9 January 2013

Defence Procurement: Shrinking Competitor Pool

By Vulcan
Issue Vol 25.4 Oct-Dec 2010 | Date : 09 Jan , 2013 


Someone recently observed that “doing serious defence business in India is like religion; it’s an act of faith”. A droll statement but the point was a serious one. A corporation assesses the potential risks and rewards in entering a market and then judges whether or not it is in the best interests of its principals to do so. This decision is the expression of rational business confidence. 

However if a corporation cannot adequately assess risk and reward, it has no rational basis upon which to proceed. Under such circumstances, to proceed is to gamble; there is no rational business confidence as such, merely an act of faith. 

The Indian MOD may soon find itself caught in an unpleasant pincer movement… serial blacklisting is steadily shrinking the size of the competitor pool. 

Unfortunately, many defence corporations have entered the Indian market as an act of faith rather than of rational judgment. Their action is based on one core fact; the market is big and demand is real. However, they consider the nature of the defence procurement process to be (in the greater sense) that of a lottery. As Vulcan was recently told “anything can happen, at any time, for no apparent rational reason”. 

To put it crudely, the view in the foreign boardroom is that ‘India is highly uncertain but too big to ignore’. Even so, the decision to enter the market remains an act of faith: the unquantifiable hope that the Government of India will not permit the issues of a troubled procurement process to compromise the greater National Interest. 

India May Include Domestic Firms in Artillery Program

Jan. 9, 2013

NEW DELHI — The Indian Defence Ministry is considering changing the categorization of its $6 billion artillery program in order to include domestic defense companies in the heretofore international bidding process, according to an MoD source.

“The complexion of completion for future gun programs could change with tougher competition from domestic companies,” said defense analyst Mahindra Singh, a retired Indian Army major general.

The move to recategorize the project follows a request by domestic private defense firm Tata Power’s Strategic Electronics Division (SED) to allow it to compete for future gun projects, the source said. Tata Power SED announced last month that it has been able to develop a 155mm/52-caliber mounted gun.

Rahul Chaudhry, Tata Power SED’s CEO, said the company has approached the MoD to put its gun to trial and has demanded to be considered for competition in future mountain gun tenders.

In addition to Tata Power SED, private sector firms Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Bharat Forge each has tied up with overseas defense companies to make the 155mm/52-caliber gun in India. The state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation is also developing its homegrown towed howitzer gun.

A senior L&T executive said that company has partnered with South Korea’s Samsung to produce wheeled artillery guns and with France’s Nexter to make mounted and towed artillery guns in India. The company will, however, develop the prototypes only when it is given requests for proposal for artillery projects, the executive said.

Rajinder Bhatia, CEO of Bharat Forge, said it has partnered with Israeli firm Elbit for the towed, mounted and wheeled artillery guns. It also has purchased the plant from Swiss company Ruag Defence for the artillery guns and is developing an indigenous artillery gun, which he said will be ready by 2014.

The Indian Army plans to convert all existing field guns into 155mm/52-caliber guns, and the total demand for the varieties of 155mm/52-caliber guns is worth more than $6 billion, an Army official said.

But efforts to acquire such guns from overseas firms have come up empty. Several tenders were canceled midway after competing foreign companies — including South Africa’s Denel and Singapore Technologies — were blacklisted on bribery charges.

“The overseas defense companies are now forging ties with domestic defense companies to tap into the big-ticket market, as purchasing directly from overseas through competition has not yielded the desired results,” Singh said.

To include domestic companies, the MoD must recategorize the project from “Buy and Make (Global)” to simply “Buy and Make.”

Tata Power SED, meanwhile, says its gun has an indigenous content of 52 percent.

Contribution of the Indian Armed Forces to the Second World War: Book Release and Panel Discussion

January 8, 2013 

Welcome Remarks
-- Arvind Gupta 

Writing the History of the Indian Armed Forces in the Second World War: A Brief Overview
-- History Division, Ministry of Defence, Government of India 

Keynote Address
-- JFR Jacob 
Panel Discussion 

Opening Remarks
-- Satish Nambiar 

Campaign in South East Asia 1941-42 and The Arakan Operations 1942-45
-- YM Bammi 

Campaign in Western Asia
-- Rahul K Bhonsle 

The East African Campaign 1940-41 and The North African Campaign 1940-43
-- PK Gautam 

Explore the Socio-Economic Impact of the Second World War
-- UP Thapliyal 

Reclaiming Our Legacy
-- RTS Chhina 

Summaries of the Eight Volumes
-- Amit Kumar 

Trans-Loc Incidents in J & K: An Assessment

Paper No. 4352 Dated 09-Jan-2013 

by B. Raman 

There have been two very serious incidents across the Line of Control (LOC) in Jammu and Kashmir. 

1. PAKISTANI STATEMENT: One Pakistani soldier was killed on January 6, 2013, in an alleged Indian raid on a Pakistani Army post. On January 7, the Pakistani Foreign Office in Islamabad protested over the incident to the Indian Deputy High Commissioner. According to the Indian version of this incident, on January 6, Pakistani troops fired mortar shells at Indian Army posts in the Uri sector to help insurgents infiltrate into India. The Indian Army had retaliated.

INDIAN STATEMENT: Two Indian soldiers were killed and two others injured on the morning of January 8, when Pakistani army troops entered Indian territory near Mendhar, about 220 KMs north of Jammu, and attacked an Indian post. The body of one of the Indian soldiers was found decapitated and the severed head was missing. The Pakistani Army has denied the allegations and described them as Indian propaganda to divert attention from the incident of Jan.6.

2. There was a similar incident of decapitation when Gen. Pervez Musharraf was the Chief of the Army Staf (COAS) under then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999. Ilyas Kashmiri, a former member of the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army, and his men entered Indian territory, killed an Indian soldier, decapitated him and carried his head as a trophy to Pakistan. He allegedly presented the head to Musharraf who congratulated him and his men and rewarded them. The incident was reported in sections of the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir media. 

3. Musharraf’s action in receiving Ilyas Kashmiri and rewarding him indicated the Pakistan Army’s complicity in the incident. The Indian Army reportedly believes strongly that there was Pakistan Army’s complicity in the latest incident too. 

4. The two incidents indicate the continuing fragile and sensitive nature of the trans-LOC ground realities. The incidents appear to have been handled till now at the Army-Army level through the existing hotline between the Directors-General of Military Operations of the two countries. 

5.The serious nature of the latest incidents underline the need for a political hotline between the Prime Minister of India and the President of Pakistan to supplement the existing hotline between the DGMOs to ensure prompt political handling of such trans-LOC incidents amenable to escalation detrimental to peace in the area.

Can India Defeat Poverty?

A bold new program may show the world the way. 

Is the solution to poverty as simple as giving a little bit of money to a large number of people? We may be about to find out. On New Year's Day, India, the world's largest democracy, launched what may become the most ambitious anti-poverty program in history. Called the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), the initiative will directly provide cash to poor families -- at first more than 200,000 people, then potentially hundreds of millions -- via the banking system. India's finance minister has described it as "nothing less than magical." While there is no "magic" solution to development, DBT could revolutionize assistance to India's roughly 350 million people living on less than 56 cents a day, the country's official poverty line. 

The move to cash transfers comes after decades of hand-wringing about India's huge and wasteful system of in-kind subsidies. The government spends roughly $14 billion a year, or nearly 1 percent of its GDP, to buy food, fertilizer, and petroleum and distribute them to stores, where the eligible poor can purchase them at discounts, or to government offices, where products are handed out. 

This outdated and inefficient system has been used for decades, largely because most of India's poor lacked proper identification or bank accounts. But confusing rules on eligibility, poor administration, and corruption have made it a failure. A 2010 Asian Development Bank study found that not only did the subsidies bring little reduction in poverty, but shockingly, 70 percent of the beneficiaries were not even poor. A 2008 study by the University of Pennsylvania's Devesh Kapur found that if the money spent on in-kind transfers in India were transferred directly India's poor, it would lift them all out of poverty for that year. 

Where is Lt Zuckerberg?

An Advocacy for Social Media and Digital Collaboration in the Military 

Journal Article | January 9, 2013 

I often wonder how General Billy Mitchell must have felt as he relentlessly advocated for the use of strategic airpower while surrounded by leadership who did not understand his vision. He saw a technology that was so revolutionary, such a game changer, that it consumed his every thought of how he could employ it to save his nation. I also wonder what must have been going through his mind during the last year of World War I as French aircraft provided top-cover above American soldiers. Those airplanes were French-built because America’s leadership at the time failed to make the necessary investments in the rapidly emerging technology of armed aircraft. What is clear is that Mitchell’s level of frustration reached an apex at this moment because the loss of life was preventable; that it resulted from a lack of military leadership’s “control and effectiveness.”[1] Mitchell spent the interwar years fighting to sensibly and effectively align an emerging civilian technology with military requirements. Relentlessly, even to the point of court-martial, he stood up against old-guard leadership that was complacent due in part to their negligence in understanding how emerging technology would change the course of warfare forever. Mitchell was not held in high esteem amongst the top brass; he left the military as a convicted man for his beliefs. Fortunately, his ideas were eventually vindicated as his theories formed much of the foundation for our nation’s airpower success in World War II and paved the way for America’s superpower status. His ideas were just ahead of his time. 

It is frustrating to note the parallels today between Mitchell’s fight for strategic airpower and our military’s current lack of understanding as it relates to harnessing social media to achieve strategic military objectives. In 1925, Billy Mitchell said, “Those interested in the future of the country, not only from a national defense standpoint but from a civil, commercial and economic one as well, should study this matter carefully, because air power has not only come to stay but is, and will be, a dominating factor in the world’s development.”[2] If you replace the words “air power” with “social media” today, you could make that exact statement at any professional conference or in any corporate board room and earn high respect. More important than respect is that the person who makes that statement is right. Social media in particular and social collaboration in general have fundamentally changed the world. Over one billion people use Facebook.[3] Twitter users post 140 million tweets daily.[4] YouTube users upload 72 hours of video every minute.[5] Combined, these three powerhouse forces of social media directly contributed to the Arab Spring and regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Social media also contributed to the creation of popular uprisings in Syria, Iran, Yemen and Bahrain, highlighting that the most effective weapon isn’t always kinetic. Dictators, autocratic governments, and religious police live in fear of the power that is social media. Nations like China and Iran have banned sites like Facebook and Twitter because of the threat these web sites pose to information control. Even some midlevel military leaders set limits on social media’s use by periodically blocking sites like YouTube and Facebook on government networks. It begs the question: why does social media scare these powerful, established forces? Why are we as a military not more fully invested in embracing the power of these tools? Social media and digital collaboration are two of the 21st Century’s most revolutionary tools that our armed forces must invest in and exploit in order to disrupt our enemies, dominate the informational battle space and spark true innovative solutions to counter a challenging global security environment. In an austere fiscal environment, social media and digital collaboration are programs that truly do more with less and should be embraced. 

The first step to solve any problem is to define the current state of the issue. To be blunt, the current social media strategy in the military is best defined by its lack of a coherent and simple-to-understand strategy. A quick search of the Department of Defense (DoD) social media regulations shows that there are at least 12 different DoD social media policy documents containing numerous rules, policy letters and directives in a disjointed and sometimes inconsistent manner. Each specific service has at least three additional policy regulations detailing their own rules and limitations in arcane language, while computer based training slides litter these unappealing websites. Simplifying or at least streamlining these complex and sometimes conflicting regulations is the first step to adopting the widespread usage of effective social media in the military. The layers of red tape have already smothered an environment that demands collaboration, not stagnation. 

Social Media and UW

By Lieutenant Colonel Brian Petit

Unconventional warfare, meet social media. Future mission success could depend on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, or iReporting. Te pervert Leon Trotsky's axiom on war, "You may not be interested in social media, but social media is very interested in you."

Social media — blogs, social-network sites, information aggregators, wikis, livecasting, video sharing — has decisively altered that most extreme of socio-politico acts: revolution. The 2011 Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East were engineered through citizen-centric computer and cellular-phone technologies that streamed web-enabled social exchanges. The Arab Spring has profound implications for the U.S. special-operations mission of unconventional warfare. This article posits that the study, practice and successful execution of future UW must deliberately account for and incorporate social media. 

This article first examines the role of social media during the Arab Spring revolutions and uprisings. Next, social media’s profound political effects are woven to the historical and doctrinal practice of UW. Three areas of UW are analyzed: social mobilization, the digital underground and the weapon of the narrative. This article concludes with an appeal for the focused study of the nexus between social media and UW to include the practice of and experimentation with the use of social media enabled by handheld technologies. 
The Arab Spring 

Labeled alternately the Arab Spring or the Twitter Revolution, the spring of 2011 witnessed uprisings and revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain, with revolution-inspired, violent demonstrations following in multiple Middle Eastern, North African and European nations. The uprisings were sparked by the Dec. 17, 201, self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a frustrated Tunisian fruit-and-vegetable street vendor (with a computer science degree).1 Public outrage followed, led by viral social-media postings. Months later, across the Middle East and North Africa, social media achieved another innovative milestone: a decentralized community of web-based activists rapidly coalesced into politically powerful, loosely organized insurgents who produced not just riots, but astonishing revolutionary change. 

The Mindless Debate over Future U.S. Military Manpower in Afghanistan

Jan 4, 2013 

The growing media and think tank debate over the future levels of U.S. military manpower for Afghanistan is as dangerous as it is mindless. The United States now plans to withdraw virtually all of its military and civil manpower from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. It is planning massive cuts in military and civil aid spending but has not made any details public. 

At the best of times, military manpower totals are a largely meaningless metric. The issue is never whether there are 6,000 men and women or 30,000. The issue is what they are deployed to do, what roles and missions they perform, what combat role they will play if any, how well funded and equipped they are, and how they support an overall strategy, plan, and effort to achieve a real strategic result. In an insurgency, and in an effort to conduct armed nation building in a failed state, military manpower is an even less meaningful metric than usual. The issue is the future size of the civil-military effort, not the military effort alone. Any debate or analysis of the future U.S. role in Afghanistan that does not tie the two together is little more than intellectual and media rubbish. 

Totals for military and civil personnel not only do not describe or justify the function of such manpower, they need to be tied to data that show where they are to be deployed and their future level of security. There are unconfirmed media reports that the United States now plans to cut the number of U.S.-occupied facilities in Afghanistan from some 90 at the end of 2011 to 5 major facilities by the end of 2014, and no one is talking about the end result in terms of the future security of U.S. personnel or the ability to perform meaningful missions without being exposed in the field. Moreover, our cuts will take place as our allies—and many nongovernmental organizations—almost totally withdraw from the country and with an Afghan election occurring in 2014 that will produce an unknown future leader of a largely failed government. 

What really matters, however, is that there are no public U.S. plans that show how the Obama administration will deal with either the civil or military aspects of this transition between now and the end of 2014, or in the years that follow. The few metrics that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S. government have made public only cover past combat performance, and they show there has been no meaningful military progress since the end of 2010. The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have never issued a remotely credible report on the progress and impact of the civilian surge or any aspect of the civil aid program. (For a detailed analysis of recent combat reporting, see the text, maps, and charts in “The War in Afghanistan at the End of 2012: The Uncertain Course of the War and Transition.”) 

Saving Afghanistan

It can be done, but only if the international community truly invests in democracy. 

In the year 2000, well before the tragic Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and the subsequent liberation of Afghanistan, a secret meeting took place in northern Afghanistan, one of the few areas not conquered by the Taliban. A man named Hamid Karzai, as part of a delegation representing the former king of Afghanistan, flew in to meet Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of the anti-Taliban United Front, and me to discuss the future of the country. 

Our conversation might have seemed presumptuous, focused as it was on outlining a post-Taliban government. We discussed plans to exert pressure on the government of Pakistan to halt its support for the Taliban, who were now despised by the Afghan people, achieve military gains in the resistance against the insurgency, create an interim Afghan administration, convene a constitutional loya jirga to approve a constitution, and lastly to call for elections based on a simple idea: One person equals one vote. 

Following 9/11 and the global response, these ideas became the structure for the future Afghan government. But today, despite incredible amounts of blood and treasure and unprecedented support from the United States and the international community, Afghanistan is perceived as on the brink of collapse, with the shadow of the 2014 withdrawal date casting a pall on everything from soldier morale to the economy. 

Despite the overwhelming list of challenges, however, from corruption to an economy dependent on foreign aid, Afghanistan can still experience a successful political transition in 2014. For this to happen, all the stakeholders involved must stop thinking strictly in terms of military means. 

What Did Google Earth Spot in the Chinese Desert? Even an Ex-CIA Analyst Isn’t Sure

China's Mystery Complex 

Location: 39.6 N, 76.1 E

Late last month, former CIA analyst Allen Thomson was clicking through a space news website when he noticed a story about a new orbital tracking site being built near the small city of Kashgar in southwestern China. Curious, he went to Google Earth to find it. He poked around for a while, with no luck. Then he came across something kind of weird. 

Thomson, who served in the CIA from 1972 to 1985 and as a consultant to the National Intelligence Council until 1996, has made something of a second career finding odd stuff in public satellite imagery. He discovered these giant grids etched into the Chinese desert in 2011, and a suspected underground missile bunker in Iran in 2008. When the Israeli Air Force destroyed a mysterious facility in Syria the year before, Thomson put together an 812-page dossier on the so-called “Box on the Euphrates.” Old analyst habits die hard, it seems. 

But even this old analyst is having trouble ID’ing the objects he found in the overhead images of Kashgar. “I haven’t the faintest clue what it might be — but it’s extensive, the structures are pretty big and funny-looking, and it went up in what I’d call an incredible hurry,” he emails. 

So he’d like your help in solving this little mystery. What follows are 10 images of the site. If you’ve got ideas on what might be there, leave ‘em in the comments, drop me a note, or find me on Twitter or Facebook. I’ll pass it on to Thomson.

Meet China's new-old killer drones

Posted By John Reed 
January 8, 2013 

When you think of drones that will likely be used in a conflict between two advanced militaries, you usually imagine brand new, unmanned stealth jets. But China appears to be taking a different approach. It's converting its ancient Shenyang J-6 fighters -- copies of the Soviet Union's 1950s-vintage MiG-19, the world's first operational supersonic fighter -- into unmanned jets. (Yes, China is also develping brand new drones.) 

Converting old fighters into remote controlled jets is nothing new. The U.S. has used retired fighters as unmanned target practice drones for decades. However, China plans to use the old fighters as ground attack jets. We've been hearing about the unmanned J-6 project for a long time now. What's caught people's attention is that China has apparently massed dozens of the jets at airbases in Fujilan province, close to, you guessed it, Taiwan. 

While the fighters may not be the most advanced drones in the world and no knows how accurate their weapons would be, they would pose one more challenge to Taiwanese air defense in the event of war with the mainland. Imagine waves of the unmanned jets tying up air defenses while more advanced jets and missiles attack. As this article from 2010 points out, the J-6 drones could be used in conjunction with the Israeli-made Harpy UAVs that are specifically designed to defeat ground-based radars to "punch holes" in the island's air defenses. 

Converting manned fighters into drones isn't hard. The U.S. even converted B-17s Flying Fortress into unmanned plane to collected radiation samples from the air over the nuclear blasts during the Operations Crossroads nuclear bomb tests in 1946. In the case of the Air Force's QF-4 Phantom drones, the jets' guns are removed and black boxes connected to the flight control systems are installed in the vacant gun compartments -- allowing ground operators to control the planes. Want to learn how the U.S. converts its old fighters into drones? Click here

BANGLADESH: External Efforts to Scuttle Genocide Trials

Paper No. 4353 Dated 09-Jan-2013 

By Bhaskar Roy 

Since its bloody and violent birth in 1971, Bangladesh’s history has been pronounced for political assassinations and military coups than reasons of development the country so richly deserves. Certainly, there still remain deep religio-political differences among the people. 

The main conflict is between right wing elements who continue to strive for Sharia law, discrimination against women and minorities and spiritual regression on the one side, and the progressive and liberal section of the population especially the educated youth who want jobs, progress and development. 

After 2008, there has been some forward movement. Social indicators have improved. Economic growth reached 7%. International stature moved from ‘near a state sponsor of terrorism’ in early 2002 to “a frontline state against terrorism” in the last two years. Bangladesh began to be cited internationally as an example among developing countries. Women’s emancipation in Bangladesh under the present government is the highest in the region despite opposition from right wing political parties and groups. 

Of course, everything has not been wonderful. Corruption has sapped the energy of the government in various areas and impacted development efforts. There are many other problems. But the country attained escape velocity to break the gravitation pull of under development. 

The nation, however, remains threatened by the festering wounds of the 1971 war of liberation and the crimes against humanity committed not only by the occupying Pakistani army but by Bangladeshis who joined the Pakistanis in perpetrating atrocities against their country-men and women. It is no longer argued that these atrocities did not happen, though no money or effort was spared by interested parties to obliterate them from living memory and history books. The evidence is too strong. 

An ingenious approach to downplay the impact of the 1971 genocide seems to be in the works. The Economist, UK (Dec. 15th 2012) wrote “It was very late to begin the search for justice, for the accused as well as victims”, but conceded that war crimes are subject to no statute of limitation. The weekly further said in the same article “The main perpetrators are not in the dock, since they are either dead or living in Pakistan. But some suspects are still leading prominent lives in Bangladesh”. 

India's lack of interest stalls sub-regional cooperation by Barr H Rashid in Dailystar Dacca 9/1/13

During the tenure of the Sheikh Hasina government, two documents were signed that encapsulated the framework of comprehensive cooperation between Bangladesh and India, including at the sub-regional level. They are:

* The Joint Communique of January 13, 2010, following the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India, and

* The Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development between Bangladesh and India signed on September 6, 2011 at the highest political level following the visit of the Indian prime minister to Bangladesh.

The two documents envisaged partnership between the two countries at all levels in all sectors to realise their developmental aspirations, shared destiny and common vision of a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.

For the purpose of this article, I shall refer to two areas of cooperation as (a) water sharing and water resources management of the shared basins and (b) sub-regional interconnectivity.

The foreign ministers of Bangladesh and India, at the first meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission in New Delhi on May 7, 2012, reviewed the progress in bilateral relations and agreed that "greater bilateral cooperation between the countries will promote inclusive growth and development and contribute to peace, prosperity, and stability in their countries and the region" (Paragraph 2 of the Joint Statement). 

This agreement at the foreign minister's level shows that they have underscored that enhancement of bilateral relations must embrace cooperation at the sub-regional level

On the two specific areas, the two foreign ministers also "welcomed the formation of technical-level teams for sub-regional cooperation in water and power, and connectivity and transit by both countries and looked forward to the convening of the meetings at an early date" (Paragraph 22 of the Joint Statement). 

New Report: Trimming Nuclear Excess

The US and Russian nuclear arms reduction process needs to be revitalized by new treaties and unilateral initiatives to reduce nuclear force levels, a new FAS report argues (click on image to download report). 

By Hans M. Kristensen 

Despite enormous reductions of their nuclear arsenals since the Cold War, the United States and Russia retain more than 9,100 warheads in their military stockpiles. Another 7,000 retired – but still intact – warheads are awaiting dismantlement, for a total inventory of more than 16,000 nuclear warheads. 

This is more than 15 times the size of the total nuclear arsenals of all the seven other nuclear weapon states in the world – combined. 

The U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals are far beyond what is needed for deterrence, with each side’s bloated force level justified only by the other’s excessive force level. 

A new FAS report – Trimming Nuclear Excess: Options for Further Reductions of U.S. and Russian Nuclear Forces – describes the status and 10-year projection for U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. 

The report concludes that the pace of reducing nuclear forces appears to be slowing compared with the past two decades. Both the United States and Russia appear to be more cautious about reducing further, placing more emphasis on “hedging” and reconstitution of reduced nuclear forces, and both are investing enormous sums of money in modernizing their nuclear forces over the next decade. 

Even with the reductions expected over the next decade, the report concludes that the United States and Russia will continue to possess nuclear stockpiles that are many times greater than the rest of the world’s nuclear forces combined. 

The Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula

By Anthony H. Cordesman, Robert M. Shelala II 

Jan 7, 2013 

The US faces major challenges in dealing with Iran, the threat of terrorism, and the tide of political instability in the Middle East. Following visits to the Gulf and discussions with top US, Gulf, and European officials by Burke Chair Anthony Cordesman, the Burke Chair at CSIS in Strategy is issuing an updated edition of its study on Iran’s military threat in the Gulf, titled “The Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula.” This new edition builds on previous Burke Chair reports, including: 

US and Iranian Strategic Competition: The Conventional and Asymmetric Dimensions - This study looks at Iran’s Military forces in detail, and the balance of forces in the Gulf Region. 
US and Iranian Strategic Competition: The Missile and Nuclear – This study looks at Iran’s Missile and Nuclear forces. 

“The Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula” examines in detail the Iranian military threat in the Gulf, as well as US-Gulf security cooperation with the Southern Gulf States. The report is written by Anthony H. Cordesman and Robert M. Shelala II, and is available on the CSIS web site at http://csis.org/files/publication/120228_Iran_Ch_VI_Gulf_State.pdf

It examines the growing US security partnership with Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – established as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It analyzes the steady growth in this partnership that has led to over $64 billion in new US arms transfer agreements during 2008-2011. 

It also examines the strengths and weaknesses of the security cooperation between the Southern Gulf states, and their relative level of political, social, and economic stability. The study focuses on the need for enhanced unity and security cooperation between the individual Gulf states. It finds that such progress is critical if they are to provide effective deterrence and defense against Iran. Improve their counterterrorism capabilities, and enhance other aspects of their internal security.

The Sense of Congress on Amphibious Ships

Proposed MLP and AFSB option for LSD(X) 

Normally when a defense budget is passed, I can't wait to dig through it and highlight all the important details. This time, with no associated appropriations bill (or plan) coming anytime soon, it would be a waste of time to suggest anything in the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Act is worth discussing, because it is worthless until the elected folks in Washington, DC get their budget priorities sorted out.

There is one section in the bill that I do want to highlight though. This reads like something inserted by a lobbyist, and it doesn't belong in my opinion.


a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds the following:
  • The Marine Corps is a combat force that leverages maneuver from the sea as a force multiplier allowing for a variety of operational tasks ranging from major combat operations to humanitarian assistance.
  • The Marine Corps is unique in that, while embarked upon naval vessels, they bring all the logistic support necessary for the full range of military operations and, operating ‘‘from the sea’’, they require no third-party host nation permission to conduct military operations.
  • The Navy has a requirement for 38 amphibious assault ships to meet this full range of military operations.
  • Due only to fiscal constraints, that requirement of 38 vessels was reduced to 33 vessels, which adds military risk to future operations.
  • The Navy has been unable to meet even the minimal requirement of 30 operationally available vessels and has submitted a shipbuilding and ship retirement plan to Congress that will reduce the force to 28 vessels.
  • Experience has shown that early engineering and design of naval vessels has significantly reduced the acquisition costs and life-cycle costs of those vessels. (b) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that—the Department of Defense should carefully evaluate the maritime force structure necessary to execute demand for forces by the commanders of the combatant commands;
  • the Navy should carefully evaluate amphibious lift capabilities to meet current and projected requirements;
  • the Navy should consider prioritization of investment in and procurement of the next generation of amphibious assault ships as a component of the balanced battle force;
  • the next generation amphibious assault ships should maintain survivability protection;
  • operation and maintenance requirements analysis, as well as the potential to leverage a common hull form design, should be considered to reduce total ownership cost and acquisition cost; and
  • maintaining a robust amphibious ship building industrial base is vital for the future of the national security of the United States. 
To me this looks a lot like some Marine Corps General and his industry buddies throwing their weight around via Congress to try an influence the Analysis of Alternatives taking place regarding the LSD(X). Congress should not be trying to influence the decision unless they are ready to pony up the big bucks for what they are basically calling for - which to me sounds like more LPD-17s.

From what I understand, LSD(X) will be a design to cost ship. The recurring cost (ship 3 and beyond) is pegged to be about $1.2 billion in the shipbuilding budget. That makes the LPD-17 hull a nonstarter without a significant increase in cash from Congress.

The Marines face several challenges in dealing with amphibious requirements, but two stand out as important challenges that must be addressed. The first challenge is that the lift footprint of the amphibious MEB is growing, and the second challenge is that the MPS squadron only carries about 70% of the MEB's equipment. With limited funding and only one platform in the shipbuilding plan able to address these issues - the LSD(X) - folks are either going to have to get creative to solve these challenges, or accept that the challenges will not be solved.

Welcome to the Jungle

How Vietnam taught Chuck Hagel to hate war. 

Having been there makes a difference. 

Crawling on your stomach in the pitch dark while you hear the clink, clink of a column of Vietcong troops winding its way through the jungle only a few feet away. Fighting house to house, doorway to doorway in Saigon during the Tet offensive. Being wounded twice and promoted twice and decorated seven times. 

Chuck Hagel was there -- in Vietnam from 1967-68, during some of the most intense fighting of the war. Now he is President Barack Obama's nominee to be America's next secretary of defense, and if he is confirmed, Hagel would be the first former enlisted man ever to lead the Defense Department. It's a safe bet that what he experienced in the jungles of Vietnam would make a difference in the way Hagel would approach his job at the Pentagon. 

"War is not an abstraction," Hagel wrote in a piece for the Omaha World-Herald in 2004. "I know. I've been to war." 

When he was in the Senate, Hagel tried to help his colleagues understand war through the lens of the people who would actually be doing the fighting and dying. "We see war up here in very antiseptic terms," he said. "We see it in bright policy terms. In human suffering terms? No." The terms are different, of course, for someone who has been there. 

Years before he arrived in Vietnam at age 21, Hagel had already been interested in international relations. His friends teased him when he started subscribing to Time magazine in junior high. 

The Moral Corrosion within Our Military Professions

November 27, 2012 | Dr. Don M. Snider

We have now had several weeks of breathless punditry on the moral failure of David Petraeus. The press and online commentariat do love a scandal, and the more so when a deserving American hero tragically falls from grace. 

The commentary has evolved from who (just the two of them?), to who else (well, maybe another general…), to why (well, of course, the Bathsheba syndrome!) and more recently to why not (nothing illegal, coerced, kinky, or paid off, so why did he resign?). 

Fortunately, amid the frivolous clamor serious efforts at reform may be underway as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is very quickly conducting a review of the ethics training for generals and admirals. It is to be done in time for the Secretary of Defense to place it on the President’s desk by December 1st. 

The intent and context was clearly stated by General Dempsey: “If we really are a profession – a group of men and women who are committed to living an uncommon life with extraordinary responsibilities and high standards – we should want to figure it out before someone else figures it out for us.[1]

General Dempsey is spot-on contextually. He is leading an American military establishment of three military professions that have been deeply corroded by a decade of war. Most of America, largely isolated from the military, knows very little about the moral corrosiveness of prolonged combat, particularly against an enemy that routinely fights with no ethical constraints whatsoever. 

While the egregious behavior of senior uniformed officers, “moral-fading” as the psychologists call it, is perhaps only the latest sign of the effects of moral corrosion, the other indicators have long been there. How else does one account for the as-yet uncontrolled escalation in suicides among the military, the unprofessional levels of sexual harassment and assault within the ranks, the spiked divorce rate in military families, the amazingly harmful at-risk behavior of so many of our returned warriors, or the high rates of toxic leadership in command and resulting reliefs for cause? 

The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power

January 8, 2013

By George Friedman

Last week I wrote about the crisis of unemployment in Europe. I received a great deal of feedback, with Europeans agreeing that this is the core problem and Americans arguing that the United States has the same problem, asserting that U.S. unemployment is twice as high as the government's official unemployment rate. My counterargument is that unemployment in the United States is not a problem in the same sense that it is in Europe because it does not pose a geopolitical threat. The United States does not face political disintegration from unemployment, whatever the number is. Europe might. 

At the same time, I would agree that the United States faces a potentially significant but longer-term geopolitical problem deriving from economic trends. The threat to the United States is the persistent decline in the middle class' standard of living, a problem that is reshaping the social order that has been in place since World War II and that, if it continues, poses a threat to American power. 

The Crisis of the American Middle Class

The median household income of Americans in 2011 was $49,103. Adjusted for inflation, the median income is just below what it was in 1989 and is $4,000 less than it was in 2000. Take-home income is a bit less than $40,000 when Social Security and state and federal taxes are included. That means a monthly income, per household, of about $3,300. It is urgent to bear in mind that half of all American households earn less than this. It is also vital to consider not the difference between 1990 and 2011, but the difference between the 1950s and 1960s and the 21st century. This is where the difference in the meaning of middle class becomes most apparent. 

In the 1950s and 1960s, the median income allowed you to live with a single earner -- normally the husband, with the wife typically working as homemaker -- and roughly three children. It permitted the purchase of modest tract housing, one late model car and an older one. It allowed a driving vacation somewhere and, with care, some savings as well. I know this because my family was lower-middle class, and this is how we lived, and I know many others in my generation who had the same background. It was not an easy life and many luxuries were denied us, but it wasn't a bad life at all. 

Someone earning the median income today might just pull this off, but it wouldn't be easy. Assuming that he did not have college loans to pay off but did have two car loans to pay totaling $700 a month, and that he could buy food, clothing and cover his utilities for $1,200 a month, he would have $1,400 a month for mortgage, real estate taxes and insurance, plus some funds for fixing the air conditioner and dishwasher. At a 5 percent mortgage rate, that would allow him to buy a house in the $200,000 range. He would get a refund back on his taxes from deductions but that would go to pay credit card bills he had from Christmas presents and emergencies. It could be done, but not easily and with great difficulty in major metropolitan areas. And if his employer didn't cover health insurance, that $4,000-5,000 for three or four people would severely limit his expenses. And of course, he would have to have $20,000-40,000 for a down payment and closing costs on his home. There would be little else left over for a week at the seashore with the kids. 

Between Delhi and Tehran

Difficulties in maintaining a delicate balance
by Harsh V. Pant 

In its first major diplomatic engagement of the New Year, India hosted Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary and Chief Nuclear Negotiator Saeed Jalili. He was in Delhi at the invitation of the National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and met not only Menon but also Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid. Despite bilateral ties between Delhi and Tehran losing their past sheen, Jalili underscored that “there are very good relations between the two countries” and that the two nations remain “friends.” The visit was also significant because Jalili is considered as a potential successor to the present Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who completes his two terms in office this year.

The economic situation in Iran has deteriorated rapidly over the last few months. Because the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has been having trouble maintaining its currency peg of 12, 260 rials to the US dollar, more and more Iranians are trying to trade their rials for foreign currency. This has led to a free-fall in the value of the rial. The western sanctions have blocked Iran international bank networks, making it difficult for Iranian businesses to borrow money at a time when the CBI is having difficulty meeting demands for dollars. As a consequence, Iran is facing its worst financial crisis since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. 

It has, therefore, become imperative for Iran to reach out to non-western nations to seek help. Russia, China and India are natural players in this context and so Jalili’s high profile visit to Delhi is important. Jalili tried to project Iran as a destination where countries like India can fill the vacuum by suggesting that international economic sanctions on Iran were not a “threat”, but an “opportunity”. Even Iranian health care system is close to collapse under the weight of sanctions and Tehran has reached out to India to help with life-saving drugs. India is now exporting one of its largest consignments of medicine ever to Iran.

Iran is also trying to make a case to Delhi that it could be a reliable provider of energy security to India even though the past experience of India has been rather problematic. But Jalili argued, “Iran’s capability is not just supplying oil and gas. Providing security of energy is one of the principles of Iran’s policy in this respect. We have the best capability (among all neighbouring countries) in providing energy security for the region.” Jalili made a case for the extension of gas pipeline with Pakistan to India underlining that Iran “has the capacity to provide security.” But India has been trying to reduce its dependence on Iranian oil for some time now and it is not entirely clear if there will be a change of heart of New Delhi because of Jalili’s visit though India recognises the benefits of using the Iranian territory as a transit route into Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Putting our children in line of fire - source - the nation

By: Shahid Aziz | January 06, 2013

Kargil, like every other meaningless war that we have fought, brings home lessons we continue to refuse to learn. Instead, we proudly call it our history written in the blood of our children. Indeed, our children penning down our misdeeds with their blood! Medals for some, few songs, a cross road renamed, and of course annual remembrance day and a memorial for those who sacrificed their tomorrow for our today; thus preparing more war fodder for our continuing misadventures. Since nothing went wrong, so there is nothing to learn. We shall do it again. We decide. You die. We sing. 

Cut off from the reality of pain and affliction that would be brought upon the nation, the decision maker takes the course most suited to his whimsical ambitions. Possible hurdles are sidetracked, on the basis of ‘need to know’, or merely bulldozed. Never has there been an institutional decision for the bloodshed. And at the end of each fiasco, original objectives are redefined to cry, “Hurrah! We have won”. 

Our leaders seek personal glory, and desire honour in the eyes of other nations. Sadly, that has become our definition of national honour; but how can we be respected when we have little self respect? So concerned have we become about how they perceive us that we openly deride our religion and all the social values that we once stood for. 

The whole truth about Kargil is yet to be known. We await the stories of forgotten starved soldiers hiding behind cold desolate rocks, with empty guns still held in their hands. What stood them there could only be a love higher than that of life. Some refused to withdraw even when ordered, and stayed to fight the proverbial last man last round. Such precious blood spilled without cause! 

Whatever little I know, took a while to emerge, since General Musharraf had put a tight lid on Kargil. Three years later, a study commenced by GHQ to identify issues of concern at the lowest levels of command, was forcefully stopped by him. “What is your intent?” he asked. His cover-up was revealed many years later, on publication of his book. 

An unsound military plan based on invalid assumptions, launched with little preparations and in total disregard to the regional and international environment, was bound to fail. That may well have been the reason for its secrecy. It was a total disaster. The question then arises why was it undertaken? Were there motives other than those proclaimed, or was it only a blunder, as I had assumed for many years? 

Paradigm Shift? Reassessing Pakistan’s Security

6 January 2013

Published in The News on Sunday

The Pakistan army has reportedly revised its security assessment and is now placing more emphasis on ‘internal threats’ rather than external enemies 

Media reports suggest that the Pakistan army has revised its security assessment and is now placing more emphasis on ‘internal threats’ rather than the external enemies which had informed its strategy as well as operations. This is a welcome development. The details of the new doctrine are unclear but there have been three indications in the recent past. First, the tacit support to the civilian government’s thaw with India and undertaking the unimaginable: trade with India. Second, the chief of the army staff, Gen Kayani, while speaking at an official ceremony on August 14, cited the threat of extremism and reiterated the moderate ethos of Islam. Thirdly, the continued battle against militants in the northwest of the country continues without any major policy reversal. 

There are two issues with the internal shifts, if any, in the way military is proceeding with its strategic rethink. First of all, due to its structure and institutional culture it is not an open and engaging entity. Decisions are centralised and are taken by a coterie of top commanders. Secondly it is also learning to readjust its power and influence within the context of a changing Pakistan. 

Secondly, after five years of civilian rule and emergence of new power centres (judiciary and media), its exclusive monopoly of power had been eroded. For instance, launching a coup though not impossible is a far more complicated endeavour. In this fluid political environment, the Army has yet to find a comfortable equilibrium with the political forces and the parliament. It might have been more useful had the army tried to engage with the national security committee of the parliament thereby giving its rethink more depth, public input and long term legitimacy.

Let’s not forget that the ideological propaganda of al Qaeda and its affiliates has penetrated various sections of the Pakistani society. Whilst the Pakistani population does not want a Taliban type regime that bans women’s education, a vast majority of the population considers the US as an enemy of Islam and the Muslim. More often than not the West — as a vague construct — is also employed in this xenophobic and violent ideology of resistance. This narrative has gained ground in the country whether we like or not. 

White House Considering the “Zero Option” for Afghanistan?


How low can they go? After leaks suggesting that the White House is decreasing projected troop levels in Afghanistan post-2014 to as low as 3,000, now the deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes hassuggested that the zero option is a very real possibility. 

This might be just a bargaining ploy to put pressure on Hamid Karzai as negotiations over a Status of Forces Agreement heat up, but it could also be where the White House ends up. That was certainly the outcome in Iraq. There, as in Afghanistan, the view of most experts and military officers was that we needed a substantial residual force but after negotiations hit a snag, President Obama pulled all the troops out. He may well do so again in Afghanistan—an option that Chuck Hagel and John Kerry would be more likely to support than their predecessors at Defense and State. 

There would be little public pushback; even most Republicans are tired of the war and few are willing to get into a political brawl to keep troops in Afghanistan. This would be a political winner for Obama in the short term. It would not, however, be in our long-term national security interests. 

It seems rather late in the day to be rehearsing all the reasons why we need to keep troops in Afghanistan, but those reasons are as valid today as they were in 2002: Our troop presence is an essential bulwark against the return to power of the Taliban which, recall, have never repudiated al-Qaeda and other trans-national terror groups. A victory for the Taliban would be a victory for al-Qaeda too and it would have parlous consequences outside Afghanistan. It would energize jihadists around the world and most particularly in Pakistan, the unstable but nuclear-armed state next door. 

The Afghan security forces are more capable than they were a few years ago, but they cannot stave off such a disaster by themselves; they remain highly dependent on U.S. support and they will be so for years to come. The U.S. presence in Afghanistan not only allows us to buttress the Afghan forces but also to conduct our own counter-terrorist operations, such as the operation which killed Osama bin Laden. 

All of that would be lost if the White House were to implement the “zero option” over the objections of the commanders on the ground. But it could very well happen. And however disastrous the zero option might turn out to be, it could actually be preferable to leaving a token force of, say, 3,000 troops which would be big enough to arouse nationalist resentment but too small to be militarily effective.