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Military Affairs


God Speed, CAPT Carroll LeFon (Neptunus Lex)

It’s been a tough week.  A good friend and neighbor died this week after a year long bout with cancer.  He put up a hell of a fight.

Then, last night, I learned that milblogger extraordinaire and retired naval aviator Carroll LeFon had been killed when his F21 Kfir fighter jet crashed near the west gate of Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada.

Lex, as most people knew him, was probably one of the best writers in the milblog community, bar none.  A retired Navy Captain and former carrier squadron commander, he loved flying and detested “life in a cube”.  After retirementNeptunusLex he managed to land a dream job for men of his ilk – flying fighter jets for a civilian company contracted to provide the opposing force for naval aviators at the TOPGUN school.  Lex, during his active duty days, had been the Executive Officer at that school.

I had the privilege of meeting Lex at one of the milblog conferences and then, over the years, kept up an on again, off again email  relationship with him.  I enjoyed our conversations immensely and I was a huge fan of his blog.  I mostly lurked because, well, I’m a grunt and that wasn’t my world, but I learned more about naval aviation and aviation in general than I would have ever learned elsewhere.   I also enjoyed his slant on other topics as well.  He had a large and engaged commenting community, the sign of a healthy and well-loved blog.

The stories in tribute to him are just now starting to come out.  There’ll be more as the days go by.  He was a heck of a guy, a brilliant writer, a man who loved and adored his family and died doing what he loved best – flying a high performance aircraft.

His last post at the blog was a bit eerie but pretty much stated his philosophy best when it came to what he was doing.  He’d had a drag chute malfunction on landing and had to “wrestle snakes”, as he put it, for a bit before finally landing the aircraft safely.

When I taxied back to the line the maintenance guys told me to go away for 10 minutes. Just in case the brakes might, you know: Catch fire. Which they didn’t, so no harm done.

It’s funny how quickly you can go from “comfort zone” to “wrestling snakes” in this business.

But even snake wrestling beats life in the cube, for me at least. In measured doses.

Every fighter pilot out there, in fact every pilot in general, knows that at some point or other they’re going to have to wrestle snakes.  And, they also know that the possibility exists that the snakes may, at some point, win.

Yet even knowing that, they’d never trade the opportunity to do what they do for that “cube” of safety. 

Lex was a good man doing a necessary and dangerous job training our future naval aviators.  He paid the ultimate price.  But he did it his way doing what he loved to do. 

Fair winds and following seas, CAPT LeFon.  You’ll be missed.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama says apology to Afghan President about Koran burning “calmed things down”

koranburn

 

But, one has to ask, did it?

President Obama said his formal apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the burning of Korans by U.S. troops last week has "calmed things down" after the incident sparked an outbreak of violence across the country.

"We’re not out of the woods yet," Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Bob Woodruff at the White House. "But my criteria in any decision I make, getting recommendations from folks who are actually on the ground, is what is going to best protect our folks and make sure that they can accomplish their mission."

Of course, the murder of two officers by an Afghan soldier in Kabul came after the apology.  And, the riot in which hand grenades were thrown at the gate Forward Outpost Fortitude wounding 7 US Special Forces soldiers did as well.  Finally, today’s murder of two US soldiers by their erstwhile Afghan compatriots again comes after the apology.  The apology took place on or about the 23rd of February.  The 4 deaths and 7 woundings afterward.

Hardly “calmed down”.  But of course, much like the “saved jobs” claim, Obama can always claim the unprovable, and as usual, he has.

This actually points to a larger and growing problem.  A problem that has been exacerbated by the President announcing a withdrawal date for our combat troops.  The problem? The “green on blue” fratricide such as that seen during these Koran riots.

The growing divide between Afghan soldiers and their mentors has already been stretched to the breaking point after six days of violent and deadly protests over the Koran burning that have left around 30 dead, including four U.S. troops previously killed by Afghan soldiers or men in Afghan-security-force uniforms. The burning of Korans by foreign troops on one side and the killing of foreign troops by Afghan soldiers on the other have pushed the level of alienation between the two sides to what could be an all-time high.

The Saturday murders were only the latest of at least 22 similar killings that have occurred since last April. Smith says there have been at least 35 in the past 12 months, though NATO spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson refused to confirm that number. The Wall Street Journal reports that at least 77 coalition troops have been killed in the past five years in "green on blue" incidents, with around 57 of those having taken place since early 2010. Smith is not sanguine about improving the situation, even as the allies pour more money and effort into training ever more locals. Says he: "You only ever rent an Afghan, you can’t buy one."

The Army published a study in May of 2011 that, if you read the conclusion, points to failure in regards to ever fielding a competent and able indigenous Afghan security force.  The study, entitled “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility” had this to say:

The report concludes that "the rapidly growing fratricide-murder trend committed by Afghan national security force [ANSF] personnel against NATO members" confirms the "ineffectiveness [of] our efforts in stabilizing Afghanistan, developing a legitimate and effective government, battling the insurgency, gaining the loyalty, respect and friendship of the Afghans [and] building the ANSFs into legitimate and functional organizations." The report says that these complaints and murders challenge the usefulness of the "partnering" concept. "This is all the more a paradox given [NATO's] assumption of and planned reliance [on] the [ANSF] to be able to take over the security burden before it can disengage from this grossly prolonged conflict."

Much of what is happening can be tied to the absurd notion that announcing your withdrawal well in advance will not have negative effects.  Of course, the feeling of abandonment by the Afghan government and armed forces are just one of the many negative effects.  And, for the less stable and easily influenced among them, it has translated itself into the murder of American soldiers who are there, ostensibly, to help the ANSF. 

What the Obama administration has managed to do in its three years is completely reverse the gains of the previous years in Afghanistan, push the government of Afghanistan toward accommodation with the Taliban and condemned those American troops we leave behind to mentor the ANSF to a very dangerous role in which their lives are just as threatened by their allies as the enemy.

Obama ought to apologize for that.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Travel day–in DC for CPAC

Sorry about the lack of posting, but have been on the road since 5am.  Got into DC about 2pm and that gave me just enough time to change clothes, grab the Metro and make it over to the Rayburn building to spend about 30 minutes with House Armed Services Committee chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon.  Very interesting discussion which I’ll be writing up soon.  Ed Morrissey from Hot Air was there as well.

I’m interested in the temperature of Conservatives this year so I’m probably going to be doing more talking/interviewing of bloggers than listening to variations on the candidate’s stump speeches.

I think there’ll be more insight and gold in the interviews with Conservative activists than politicians.

Oh, and apparently Occupy is going to pay CPAC a visit on Friday and Saturday so that ought to be fun.

I’m tired.  So, until tomorrow.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The defense budget

Here’s a little fact to keep in mind when considering the current cuts to spending at DoD (and let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with appropriate cuts to defense spending), besides all the other ramifications it promises:

Defense accounts for less than 20 percent of the federal budget but already exceeds 50 percent of deficit-reduction efforts. And for every dollar the President hopes to save in domestic programs, he plans on saving $128 in defense.

And that’s without the looming sequestration cuts (keep in mind, most war fighting costs are not included in the budget) of another half trillion dollars.

Or said another way, the administration has decided that it will attempt to cut spending primarily with cuts to national defense.  There is no serious program afoot to cut back the myriad of other government agencies and branches.  In fact, many are expanding (see EPA, IRS, etc.).

As for sequestration, Democrats are bound and determined to see it through, because, you know, national defense is less important than winning an ideological struggle.

Charles Hoskinson of POLITICO’s Morning Defense reports (btw, if you don’t subscribe to it, you should):

BUT REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS are still far apart on one key issue: taxes. We caught up with SASC Chairman Levin at a breakfast Thursday and he said he’s counting on public pressure to push the GOP to accept new tax revenues as part of any solution – something they’ve so far refused to consider. Meanwhile, Levin and other Democrats won’t budge on reversing sequestration except as part of a complete package. "The dam has got to be broken on revenues, and what I believe will break it is the threat of sequestration," he said.

Shorter Levin, “we’re more than willing to hold national security hostage and see it gutted to get our way on taxes”.

It is rather interesting  approach for an administration which is hung up on everyone paying their ‘fair share’.  It seems that the lion’s share of what it will surely tout during the upcoming campaign as serious budget cutting, will come from the one Constitutionally mandated duty it has – national defense.

As for all the programs that have a future funding liability of 200 trillion dollar?

Meh.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


HASC Republicans: A common sense solution to sequestration and national defense

The DoD is presently working through a half trillion dollars in budget cuts mandated by Barack Obama which is going to see a much weaker military despite what any of the madly spinning politicians claim. 

But the real meat axe is hanging just over the horizon in what is known as “sequestration” cuts, i.e. cuts which will be made across the board because the debit committee was unable to reach a deal on the cuts in the budget (by the way, Harry Reid, it’s now been 1001 days since you, Mr. Majority Leader, passed a budget out of the Senate) for the future.   That would mean an additional half trillion in cuts to DoD, the result of which, would simply be disastrous to our national security.

Here, in this video, a group of Republican House Armed Services Committee members make a pitch for a common sense solution that would absorb the need for those sequestration cuts.  In short, cut the Federal workforce by 10% – but do it over time and strictly through attrition.

Someone, anyone, tell me we couldn’t get along without 10% of the Federal workforce:

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Patriot missiles found on China bound ship

Your odd and disturbing national security story of the day:

The MS Thor Liberty left port in Emden, northern Germany, on 13 December and docked two days later in Kotka, southern Finland, to pick up a cargo of anchor chains, said Finnish Customs spokesman Petri Lounatmaa.

It was bound for the Chinese port of Shanghai but there was no indication for whom the military cargo was destined.

Routine checks by Finland’s traffic safety authority revealed a load of up to 160 tonnes of improperly packed nitroguanidine, a low-sensitivity explosive with a high detonation speed.

"Actually in our investigation at the moment, we have got the information that we found 69 Patriot missiles on the ship and around 160 tonnes of explosives," said Detective Superintendent Timo Virtanen from the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation.

69 Patriot missiles is not some minor load.  That’s a bunch of missiles.  Were they hijacked?

They belong to somebody.   Of course, remember we provide Patriot missiles to our “allies” too. 

How in the world do 69 Patriot missiles go missing and end up on a ship bound for China (why spend the money to develop technology when you can steal it and reverse engineer it)?

Anyone?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Folding the flag in Iraq

The 9 year long war in Iraq is officially over.  Frankly, I’m fine with that.  I think the one lesson we need to have learned from both Iraq and Afghanistan is the meaning of punitive raid or punitive action.  If a country attacks us or otherwise deserves to see the “blunt instrument” of national policy used, we need to go in and do what is necessary, then leave.

For whatever reason, we’ve chosen nation building as an end state instead.  And while I certainly understand the theory (and the examples where it has worked … such as Japan, West Germany, etc.), it shouldn’t be something we do on a routine basis. 

There were certainly valid reasons to do what we did in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  And while I supported both actions, the decision to try to build a democracy in both countries has been expensive in both blood and treasure and I’d deem it somewhat successful in Iraq (we’ll see if they can keep it) and at best marginally successful in Afghanistan (where I fully expect the effort to collapse when we withdraw).

So I’m fine with folding the flag and leaving Iraq.  And before the Obamabots try to claim it was their man who finally made it happen, Google it.  This is the Bush plan, negotiated before he left office and simply executed by this administration.   That said, Obama will shamelessly try to take credit for it while also trying to erase the memory of voting not to fund the war while troops were engaged in combat.

It is going to be interesting to see how Iraq turns out.  It is an extraordinarily volatile country sitting right next to two countries waging religious war against each other by proxy.  Saudi Arabia and Iran are deadly enemies and with the end of the US presence there, I think Iraq will end up being their battleground.

Within a few months I think there will be concerted campaigns of violence aimed at toppling the current government and installing some flavor of Islamist regime there.  I hope I’m wrong.

But again, bottom line – I’m happy to see this chapter draw to a close and that we’re getting our troops out of Iraq.  It’s time.  And to them all, a huge “well done” and “welcome home”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Defense Analyst: “We’re in a technological race with ourselves”

Reading through a NY Times story about defense cuts led me to one of the most, oh I don’t know, stupid statements it has been my misfortune to read in a while (one of the joys of being a blogger is I don’t have to dress up my comments – stupid is stupid).

And apparently it passes for penetrating analysis.  The thrust of the story, or at least the claim made in the story, is that the Pentagon has made no plans for the sequestration cuts mandated by the failure of the Supercommittee.

To be clear, DoD is working on the first $450 billion in cuts mandated by the Obama Administration.  Those will already cut deeply into its capabilities over the next few decades. 

This new round of cuts will go beyond “fat” and cut into muscle and bone.  An idea of where cuts will have to be made is provided by some defense analysts:

They laid out the possibility of cutbacks to most weapons programs, a further reduction in the size of the Army, large layoffs among the Defense Department’s 700,000 civilian employees and reduced military training time — such as on aircraft like the F-22 advanced jet fighter, which flies at Mach 2 and costs $18,000 an hour to operate, mostly because of the price of fuel.

Other possibilities include cutting the number of aircraft carriers to 10 from 11 — the United States still has more than any other country — as well as increased fees for the military’s generous health care system, changes in military retirement, base closings around the country and delayed maintenance on ships and buildings.

And that brings us to a statement I find difficulty characterizing as anything but stupid.  Perhaps to be less provocative, I ought to characterize it as woefully uninformed.  I’ll emphasize it for you:

Right now, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons program in history, is the top target for cuts. (The Pentagon plans to spend nearly $400 billion buying 2,500 of the stealth jets through 2035.) Other potential targets include the Army’s planned ground combat vehicle and a “next-generation” long-range bomber under development by the Air Force.

As a result, the military industry is already in full alarm. “The Pentagon has been cutting weapons programs by hundreds of billions of dollars for three years now,” said Loren B. Thompson, a consultant to military contractors. “There’s not much left to kill that won’t affect the military’s safety or success.”

Other analysts argued that the United States had such overwhelming military superiority globally that it could easily withstand the cuts, even to the point of eliminating the Joint Strike Fighter. “We have airplanes coming out of our ears,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw military budgets in the Clinton White House. “We’re in a technological race with ourselves.” Nonetheless, he said, the automatic cuts make life difficult for Pentagon budget planners and are “a terrible way to manage defense.”

No … we’re not in a “technological race with ourselves”.   And yes, we have lots of airplanes.   Worn out airplanes two or three decades old that have been to war for a decade.  

Right now the Russians are developing a very good 5th generation fighter, the T-50 (also known as the PAK FA).  The Chinese 5th generation aircraft is the J-20.  We, on the other hand stopped a planned buy of F-22s at 180 out of 2,000.   And now we’re talking about cutting the F-35 (a buy of 2400 and supposedly the fighter to fill the gap left by the curtailment of the F-22 buy) as well?  That’s national defense suicide.

If we cut the JSF, in 10 years we’ll have the same 4th generation aircraft we have now as our front line of defense against the newest generation of fighters that you can bet both Russia and China will export.  Ours will be technologically inferior. 

Yes, we enjoy a technological edge now.  But that is because we’ve always made its maintenance a national security priority.  What Gordon Adams is trying to do is wave away the need to maintain that edge with an absurdly simplistic and utterly incorrect “we’re in a technological race with ourselves”.

What we do now will effect our national security for decades to come.  These fighters are planned to be the front line of defense for about 40 years.   And while an F/A 18 is a hot jet in 2011, it will not be a hot jet in 2031 when refined and technologically superior T-50 and J-20 aircraft will command any airspace in which they fly.

For those who don’t understand what that means, it means no close air support for troops on the ground.  It means an enemy having air superiority over a battlefield (or at least air parity) and making our ground troops vulnerable to air attack for the first time since the Korean War.

It means we’ll have lost the technological race that is required to maintain air dominance and will be hard pressed to catch up anytime soon.

The old term “penny wise and pound foolish” comes to mind.  We’re about to validate that saying.   And the lack of leadership from this administration in outlining priorities concerning national defense and our future is terrifying.   Instead of making national defense a priority, this administration would spend elsewhere.

The technological edge we’ve maintained over the decades is a perishable thing.   There are other countries out there actively trying to steal it from us.

And we have so-called defense analysts like Gordon Adams making stupid – yes there’s that word again – statements like “we’re in a technological race with ourselves”.

We make further cuts, such as those demanded by sequestration, at our peril.  One of the primary functions of government, as outlined in our Constitution, is to provide for the national defense.  It should be one of, if not the primary focus of any national government.  To say we’re playing with fire with deeper cuts than those already contemplated is an understatement.  If you’re comfortable with your grandson or granddaughter flying 40 year old jets in the near future against technologically superior enemies who we are getting ready to abandon the field too in 2011, then you’ll be happy to support cutting defense to the bone now.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Cooking with the Troops … A great NYC Veteran’s Day event

Cooking with the Troops needs your support to carry on its great work with our troops.  Not only does it provide food events for the wounded, but it offers classes to our military members and their families teaching them how to cook healthy and tasty food on a budget in their Home Front program.

They are also have a culinary transition program which aids service members considering a culinary career with their decision.  Other new programs and events are in the planning stages, but they need your help.

Please hit the donate button on the left if you will and give them a hand.  Trust me, they are indeed a worthwhile charity doing wonderful work.

Take a look at their most recent event with NASDAQ in NYC.  It was an outstanding event and obviously enjoyed by all. This and the event on the video you’ve seen are just two examples of what this great organization does.

Thanks for your support.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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