of Congress. But as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told the committee at the start of our defense reform effort, the problems inside the Defense Department are real and serious.
In constant dollars, our nation is spending almost the same amount on defense as we were 30 years ago. But for this money today, we are getting 35 percent fewer combat brigades, 53 percent fewer ships, 63 percent fewer combat air squadrons, and significantly more overhead — though exactly how much is difficult to establish, because the Department of Defense does not even have complete and reliable data, as GAO has repeatedly found.
MCCAIN-1Defense Spending vs. Active Combat Units, Fiscal Years 1985-2015 (FY16 constant $M). Source: CRS, CBO.
Of course, our armed forces are more capable now than 30 years ago, but our adversaries are also more capable — some exponentially so. At the same time, many of the weapons in our arsenal today — our aircraft, ships, tanks, fighting vehicles, rifles, missiles, and strategic forces — are the products of the military modernization of the 1980s. And no matter how much more capable our troops and weapons are today, they are not capable of being in two places at once.
Our declining combat capacity cannot be divorced from the problems in our defense acquisition system, which one high-level study summed up as follows:
[T]he defense acquisition system has basic problems that must be corrected. These problems are deeply entrenched and have developed over several decades from an increasingly bureaucratic and overregulated process. As a result, all too many of our weapon systems cost too much, take too long to develop, and, by the time they are fielded, incorporate obsolete technology.
Sounds right. But that was the Packard Commission, written in 1986. Since then, cost overruns and schedule delays on major defense acquisitions have only gotten worse. Defense programs are now nearly 50 percent over budget and, on average, over two years delayed. It is telling that perhaps the most significant defense procurement success story of the last several decades — the MRAP — was produced by going around the acquisition system, not through it.
(Continued at the link below)

How U.S., South Korean Special Ops Would Join Forces in a New Korean War

Of course it would not be a new Korean War but a continuation of the current one that was temporarily suspended by the 1953 Armistice.  But...