By Robert Kozloski
Best Defense guest commenter
When talking about reducing defense budgets, metaphors involving body parts abound -- cutting the fat, giving a haircut, cutting into the muscle (even to the bone), and tooth-to-tail ratios to name a few. Here is another -- the appendectomy.
Natural evolution renders the appendix as one of those body parts humans can do without. Yet, the human body clings to it because the current model has been that way for a long time. The Marine Corps faces a similar situation.
After a decade of war and being aware that the size of the Marine Corps would be reduced from surge-level highs, the USMC Force Structure Review Group identified that the operational "sweet spot" for the Corps of the future is somewhere between traditional army units and special operations teams.
Institutionally committing to this sweet spot and focusing on smaller unit operations provide opportunities for the Marine Corps to deal with the fiscal pressure facing the entire DOD.
Some options to consider:
Eliminate Duplicative Headquarters: If divisions and wings are no longer the right size units, can they be eliminated and battalions and squadrons aligned directly to MEFs and MEBs? Could the entire 0-6 level of command in the operating forces be eliminated?
Think Naval: Consolidate and integrate with the Navy. For example, the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command was created in response to 9/11 and maintains capabilities similar to those in a MEF. Can the two naval forces be better aligned? Should a new Naval Expeditionary Combat Element become the fifth element of the MAGTF, thus creating a true Naval Expeditionary Force? Could the Marines become the naval executive agent for Irregular Warfare for the naval services, while the Navy reciprocates for cyberspace?
SOF Integration: Instead of duplicating existing SOF capabilities, SOCOM should assign missions to the MEU(SOC) while NAVSPECWARCOM could integrate all naval special warfare capabilities. To increase the Marines' SOF presence in the future, ANGLICO teams should replace Air Force personnel on the ground and free the USAF to commit resources to SOF aviation requirements.
Use the Total Force: By requiring "Civilian Marines" to deploy to the field for administrative work, entire military career fields could be eliminated. Non-sweet spot units designed primarily to fight major wars should be moved to the reserves. The Marine Corps should also close the gap between its enlisted and officers. Some of the future high-end missions being considered for the Marines require a more mature and specialized enlisted force.
Marine Aviation: The schism between Navy aviators and ground units isn't what it used to be. Could Navy tactical fixed-wing squadrons be placed in support of Marine units to get the Marine Corps out of the fixed-wing aviation business?
Initial Accessions: Close one of the two recruit training depots. If a Korea, Vietnam, or Iraq type surge is needed, build temporary facilities at 29 Palms, CA or Quantico, VA to augment the throughput.
Defenders of the status quo will resist any significant change to the organizational structure within the Marine Corps. This defense will likely involve using a flawed planning system, rich service history, and unacceptable risk to national security as elements of the defense. However, removing components that are no longer necessary because of the evolution to smaller unit operations may help preserve capacity and resolve long standing problems. Obviously, reducing force structure from the Marine Corps is a measure of last resort and should only be considered after efforts to resolve the excessive overhead problem within DOD have been exhausted.
Robert Kozloski is a program analyst for the Department of the Navy and served in the Marine Corps from 1997 to 2007. He is the author of "Marching Toward the Sweet Spot: Options for the Marine Corps in a Time of Austerity" in the new ish of the Naval War College Review. The views expressed are his alone.
"The Chief of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch of the U.S. Air Force was arrested and charged with sexual battery in Arlington over the weekend."
As several e-mailers noted yesterday, you can't make this stuff up.
U.S. Air Force/Arlington County Police
By Joel Wing
Best Defense officer of Iraqi statistical analysis
Iraq recently saw a huge increase in the number of attacks and casualties in April 2013. Iraq Body Count recorded 561 deaths for the month, the highest since August 2009, while the United Nations reported 712 killed, the most since June 2008. That caused Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to go on national TV to call for calm, and warn against the rise of sectarianism and violence. (3) The cause of the deterioration in security is the combination of an ongoing offensive by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and retaliatory attacks by other insurgent groups for the government raiding a protest site in the town of Hawija in Kirkuk province. The former will eventually end, while the latter could lead to increased support for militants. Either way, it appears that talk of a renewed civil war is premature. Yes, militants are becoming more active in the country, but they are for the most part isolated in certain areas; Shiites are relying upon the government to respond to them rather than militias, and the majority of the population is going about their business.
Al Qaeda in Iraq launched its latest offensive in December 2012. That was marked by increased casualty rates, high profile, mass casualty attacks, and bombings in southern parts of the country. On April 29, for instance, two car bombs went off in central Karbala, two more detonated in Amarah in Maysan governorate, followed by another vehicle-based device exploding in Diwaniya the next day. Operations in southern Iraq are a hallmark of AQI's offensives, and take advanced planning, intelligence gathering, and the stocking of supplies, because they take place outside of where the group usually works. Recently, al Qaeda has been able to launch larger offensives and sustain them for longer, because they have witnessed an increase in fighters, and a lack of resistance by the Iraqi security forces. After the U.S. withdrew in 2011, it emptied its prisons leading to many detainees going right back to fighting. The Iraqi army and police also no longer carry out counterinsurgency operations after the exit of the Americans, and are more of a reactive force now carrying out raids and mass arrests, which cannot prevent attacks, and cause resentment against those areas that are targeted. This campaign will eventually end, likely in a month or two, as AQI runs out of supplies and has to restock. That will cause a decrease in deaths, until it ramps up again in the summer as it has during the last few years. The media usually misses this ebb and flow in insurgent operations, focusing instead upon the monthly casualty totals, rather than analyzing the larger trends.
Another source of increased instability is the reaction to the government's raid upon a protest site in the town of Hawija. On April 23, Iraqi security forces moved into the camp looking for assailants who had attacked a nearby checkpoint, which killed one soldier and left three wounded. The demonstrators had been given an ultimatum to turn over the attackers, but did not respond. The organizers were also connected to the Baathist Naqshibandi Army insurgent group, providing another impetus for the government to act. Following the raid, protesters and militants carried out a series of retaliatory strikes across Anbar, Salahaddin, Diyala, Ninewa, and Tamim provinces, while several activists said they were giving up peaceful protests and taking up armed opposition to Baghdad. This is far more dangerous than the al Qaeda in Iraq offensive because it could mark a sea change in public opinion amongst some Sunnis. Some protest leaders like Sheikh Abu Risha of the Awakening Movement in Ramadi have called for moderation since the Hawija incident, but the vast majority is pushing for arming themselves, at least in self-defense, if not outright opposition to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This could turn many young Sunni men towards militancy, and give groups like the Naqshibandi and the Islamic Army of Iraq a new source of support and recruitment. These organizations have a much broader appeal to Iraqis than al Qaeda, because they have presented themselves as nationalist groups out to protect Sunnis from the Shiite government, rather than being part of a global jihad against the West. If the insurgents are able to make headway with the demonstrators, that could increase violence over the long-term.
Still, the combination of al Qaeda in Iraq's offensives and growing support for the wider insurgency does not mean that Iraq is heading towards a new civil war. First, most operations by militants are in specific cities, and even then only affect a small percentage of the population. (10) Even cities like Baghdad, that have the largest number of deaths, might only have 100-150 per month out of population of over 7 million. Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar can see a steady stream of dead and wounded each month, while Haditha and Rutba hardly have any throughout the entire year. This localized nature of violence means that the vast majority of Iraqis are not affected unless they live in certain areas or neighborhoods. Second, the Iraqi civil war from 2005-2008 was marked by Sunni insurgents being met by Shiite militias. So far, the Shiite community is relying upon the government to take care of security rather than taking matters into their own hands. This is despite constant efforts by al Qaeda in Iraq to incite them by bombing every religious holiday and event. All together that means that Iraq is in for a rough immediate future with casualty figures likely going up, but it is nothing like the peak of violence when Sunnis and Shiites were at each others' throats and large swaths of the country were being cleansed. The real problem in Iraq is not the activities of the insurgency, but rather the political deadlock in Baghdad. That's likely to take a generation to resolve, and should get a lot more attention than the daily images of bombings and shootings in the country.
Joel Wing is an Iraq analyst at the Musings On Iraq blog.
AZHAR SHALLAL/AFP/Getty Images
Well, there had been some warning signs: Just over a decade ago he was charged with showing his homemade porn to cadets, but got off for lack of evidence, even though his voice could be heard on the tape saying "get her while she's drunk." The camera was hidden inside a "stuffed bear," according to the Edmonton Sun.
Meanwhile, in the last refuge of scoundrels department, an Ohio woman named Cari Johnson, who raised charity money via the "First Annual Patriotic Freedom Ride" last year, was found to have used some of the donated money at liquor stores. She'll pay a $20,000 fine.
(HT to MY)
Quote of the day is from Tony Judt, now unfortunately gone: "the market for history books is enormous, but most professional historians are simply unable to satisfy it." (P. 263, Thinking the 20th Century)
By the way, Judt's book Postwar is essential reading for, among others, anyone interested in the effect of World War II on Europe.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
While watching the April 21st 60 Minutes segment on Special Ops dogs, I wasn't at all surprised to see that they ran the above photo of a U.S. Army handler with the 10th Special Forces Group and his MWD jumping off the ramp of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter into the Gulf of Mexico on March 1, 2011.
It's now been two years since we ran that photo as the opener to my FP photo essay "War Dog," after which the piece and the image went viral. At the time, people incorrectly assumed that I had taken the photo. I hadn't, of course. But the man who did was Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez, a career military photographer with the Air Force. I spoke with Martinez this week to find out what was going on behind the lens that day and to get the story of what's likely the most widely recognizable -- and most often used -- war-dog image of modern day.
As a combat photographer with flying status, Martinez, originally from a small town in New Mexico, has had a wild range of assignments -- from covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to riding along on search and rescue missions in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was during the Katrina mission that Martinez shot a photo of a little boy being hoisted in the arms of Tech. Sgt. Lem Torres up into a helicopter from the roof of his flooded home. For Martinez, the experience was life altering. It was, he said, the first photo he took that really mattered.
He had no idea that some six years later, while cramped in the back of a CH-47 Chinook watching Special Ops teams run through routine water-training exercises, he would be taking what would become his most famous photo. They loaded the helicopter again and again, picking up SOC teams and dropping them the roughly seven feet from the helicopter into the water. Even if it was something of a rote mission, the guys, Martinez remembers, were having fun. "Everybody was all excited, all hyped. It was the Gulf of Mexico...it was beautiful."
But when Martinez saw on one of their pick-ups that they were loading a dog into the helicopter, he thought, "Holy crap. I have to get ready for it."
The dog team was the last of the teams to take their jump that day. And when it was their turn to go, the other men, already in the water, were cheering them on -- men who are also captured in this image. As many times as I've looked at this photo, it was something I'd never noticed before. But Martinez pointed them out to me, directing my eyes over the phone. If you look at the dog's muzzle, you can see them -- small and faint in a thin, vertical line, like gray shadows in the pink water. You can even see that the man who appears closest in the frame has his arm raised in triumphant encouragement.
In the end, Martinez says, the moment was fleeting. The dog team jumped out of sight and the helicopter returned to base.
Perhaps the most incredible thing that Martinez revealed during our conversation was the answer to a question I've had since the very first time I saw this photo, and one I've heard debated ever since. Did this dog jump willingly or did he have a little...help?
According to Martinez, the dog "did hop out" on his own steam.
From his vantage point in the Chinook, Martinez could see that the handler had his hand on the dog's harness, coaxing the dog, who hesitated, even if only slightly, at the edge of the ramp. "Ultimately," Martinez said, "it was the dog's effort."
When handler and dog jumped down into the water, they jumped together.
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.
Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez, U.S. Air Force. (Released)
The other day FP carried a standard carriers-are-great piece by a trio of admirals. A friend of mine, appalled at what he regarded as the ostrich-like views of the high-ranking authors, sent a corrective note to me:
Key questions to be considered would be:
- To what degree will China be able to impede our ability to freely use carriers in the Pacific in the future?
- How willing would U.S. political leadership be to commit carriers in a high-threat environment where China would view a negative outcome for them as a threat to the survival of the Party (recognizing that in that culture every defeat, even small ones, are a threat to the survival of the Party)?
- Would POTUS commit a carrier if there was a 10 percent chance it would be hit?
- How about 20 percent, or 30 percent?
- How many of the vertical launch tubes on the destroyers and cruisers are committed to defending the carrier vs. carrying Tomahawks to carry out power-projection missions?
- When does the Navy come in a la Bay of Pigs and say that it can only operate carriers forward to accomplish the mission if it is allowed to hit targets on the mainland, placing CONUS at risk to reprisal, and how does the president respond?
- When does the POTUS realize that for years we have built platforms that we cannot afford to lose, either in monetary cost or the cost of lives? That is the key question. Rule number three of war is never build a weapon that you cannot afford to lose or have defeated. We seem to proceed on an assumption that no one will ever attack our carriers. I think the Chinese will see themselves as being in a position that they cannot afford NOT to attack our carriers.
- How does this all affect our position vis a vis Japan, the Philippines, Australia, and India? All of those relationships will be at risk if we don't have an alternative.
Final thought: The Navy has already accepted that the fleet is going to shrink to 270 ships, and I am here to tell you that it will go smaller than that, probably 230 before this is all done. This is largely because all of those ships that were built by Reagan are all retiring at the same time and we are not building replacements at the same rate right now. That will be the price of maintaining 10-11 supercarriers at $12-13 billion with an annual shipbuilding budget of $15 billion. The price will decrease overall naval presence, and raise questions as to the U.S. commitment to local security concerns.
I'm just sick of ‘em and all their BS. The piece runs in the Sunday Washington Post.
More relevant to this blog, my boss at Foreign Policy, Susan Glasser, wants to do away with "red lines." But then how will people from Silver Spring and Bethesda get to work?
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.