National Security

Army, SOCOM Create New Landpower Group

A report card on the surge, Poll: Americans support nuking terrorists, Obama’s Pentagon peeps defend his record, and more.

Welcome to Wednesday's edition of FP's Situation Report, where free speech is always a good thing. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at

The Army and Special Operations Command are starting a new strategic land-power cell. The brand-new initiative, known only to a small group of planners thus far, is the brainchild of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and will take shape over the next few months. The group, which will also include the Marines, is designed to fuse the military's land cultures, from the conventional land power of "Big Army" to the people-oriented skills of Special Forces to technology and cyber efforts. Ultimately, the planning cell could include general officers from each of the major land components, Situation Report is told.

By creating a group focused on integrating those pieces, military strategists believe they can make more effective use of land power -- especially at a time when ground forces, after more than 10 years of war, are perceived to have fallen out of fashion in the hallways of the Pentagon. Ultimately, the effort could have implications for military doctrine, for the integration of conventional and specialized forces, and even for acquisition, according to an individual familiar with the nascent group.

The group's formation is bound to be controversial for the perception it will create at a time of a major budget crunch and the move to Asia - in effect, that the land forces are looking to lobby for more resources and influence But the individual familiar with the group pushes back on the notion that this is anything more than the ground forces taking a strategic approach to working better together.

"The Strategic Landpower initiative is intended to harness the lessons learned over the past decade of population-centric warfare, retain what worked, and then determine what that means for land forces going forward," the person told Situation Report. "Understanding the relationship between people, technology and the environment will improve our efforts to shape the environment in positive ways that prevent war, just as it should allow us to make lasting process in future conflicts if we have to fight."

If it sounds like ground guys will be camping out and singing Kumbaya, remember that for the last decade, particularly in the early years of Iraq and Afghanistan, the ground components' individual elements have worked largely in ad hoc fashion, without understanding each other's culture or even knowing when the other was operating on the battlefield. This has led to frequent clashes. For example, Special Operations Forces have shown up to operate within a conventional unit's "battle space" without informing them first, and conventional units have tracked targets unaware that another ground unit was gathering intelligence from the same target and saw it as a smaller piece in a much bigger battlefield puzzle.

"It was like, ‘Hi, nice to meet you,'" the individual familiar with the group said.

That person was quick to insist that the cell is not an Army effort to counter Air Sea Battle -- the Air Force- and Navy-focused plan created under the auspices of 91-year old Pentagon futurist Andy Marshall in response to a rising China. Army and Marine officers charge that Air Sea Battle is costly and expensive and have poked holes in some of its assumptions. Although Air Sea Battle relies heavily on air and naval power, the Army has a role in it and doesn't begrudge the plan, we're told.

Odierno is expected to announce the formation of the group formally by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, did the surge work? There were four components that needed to work if the surge in Afghanistan, now over, was to work, writes Rajiv Chandrasekaran on FP: Karzai had to be a willing partner, the Pakistani government had to crack down on insurgent sanctuaries, the Afghan security forces had to step up, and the U.S. had to commit to Afghanistan's future, in the form of troops and money, for years ahead. Rajiv looks at each of those pillars. He doesn't draw his own conclusion, but points to Kael Weston, who appears in Rajiv's recent book and argues that Obama should have pledged to a ground force, whatever it was, for a decade; that it was more the length of commitment than its size. Afghanistan, Weston often told Rajiv, is more of a marathon than a sprint. Rajiv: "The surge was a sprint. And America got winded too quickly."

Ahmadinejad's position on a number of things, in advance of his U.N. speech this morning. The Iran Primer primes the pump.

Direct from the Crazy Poll Results Department: Americans accept torture creep. A new poll via YouGov shows that a quarter of all Americans are willing to use nukes to kill terrorists. Amy Zegart on FP: "[T]he poll numbers suggest that Americans have become more hawkish on counterterrorism policy since Barack Obama became president." Here's another surprising result:

In October 2007, a Rasmussen poll showed that 27 percent of Americans surveyed thought the U.S. should torture prisoners captured in the fight against terrorism, while 53 percent said it should not. But in this new YouGov poll, 41 percent said they would accept torture, while only 34 percent said the U.S. should not. And support for assassinating terrorists has grown from 65 percent in a 2005 poll to 69 percent today. More results and analysis here:

Former Pentagon officials turn Obama attack dogs. Three former officials from Obama's Pentagon, including Michele Flournoy, Colin Kahl and Doug Wilson, are all working for the Obama campaign now and, as E-Ring's Kevin Baron terms it, "each walked their own line between policy and partisanship" at a Washington breakfast yesterday. The normally reserved Flournoy poked holes in Mitt Romney's national security rhetoric, even highlighting some of his "bloopers" on Syria and his "distasteful" response to the unrest in the Middle East.


No Rest for Unrest


The Pivot

National Security

Whither JIEDDO?

Why they call the pivot “rebalancing,” Panetta Back to Asia, Moving Beyond Sun Tzu and More.

Welcome to Tuesday's edition of FP's Situation Report, where we always try to avoid bumps in the road. Follow me @glubold or hit me anytime at

 Obama heads to the U.N. to condemn the anti-Muslim video and will speak out against slander, not only against Muslims, but also Christians and Jews. He'll re-affirm his commitment to keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and speak to the conflict in Syria and the state of finding an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. It all comes at a time when Mitt Romney is attempting to slam the president on foreign policy and Obama's lead on that issue has begun to drop. WSJ's story on how the race focuses on foreign policy:

JIEDDO is still having an impact but its future is uncertain. The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, now more than six years old, faces the possibility that it might not remain whole amid a defense budget squeeze and a drawdown from Afghanistan.

That could be a blow to an organization whose mission is to save the lives of service members fighting in Afghanistan, where IEDs cause 60 percent of all casualties.

Here's the data: a JIEDDO official told Situation Report that the "effective attack rate" is down by more than 30 percent from two years ago. Meanwhile, the rate of IEDs that are found and cleared without injury is up: the found-and-cleared rate for IEDs designed for mounted patrols are up from 54 percent a year ago to 65 percent today; the rate for IEDs designed to kill or mail service members on "dismounted" patrols are up from 76 percent a year ago to 78 percent today.

Yet IEDs remain a fearsome constant, even as the U.S. looks to wind down the mission in Afghanistan.

At a hearing late last week, JIEDDO head Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero told a panel that this past July saw the highest number of monthly IED events recorded. "In the past two years, IED events have increased 42 percent, from 9,300 in 2009 to 16,000 in 2011," Barbero testified before the defense subcommittee of the House's Committee on Appropriations. "While the overall number of IED events is high, our ability to find and neutralize them before detonation has improved steadily and significantly -- helping to reduce U.S. casualties by more than 40 percent since last year," Barbero said.

JIEDDO sees the fight against IEDs as a "Darwinian Conflict" in which every success in defeating such killers grows harder as the enemy grows smarter. "As we kill off the dumb ones, the smart, adaptive ones live to fight another day," a JIEDDO official told Situation Report.

But after years of defeating IEDs, JIEDDO itself could be defeated. Read more below.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is behind on predicting another kind of threat: chem-bio. A Pentagon official told E-Ring's Kevin Baron that there's no crystal ball for anticipating how enemies could misuse biotechnology and chemical advances. Gerald Parker, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for chemical and biological defense, is worried about the need to find vaccines that fight not just one thing, but many diseases or pathogens at one time. 

Simon Klingert deconstructs the attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan that killed two Marines and damaged a number of Harriers in what one aviator blogger claims is the "greatest loss in U.S. combat air power since the Vietnam war." A Taliban view of the attack.

Meanwhile, don't let us hear you call it a ‘pivot.' It's very clear these days that when you walk around the Pentagon and chat up folks about the big move to Asia, you'll be quickly put right. It ain't a pivot, we keep being told. It's a rebalancing. We've been corrected enough times during the last week -- while Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Asia -- that it seemed we should ask why we can't call it a pivot. And even some defense officials catch themselves saying "pivot" when of course they mean "rebalance." We knew the answer, but since we failed strategic communications class, we had to ask.

"We use the word rebalance to signal a few things, one we haven't forgotten and we never left the Asia Pacific region," one defense official told Situation Report. "We've been a Pacific nation and our presence has helped security security and prosperity for 60 years... so we're talking about a rebalance." On Asia, the official said, "we never left." 

Speaking of Asia (again)...  As if to prove that the pivot, er, rebalancing, is for real, a defense official pointed out yesterday that there will be a series of high-level engagements in Asia. Indeed, Panetta, who on Saturday returned to the U.S. from a week in Japan, China and New Zealand, will go to Australia in November and visit Asian nations following that stop. Details and itinerary, of course, still being worked out, a defense official told Situation Report.

Will the Chinese say ‘I do'? During Panetta's stop in China last week, American defense officials invited the Chinese to RIMPAC, the big Rim of the Pacific Exercise that takes place every two years. Next one is in 2014, and the Chinese are invited. Word is the RSVP may be returned. Read Kevin's post here: 

Blasphemy! 10 books that are better than ‘The Art of War.' West Point recently released its list of the top 10 military classics, replete, as John Arquilla writes on FP, with "doorstop-sized accounts of conflict" that ignore the more timely topics of insurgency, terrorism, and irregular warfare. So he has his own list, which includes but isn't limited to Sallust's "The Jugurthine War," Glubb's "The Great Arab Conquests," Callwell's "Small Wars" and Reed's "Insurgent Mexico." Arquilla's list also includes "War of the Flea" in which Robert Taber argues that little can stop the weak from wearing down the strong with insurgent warfare. Seems just a wee bit relevant.

JIEDDO, continued. The defense funding crunch, the tightening of wartime budgets, and a bureaucratic desire in the Defense Department to transition JIEDDO into a long-term capability that is resourced accordingly, is underway. One official tells Situation Report that the decision sits on Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter's desk. While the decision doesn't appear imminent, many options are being considered.

JIEDDO could be broken into pieces, possibly assigning its intelligence-gathering operation to another, larger intel organization within the military. Its training mission, integral to its success, could be farmed out to one or more of the services. And its ability to assist in rapid acquisition -- the protective under-garment, or PUG, which protects service members' genitals and was fielded in six months and seen as a rapid acquisition success story -- could be assigned to the Defense Department's office of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. All of these are possibilities that have been bandied about for some time, even under Defense Secretary Robert Gates. But as funding cuts threaten programs -- like JIEDDO, which began in 2006 as a task force to address the number one killer of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan -- defense officials are having to reevaluate a number of programs. JIEDDO is one of them. And its funding, which primarily comes from the Overseas Contingency Operations ("supplemental") account, forces the issue as that funding begins to dry up, too. By the way, JIEDDO's annual funding has dropped from a high of $4.5 billion in 2007 to $2.4 billion this year. 

No Rest for Unrest




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