What the Deaths of Four Green Berets in Niger Really Tells Us About the US Military’s Strategic Posture

Eight days ago a US Army Special Forces* Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA, A Team, small team) partnered with a Nigerien Special Forces team were ambushed along the Niger-Mali border.  The Green Berets, from 3rd Special Forces Group, were conducting a Foreign Internal Defense (FID) mission. Foreign Internal Defense is defined in Joint Publication 3-22/Foreign Internal Defense as:

Foreign internal defense (FID) is the participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government or other designated organization, to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism, and other threats to their security. The focus of US FID efforts is to support the host nation’s (HN’s) internal defense and development (IDAD), which can be described as the full range of measures taken by a nation to promote its growth and protect itself from the security threats described above.

Derek Gannon has provided excellent coverage over at SOFREP. Including a powerful op-ed. But it was this point that he made that I found the most thought provoking:

Gannon’s reporting brings us back to one of the points I made in May when discussing plans to send an additional 4,000 or so troops to Afghanistan:

… the conventional Army can’t do much more than what it is actually doing. And neither can the Air Force or the Navy or Special Forces. Eventually something will have to give. Either the US will have to adjust its national security strategy expectations down so they are in line with the ways and means available/likely to be available or it will have to adjust the ways and means available up so they are in line with our national security strategy expectations and obligations. Given that the US is the only country to ever cut taxes, twice, while waging two wars, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to increase our means in any significant manner. To do so would require actually increasing Federal revenue, which is anathema to the GOP majorities in both the House and the Senate, as well as movement conservative and Republican party orthodoxy.

What Gannon reported in regard to US Army Africa and US Africa Command’s inability to provide close air support (CAS) and casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) by air isn’t just confined to US Special Forces operating in Niger. US Army Africa has one, let me repeat that, ONE brigade combat team allocated to it. Currently it is the 1st Brigade Combat Team/101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), also known as the 327th Infantry Regiment or “Bastogne”. That brigade, approximately 4,500 to 5,000 Soldiers (if it is at full readiness) garrisoned at Ft. Campbell, KY is usually broken up to conduct a number of advise, assist, train, and support missions as tasked by US Army Africa. It is supplemented by small teams of Soldiers from a variety of state National Guard elements as every state National Guard has foreign country partners. This is not a new development, rather it is how US Army Africa has been organized since its inception. The only other brigade combat team that the US Army Africa commander has at his command is the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which is allocated to the Southern European Task Force, which is the other command that the US Army Africa commander is dual hatted to run**. They are the rapid reaction force for US Army Europe and the Southern European Task Force, as well as for US Army Africa. However, they are garrisoned in Vicenza, Italy, which is also the home station for US Army Africa and the Southern European Task Force.

It has recently been reported, however, that the 173rd is struggling to meet and maintain readiness as a result of technological changes and as a result may not be able to successfully fulfill its mission set:

But the assessment details a series of “capability gaps” the unit has identified during recent training with Ukrainian troops with experience battling Russian-backed separatists, who have used cheap drones and electronic warfare tools to pinpoint targets for artillery barrages and devastated government armored vehicles with state-of-the-art Russian antitank missiles.

Some of the shortfalls, like the brigade’s lack of air defense and electronic warfare units and over-reliance on satellite communications and GPS navigation systems, are the direct results of the Army’s years of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the enemy has no air power or other high-end equipment and technology.

“The lessons we learned from our Ukrainian partners were substantial. It was a real eye-opener on the absolute need to look at ourselves critically,” Col. Gregory Anderson, who commissioned the report earlier this year during his stint as the brigade’s commander, told POLITICO after it had obtained a copy of the report. “We felt compelled to write about our experiences and pass on what we saw and learned.”

The reason that this is important and the reason it has to do with the four dead Green Berets last week is one more indicator that the ends, ways, and means of the US military are way out of balance. The US military is currently designed to be expeditionary. To be forward based and forward deployed to help positively shape the 21st Century operating environment and various areas of responsibility through a variety of missions. A lot of these missions are military to military partnering. Foreign Internal Defense, advise and assist, train, equip, as well as military to civilian development (National Guard engineering teams partnering with host country elements to build or refit infrastructure ), humanitarian assistance (Civil Affairs and other units conducting medical and veterinary operations, etc) and military to military and military to civilian diplomacy. These four Soldiers killed in action continues to hammer home that despite what we’re spending on the US military we’re still unable to properly sustain operations. The inability to provide close air support or casualty evacuation by air when troops are in contact with hostile forces is inexcusable. This isn’t the US Army Africa or the Special Operations Command Africa Commanders faults per se. They have been given missions to carry out. They also have not been provided with the appropriate resources to support those missions. Eventually these two things are going to be in conflict. Unfortunately it happened eight days ago and involved four dead Green Berets, as well as a number of our Nigerien partners.

This is an ends, ways, means out of alignment problem. It has contributed to three collisions and one grounding over the past year in the 7th Fleet, which is the Navy’s most active command. Tired, overworked Sailors are going to make mistakes. And they have.

This isn’t an argument for more defense spending, rather it is an acknowledgement that given what we’re spending we’re not getting optimum outcomes. Some of this is that US Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps aviators have been at war continuously since 1991. Some of it is that the tooth (combat elements) to tail (support elements) needs to be reapportioned. I’m not nocking all the hard working uniformed and civilian personnel doing acquisitions, logistics, combat arms support, sustainment, garrison/home station operations and installation management, medical, dental, and veterinary services, etc. If they go away then the combat elements are going to be in even worse shape. But right now we appear to have too little operational capability and capacity to do what is necessary. Eventually something will have to give. Either the US force posture, the idea of being expeditionary and using the US military to proactively shape the global operating environment will have to be reconsidered and reconceptualized or the ways and means provided will have to be adjusted accordingly. If we can’t provide close air support and casualty evacuation to a 12 man ODA and their host country partners in contact with hostile forces in Niger, then we have a problem. And that problem is only going to get bigger and worse as long as the discussion of what the US military is for, how it should be structured to achieve the objectives set for it, and how we pay to do that gets punted from one continuing resolution to another and from one waiver of the Budget Control Act to the next. Regardless of how one feels about what the US military is doing or should be doing, the ambush in Niger is a major signal that we have a problem. And this problem is bigger than just what the US military is tasked to do and how it is resourced to do it.

* Special Forces (SF) specifically refers to the US Army’s Green Berets. All other US special operations elements are referred to as Special Operations Forces (SOF).

** US Army Africa is technically a build out and restructuring of the Southern European Task Force. Hence the US Army African commander being dual hatted as the Southern European Task Force commander.

104 replies
  1. 1
    lollipopguild says:

    Gee, if we find ourselves in a ground war in Korea who is going to do the fighting? Do we pull troops out of Afganiquagmire? Do we pull troops out of Europe? It will of course be Obama’s fault.

  2. 2
    JMG says:

    This was an illuminating and disturbing post, Adam. Thank you. Can’t help thinking about this in relationship to an administration seemingly hell bent on two very big wars in Iran and Korea at the same time.

  3. 3
    TerryC says:

    NIGERGHAZI! NIGERGHAZI! NIGERGHAZI!

  4. 4
    NobodySpecial says:

    Even the military isn’t immune to their insane propaganda about government spending too much. It really drives home one more time how soulless these bastards are. They don’t care if the troops are overextended, underpaid, and undersupplied, sent hither and yon for impossible missions, and then abandoned as soon as they get home, all as long as the Kochs and the Mercers get another fucking tax cut.

    I hate every one of these heartless bastards. They’ll let the country fall apart for a few extra dollars they’ll never spend. We should drop them instead of bombs on military targets.

  5. 5
    Ben Cisco says:

    What this tells us specifically is that we need Congressional leadership that currently does not exist – one that isn’t bought and paid for (and capable of thinking of the troops as something other than a totem to rile up the real ‘Murkans when them “others” get uppity).

  6. 6
    hellslittlestangel says:

    The Orange Better One wanted to say, “They’re not heroes. I like soldiers who don’t get killed.” But that Bastard Kelly stopped him. Unfair!

  7. 7

    Kind of impressive how Trump has already had a Katrina and two Benghazis.

  8. 8
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Did Trump at least go to Dover when their remains came home?

    (Don’t bother to reply; pretty sure I know the answer.)

  9. 9
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @TerryC: Exactly. Notice that Democrats haven’t tried to turn these unfortunate deaths into a faux political scandal? Why you ask? Because they’re classy and dignified and not crass like the Grahams and McCains and Limbaughs and Hannitys.

  10. 10
    NobodySpecial says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: He went to Jared’s.

  11. 11
    condorcet runner-up says:

    @Major Major Major Major: But HRC took campaign donations from Harvey Weinstein so it’s all even. At least that’s what CNN tells me.

  12. 12
    Jeffro says:

    Clearly we need to go to war with Niger…

  13. 13
    realbtl says:

    As always thanks for your insights Adam. This is certainly 1 of the reasons I keep coming back here. Well, the pets and food too.

  14. 14
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @NobodySpecial:

    👌

  15. 15
    Roger Moore says:

    It doesn’t help that our entire procurement infrastructure is completely out of whack. We’ve spent decades treating military spending primarily as a form of welfare for the MIC and only secondarily about providing a useful fighting force. That almost made sense during the Cold War and the period immediately after, when we were mostly preparing for future conflicts and a big part of what we were trying to accomplish was to ensure we had a technological advantage over potential enemies. It makes very little sense when we’re actively fighting wars at a tempo our military is having trouble maintaining. We need to back-burner expensive projects for speculative future wars against technologically advanced enemies and focus more on providing adequate support for the wars we’re currently fighting.

  16. 16
    raven says:

    “Morale aboard a US Navy ship reached such lows that one sailor compared the vessel to a ‘floating prison’ after they were fed just bread and water.
    In a situation reminiscent of the infamous mutiny against Captain William Bligh on the HMS Bounty, sailors on the USS Shiloh complained about harsh punishments for minor infractions while only a third said they could trust the leadership of the vessel to treat them fairly.”

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....z4vJzg1S4U
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

  17. 17
  18. 18
    Roger Moore says:

    @lollipopguild:

    Gee, if we find ourselves in a ground war in Korea who is going to do the fighting?

    STRATCOM. SATSQ.

  19. 19

    @Roger Moore: What about making NATO do it, they’ve been ripping us off for years, and the Atlantic is a very big ocean.

  20. 20
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Patricia Kayden: We may have to reexamine our scruples on that score.

  21. 21
    The Moar You Know says:

    Exactly. Notice that Democrats haven’t tried to turn these unfortunate deaths into a faux political scandal? Why you ask?

    @Patricia Kayden: Because Dems don’t want to win badly enough. Full stop.

    Because they’re classy and dignified and not crass like the Grahams and McCains and Limbaughs and Hannitys.

    Yeah, those crass bastards own the executive, legislative, judicial, military and media branches and narratives, but hey, revel in our class and righteousness by all means.

  22. 22
    BC in Illinois says:

    If we can’t provide close air support and casualty evacuation to a 12 man ODA and their host country partners in contact with hostile forces in Niger, then we have a problem.

    This. This ought to be a message capable of breaking through the consciousness of even those who don’t want to see. If we can’t support the people we send into combat, then we need to rethink our support, or our combat.

    Trump isn’t going to be thinking at this level – – neither the technical nor the moral nor the personal nor the national level. All of these are beyond him. But there are thinking people, who need to be speaking of these things. [military? executive? legislative? media?]

    Only when that discussion rises to the intensity of being “about Trump” as our problem, will Donald Trump see it as a matter worthy of his concern.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Brachiator says:

    Great post, Adam. A lot to take in. One thing you wrote really struck a chord:

    This is an ends, ways, means out of alignment problem. It has contributed to three collisions and one grounding over the past year in the 7th Fleet, which is the Navy’s most active command. Tired, overworked Sailors are going to make mistakes. And they have.

    I ran across a recent story about a Navy ship supposedly with massive moral problems.

    Morale aboard a US warship operating in the Pacific reached such a low ebb that one sailor described serving aboard the ship as being akin to being on “a floating prison,” according to surveys obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

    The Navy Times obtained three command climate surveys featuring hundreds of pages of anonymous comments from sailors revealing widespread morale issues aboard the USS Shiloh, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser based in Yokosuka, Japan.

    Two Navy officials told CNN that the information reported from the surveys was accurate.

    According to the obtained surveys only 31% of the sailors who responded to the survey said yes to the prompt: “I trust that my organization’s leadership will treat me fairly,” compared to 63% under the previous commanding officer. The commanding officer at the time of the survey, Capt. Adam Aycock, no longer works on the Shiloh.

    I wonder whether you or others had any insights into this.

    It’s almost as though we are asking military personnel to do the impossible,and then not even bothering to make sure they have enough equipment and support to get the job done.

    ETA: Ah, I see another poster has noted the story as well.

  25. 25
    NorthLeft12 says:

    it is highly unlikely that we will be able to increase our means in any significant manner. To do so would require actually increasing Federal revenue, which is anathema to the GOP majorities in both the House and the Senate, as well as movement conservative and Republican party orthodoxy.

    Mr. Gannon kind of misses the forest for the trees here. The Repubs will not raise revenue, but they will not think twice about slashing most spending for the operation of the government and good of the general public outside of the military related expenditures. Or they will just increase the debt because they can, and it doesn’t matter as long as they are in power.

    Let’s face it, Deadbeat Donald’s whole schtick about the US not being able to police or guard or punish the world was pretty much correct. But his foolish talk about having countries pay the US for it’s protection was never going to happen, and withdrawing those forces was absolutely not going to happen.
    Another scam by Trump on the rubes who voted him in. Sad!

  26. 26
    Mike in DC says:

    Well, in WW2, we had close to 100 divisions in the field…but about 150 divisions worth of support personnel. It was an approach that paid off.
    Generally we seem pretty overextended. Since we won’t be spending more, doing less makes sense. But in the long term, it makes sense to me to bifurcate our ground forces into 2 groups: the first highly mobile, rapidly deployable units (which includes SOCOM, Marines, Airborne and Aircav, possibly Stryker brigades as well); the second our heavier divisions (armor, mechanized infantry) for longer term, more rigorous warfighting against peer and near-peer adversaries.
    Ultimately I’d expect an evolutionary track towards all ground forces being capable of rapid deployment and redeployment.

  27. 27
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Roger Moore: And I would add that the contract management needs to be greatly improved. Need more fixed cost contracting.

  28. 28
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Brachiator:

    It’s almost as though we are asking military personnel to do the impossible,and then not even bothering to make sure they have enough equipment and support to get the job done.

    Yep, but you can’t have that AND tax cuts.

  29. 29

    @The Moar You Know: Yeah, having Dems lying and generating faux scandalstoo is really going to make things better.

    I don’t think so.

  30. 30
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    So long as the dotard is shitting the Oval Office, nothing will be done about this, because it’s beyond the capability of the dotard to think along these lines.

  31. 31
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @BC in Illinois: I am not trying to shift any of this from the buffoon and his parade of clowns in the White House, but isn’t this a long term issue that has been slowly getting worse over the last couple of decades?

    And secondly, is it reasonable to expect to have a full menu of logisitical, transportation, and medical support capabilities for every mission like this? I agree that you absolutely must have extraction capabilities, but the other services seem to require longer range planning and infrastructure.

  32. 32
    Roger Moore says:

    @BC in Illinois:

    If we can’t support the people we send into combat, then we need to rethink our support, or our combat.

    I think the response to this is to point out that combat is inherently risky. We can’t expect to win every battle without casualties. What having a lower level of support will mean in practice is that we’re going to suffer outright defeats and suffer serious casualties. That isn’t necessarily a major military problem, but it’s potentially a huge political problem. A huge amount of our current overreliance on the military is that we’ve gotten used to fighting wars without defeat and with minimal casualties so ordinary civilians can put military operations out of their minds. If and when that is reversed- when we suffer thousands of casualties in a single battle or face an outright defeat in a major operation- people are going to start having many more second thoughts about treating the military as the solution to every international problem.

  33. 33
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: We shouldn’t stoop to ginning up false scandals, but I sure hope we are trying to hold the bastards accountable. I know the Democrats don’t control hearings, etc., at the moment, so we’re limited in what we can do. But I hope folks are agitating for an investigation into this incident. I haven’t heard about it if so.

  34. 34
    Chyron HR says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    It’s 3:30 PM eastern time and once again none of the people running the country into the ground have been poisoned, shot, IED’ed, etc. Why do you still lack the moral fortitude to save America?

  35. 35
    rikyrah says:

    They’re going strong (both the GOP Governor Candidates), on the illegal Hispanic Gangs ready to come and rape and murder you. Gillespie’s running hard on MS-13 in Virginia.

    I have lived in an urban area pretty much my entire life. Complete with gangs. It’s just hard for me to compute that these ads would make sense. I have never seen non-White gangs ALLOWED to take over White areas. (see how I put that?) I’ve never seen it.

    If this has happened in NJ or Virginia, please enlighten me. I am always up for learning something new.

    Guadagno’s ‘Willie Horton’ ad fans racial fears | Editorial

    Updated on October 12, 2017 at 2:49 PM
    Posted on October 12, 2017 at 12:36 PM

    By Star-Ledger Editorial Board eletters@starledger.com
    Kim Guadagno just released a TV ad that accuses Phil Murphy of sympathizing with the gang of notorious murderers who shot down four college students in a Newark schoolyard a decade ago, clipping a video in which Murphy says, “My bias is going to be having their back.”

    One problem: Murphy was not talking about the murderers.

    He was talking about law-abiding immigrants, and had just emphasized the importance of distinguishing them from those who commit crimes.

    What Guadagno did is splice the video in way that is flat-out dishonest, a cheap attempt to whip up the most ugly and unfounded fears of unauthorized immigrants, and to use that fear to slime Murphy, her Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race.

    It is this campaign’s Willie Horton ad, and another sign that Guadagno’s campaign can’t be trusted. She’s going entirely Trumpy, using distortion to fan fear of minorities and stir up the white vote — much like the infamous, race-baiting attack ad from George Bush did in 1988, starring Horton, a black convicted felon.

  36. 36
    HeleninEire says:

    I am 3100 miles away and this, all of it, is EXHAUSTING me.

    So glad I left, but so sorry for those I left behind.

    On a positive note, I am getting involved here semi politically. Went to look at an apt on Mountjoy Square, one of a few true Georgian Squares left here and was appalled at the shape of the buildings. The entire north square was abandoned. Where the hell is the Dublin City Council giving grants to developers to rehab those gorgeous buildings?

    Gonna bitch, gonna moan. If someone doesn’t do something soon those buildings are going to fall down on their own. And so much of Dublin’s history will be lost.

    ETA: So sorry if that was OT. Perhaps I’m pulling a Raven who doesn’t really care about the topic. I guess I went from “I’m frustrated” to “but I’m doing something about it”

  37. 37

    @Omnes Omnibus: ISTR Moar also thinks we need to prevent republicans from voting.

  38. 38
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @NorthLeft12:

    Let’s face it, Deadbeat Donald’s whole schtick about the US not being able to police or guard or punish the world was pretty much correct.

    Donald Trump LONGS to punish the world. His shtick was that we were doing it too lackadaisically and should take the gloves off.

  39. 39

    @FlipYrWhig: the media did a good job convincing certain people that Trump didn’t want us to be the world police anymore, not like that warmonger Hitlery.

  40. 40
    Miss Bianca says:

    I’m just, trying, and failing, not to think about those Green Berets getting picked off while waiting for air support that was never ever, going to be there for them. .

  41. 41
    FlipYrWhig says:

    BTW, someone should ask why Niger isn’t, and won’t be, every news organization’s front page story every fucking day for months on end. It would be with any other president. We would have flags at half-staff and a whole somberly accusatory discussion about exactly who betrayed our brave boys.

  42. 42
    rikyrah says:

    Ryan: Feds have duty to help Puerto Rico
    BY SCOTT WONG – 10/12/17 12:45 PM EDT

    Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that Puerto Rico is facing a “humanitarian crisis” and argued that the federal government has a responsibility to provide personnel and aid to the hurricane-ravaged island territory.

    But Ryan also appeared to defend controversial remarks by President Trump that federal resources cannot remain in Puerto Rico “forever,” saying the territory needs to get back “on its own two feet.” The president did not make similar comments about two other regions that have been slammed by hurricanes, Houston and south Florida.

    “Yes, we need to make sure that Puerto Rico can begin to stand on its own two feet,” Ryan told reporters at his weekly news conference. “They’ve already had tough fiscal problems to begin with. … We’ve got to do more to help Puerto Rico rebuild its own economy so that it can be self-sufficient.”

  43. 43
    Mary G says:

    I am just completely gobsmacked that the party who screamed for years about what the black president and his black woman national security person said about Benghazi is fine and dandy with president Twitler ignoring the death of these poor troops.

  44. 44
    J R in WV says:

    @raven:

    Yeah, I read an article about the Shiloh – pretty amazing. I was on a WW II era tub with a captain who drove the ship into a mole and caused a stack fire on a tugboat trying to keep the ship from damaging itself worse than it did.

    He was reassigned to command a military hospital in Korea, where his ship handling skills would be less of a continuing danger to a ship and crew. But our morale was apparently better than the Shiloh’s crew. And we weren’t a warship in an actual war zone like the Shiloh is. The USN was a cluster when I was in, and it looks like it may be worse today.

    The USS Zumwalt was supposed to be first of a slew of new Destroyers, but cost so much ( between $4 and $7 billion) there will only be 3 of them. How expensive will maintenance on a fleet of three ships be? But we can’t afford big enough crews for the sailors to be able to sleep enough to stand watches. Smart!

  45. 45
    Chris says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Yeah… I was reading that and thinking “it’s fucking crazy that with the amount of money we sink into the defense sector, the military is still struggling to make ends meet all over the place.”

  46. 46
    neldob says:

    It’s an attitude towards war fighting and warriors that is careless and irresponsible. The plebs are expendable. Wasn’t that what all the bunghole Rumsfeld — ‘You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.’ all about, as people died from lack of armored vehicles? Mission accomplished should be carved in dog doo on every Republican front step.

    Also, thanks Silverman

  47. 47
    Roger Moore says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    BTW, someone should ask why Niger isn’t, and won’t be, every news organization’s front page story every fucking day for months on end. It would be with any other Democratic president.

    FTFY. Military catastrophe is only a political problem when there’s a Democrat in office. When Islamic Jihad blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut, killing well over 200 Marines, Reagan paid almost no political price and wasn’t considered to have been politically responsible. Debacles like that only turn into huge political messes when there’s a Democrat in the White House.

  48. 48

    @Roger Moore: did Clinton have any blowback from the USS Cole, or was it too late in his term at that point?

  49. 49
    rikyrah says:

    Just so you can see them side-by-side, here is Trump on Texas vs PR. Wonder what the difference is. Hmmm… pic.twitter.com/5QWEAPgWG7
    — Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) October 12, 2017

  50. 50
    Chris says:

    @rikyrah:

    We’ve got to do more to help Puerto Rico rebuild its own economy so that it can be self-sufficient.

    What the hell is he talking about? Countries need to be self-sufficient, but Puerto Rico isn’t a country, it’s one piece of a country. Does anybody look at the couple dozen red states taking in more money from the federal government than they put in, while most blue states do the opposite in order to subsidize them, and go “oh, my. Those states aren’t self-sufficient?”

    (I know, I know, dog bites man, but still, Jesus fucking Christ).

  51. 51
    rikyrah says:

    only sign of FEMA I personally saw in PR was English sign in area w/o cell signal telling people to call/visit a website to register for aid
    — Molly Crabapple (@mollycrabapple) October 12, 2017

    FEMA sign I saw in Punta Santiago, Puerto Rico an area without internet or cellphone coverage pic.twitter.com/jnEqsRTtTp
    — Molly Crabapple (@mollycrabapple) October 12, 2017

  52. 52
    But her emails!!! says:

    If we didn’t dump literally trillions of dollars into programs like the Stealth Destroyer, Osprey, F-22 and F-35 programs maybe we could provide our troops with the support they needed.

  53. 53
    Repatriated says:

    Personnel are a cost sink, hardware is an ongong profit center for the MIC.
    Who’s lobbying for more and better-paid troops, and how much money and votes do they bring to the table compared to defense contractors?

  54. 54
    rikyrah says:

    Prince Harry will attend the inaugural @ObamaFoundation summit in Chicago on 31st October. pic.twitter.com/wWQxWmc5pK
    — Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) October 12, 2017

  55. 55
    catclub says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    Because Dems don’t want to win badly enough. Full stop.

    I disagree. RW websites say the same thing about their leaders. I think both sides want to win just as badly.

    Dems decided ( collectively or independently) that calling this another benghazi would not benefit them.

  56. 56
    rikyrah says:

    What I don’t understand is how can anyone truly be “shocked” by Trump’s behavior in office. This is how he has been acting in public for decades. Birtherism, misogyny, screwing contractors, and erratic, narcissistic behavior–it was all there, Tom. https://t.co/dzM69vg94C
    — David Corn (@DavidCornDC) October 12, 2017

  57. 57
    rikyrah says:

    Just announced: Updates on speakers and session leaders for the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago ➡️ https://t.co/VHGNLY7k4c
    — The Obama Foundation (@ObamaFoundation) October 12, 2017

  58. 58
    Roger Moore says:

    @Major Major Major Major:
    I don’t remember there being a huge blowback over the Cole, but your comment makes me wonder if it might have been just enough to tip the 2000 election. There’s an interesting alternative history.

  59. 59
    catclub says:

    @J R in WV:

    And we weren’t a warship in an actual war zone like the Shiloh is.

    Which ocean area is the war zone in 2017?

  60. 60
    RR Mikey says:

    @Patricia Kayden: …hence the reason we’ve lost control of the government. It would help for us to grow a set and fight them the same way they fight us.

  61. 61
    rikyrah says:

    Biggest news of the day: the queen has blown off Trump, will not meet him https://t.co/5tCaWNcUPG
    — Mitchell Orenstein (@m_orenstein) October 12, 2017

  62. 62
    Brachiator says:

    @NorthLeft12:

    I am not trying to shift any of this from the buffoon and his parade of clowns in the White House, but isn’t this a long term issue that has been slowly getting worse over the last couple of decades?

    Good point. But you have a problem with GOP politicians babbling about how much they love the military, but then failing to do what is necessary to actually support them.

    And then you have Trump. I saw a recent news story in which he puffed his chest out and bloviated about “my generals” when reacting to the release of captives in Afghanistan. But I still wonder whether he pays any attention to the details, or delegates appropriately. I have my doubts.

  63. 63
    Spanky says:

    @rikyrah: I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict his visa will be denied.

  64. 64

    Trump’s lunacy so saturates the atmosphere that it’s almost impossible for another story to break through.

    Last weekend, we made a 5 hour drive and had the news on some of the time. It was all Trump, all the time.

  65. 65
    Repatriated says:

    @But her emails!!!: Much of that procurement (especially for the USAF) was a failed bet that the non-ground-combat Service Branches could cede manning levels to the Army (who needed increased manning to literally put boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan) in return for getting funding for desired weapons systems (assuming that they could maintain a core cadre to train the eventual recruits they’d get when really needed at a later time). The Iraq/Afghanistan wars looked like the last bite at the apple for a long time, so they had to insist on beyond-cutting-edge capability since once this round of buys was done, they’d be stuck with it for quite a while. Then the procurement programs failed (see F-35, Zumwalt, etc.). So now they have limited weapons-system availability *and* limited manning. And the Army’s overextended as well.

    Comes of trying to fight multiple wars on the cheap and off the budget.

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Spanky:

    I bet he has a diplomatic passport. I wonder if they can deny him without a rock-solid reason.

  67. 67
    Barbara says:

    @rikyrah:

    What I don’t understand is how can anyone truly be “shocked” by Trump’s behavior in office.

    I think the expression is damage control. Not many individuals had more influence in getting Trump elected than Barrack. Imagine all the panicked and pained and worried calls he must be fielding from his friends and business acquaintances.

  68. 68
    Mnemosyne says:

    @rikyrah:

    We’re not the only ones who miss the Obamas — the Queen hugged FLOTUS!

  69. 69
    Elie says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    I think that our folks are more sophisticated than that. Constantly pecking at the elephant is not gonna do much and would barely be covered in the media. Rather, let the Repubs continue to damage themselves, and pick your targets for most effect strategically..

    I believe in my gut we are headed for very very hard times and a fair amount of chaos. Trump is heading us for a cliff that no one of “the three generals” are going to be able to prevent us from experiencing.

    Yes, we need critical leadership not just from the Democrats, but from all the institutions that make up our government. We are being severely damaged and its going to take a lot to put us back together. Stop making it sound like alls we need is the Democrats to bang their shoe on the podium to fix this. I truly believe that our leaders out of this may not be just our party but a whole bunch of different people. I am hoping that some of the Dems are working interested Republicans and others on the down low. We need to be preparing different scenarios for different catastrophes. I would not expect that to be part of the public’s awareness necessarily.

    We are in unique times. Our interventions may need to be quite unique from how we have managed before. I really feel stuff is setting up for a very interesting or scary (take your pick), late fall and winter.

  70. 70
    catclub says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady):

    Last weekend, we made a 5 hour drive and had the news on some of the time. It was all Trump, all the time.

    this is how Trump wins. attention all the time.

    On the diplomatic front WTF is up with the US and its spat with Turkey?

  71. 71
    Brachiator says:

    @rikyrah:

    Biggest news of the day: the queen has blown off Trump, will not meet him

    She is not amused.

  72. 72
    ruemara says:

    @rikyrah: Well, who would really want to?

    On topic, so we’re prepared to fight a less technologically advanced enemy and ill prepared for an enemy that uses basic available tech? Ok, things are going well. Where the fuck are all those defense appropriation dollars going then? Shit bombers that no one actually wants? OFFS, sake, America!

  73. 73
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    We’re not the only ones who miss the Obamas — the Queen hugged FLOTUS!

    What a touching moment!

    You will never see this segment on Fox News, where they perpetuate the lie that other nations hated the Obamas. But only idiots and racists deny the charm and dignified charisma of the Obamas.

  74. 74
    Leto says:

    Some of this is that US Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps aviators have been at war continuously since 1991. Some of it is that the tooth (combat elements) to tail (support elements) needs to be reapportioned. I’m not nocking all the hard working uniformed and civilian personnel doing acquisitions, logistics, combat arms support, sustainment, garrison/home station operations and installation management, medical, dental, and veterinary services, etc. If they go away then the combat elements are going to be in even worse shape. But right now we appear to have too little operational capability and capacity to do what is necessary. Eventually something will have to give.

    I’m stuck at work, but I’d love to talk about this point and how I’ve seen over my 20+ year career the continual de-evolution of our capabilities. Specifically how we’ve moved a lot of our military capacity, both operationally and logistically, to contractors and how that’s absolutely gutted the military, both in personnel, money, technical experience, etc… I’ll probably post on this later, even if it’s a dead thread, but this is something that needs to be reckoned with: Republican ideals of how a government should work have been implemented in the military and it’s fucking horrible. Great, now I’m worked up! THANKS ADAM!!! /s ;)

  75. 75
    Stan says:

    @Mike in DC:

    Well, in WW2, we had close to 100 divisions in the field…but about 150 divisions worth of support personnel. It was an approach that paid off.

    I’m not sure what you mean by that but…the Army was about 92 Divisions; the Marine Corps had another 6. But even within those combat divisions, only about a third of the personnel were combat troops doing things like shooting. So the tooth to tail ratio was far lower than what you might be saying.

    We were also allied with the Red Army’s 500 or so divisions. That’s fundamentally why we could have such a small Army in WW2. The Red Army inflicted about 80% of the losses the Germans suffered.

    Generally we seem pretty overextended.

    Yup!

    it makes sense to me to bifurcate our ground forces into 2 groups: the first highly mobile, rapidly deployable units…..the second our heavier divisions (armor, mechanized infantry) for longer term, more rigorous warfighting against peer and near-peer adversaries.

    Yes, that’s been happening since the 1960s; very small scale at first, but rapidly accelerating since the end of the cold war. We don’t really have any peer adversaries at the moment, although we probably will if trump stays in office 8 years.

  76. 76
    Mike J says:

    I heard there was going good to be a rescue but Trump told them to stand down.

    And all the other lies they told about Benghazi. Just change the names.

  77. 77
    ruemara says:

    @Major Major Major Major: How those folks make me seeth.

  78. 78
    Chris says:

    @Leto:

    I’d be curious to hear those thoughts. Near as I can tell, the privatization has mostly meant creating a thousand new private-sector middlemen between the government legislators that pay and the government departments that need the service, all of whom proceed to suck as much money as they can out of the taxpayer for stuff that all used to be done in-house.

    And while this is another thing that I really wish more Democrats would ideologically attack – profiteers are gutting our military capabilities even while making the cost for them skyrocket – I can see why they don’t. As Roger Moore pointed out, the military-industrial complex is one of the last welfare programs that’s mostly got bipartisan support. “Attack the war profiteers” will, at least in the short run, mean “lay off a shit ton of people, strategically deployed across all fifty states.”

  79. 79
    catclub says:

    @Leto:

    Specifically how we’ve moved a lot of our military capacity, both operationally and logistically, to contractors and how that’s absolutely gutted the military, both in personnel, money, technical experience, etc…

    Yep, this. Also the same story throughout the US Government – exporting expertise and institutional knowledge out of the building.
    All to keep the total headcount down. Or to pipe money to somebody’s brother inlaw.

  80. 80
    randy khan says:

    @rikyrah:

    And yet, no Puerto Rico aid bill yet.

    To repeat what I posted this morning:

    Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20 and was gone later that day. Harvey hit Houston on August 25 and finally left the area on August 29.

    The Harvey relief bill was signed on September 11, roughly 17 days after the storm hit and 13 days after it left Houston. No relief bill has been proposed for Maria, and it’s 22 days after it hit Puerto Rico.

  81. 81
    catclub says:

    The two countries have been at odds before, mainly due to Washington’s partnership with and arming of the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers an extension of the PKK. Ankara has also been urging the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen over the coup attempt, in which more than 240 people were killed.
    The leak by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency of the locations of 10 sensitive US military sites in northern Syria in June infuriated the Pentagon, which voiced concerns about the reliability of the partnership with Ankara.

  82. 82
    gvg says:

    @rikyrah: I haven’t been that impressed with his response for real on Florida and Texas. He SAID he supported Texas, but that was a while ago and he hasn’t mentioned them lately. Not like the NFL for instance. Florida’s exemptions for food stamps being able to be used on hot prepared meals expired quickly while people still didn’t have power. I know Houston had simular problems. He hates minorities I think,but he doesn’t actually care about anyone but himself.
    I think Puerto Rico also suffered for being third in the string of disasters. California is going to lack attention too. Think the NY aid to PR might be the way to go.

    I actually think Congress is just as much to blame. If they had any leadership, they’d get a bill approved and go flatter him into signing it. We could be really flattering and give him a “win” for the sake of PR. I don’t know what to do for my fellow citizens.

  83. 83
    Mike in NC says:

    Politicians of both parties have spent the last 20-30 years telling the military “you have to learn how to do more with less” and the top brass always salute smartly and just say “can do”!

  84. 84
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @catclub: Mostly the latter. The level of corruption by politicians “outsourcing” to utterly incompetent private sector scumbags is getting very very bad indeed.

  85. 85
    Mike in DC says:

    @catclub:
    They must be screaming about Kurdistan becoming an independent state, especially considering how much Syrian territory is controlled by Kurdish led forces.

  86. 86
    catclub says:

    @Mike in DC: It is very wierd to be in favor of the fact that the US is (presently) kinda-sorta taking the side of supporting the Kurds. I doubt it will last long. (or long enough)

    Just like Vietnam will be there forever, while we will leave, likewise for Iran and Turkey vis-a-vis Kurdistan.

  87. 87
    J R in WV says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    @The Moar You Know: Yeah, having Dems lying and generating faux scandalstoo is really going to make things better.

    I don’t think so.

    But these deaths in Niger, and the lack of attack aircraft support and evacuation support isn’t a phony false, made-up scandal. It’s the real thing scandal! They aren’t supporting the troops, REALLY!

    You have missed the point, which is that the Republicans had to make up shit to even have a phony scandal during the Democratic Obama administration, while there’s 2 or 3 REAL scandals here in the Republican administration every day.

  88. 88
    J R in WV says:

    In the article about the 173rd Airborne in Politico, the last paragraph reads:

    “The report is framed as being about the 173rd, but it’s really about more than the 173rd. It’s about what the Army needs to do,” said Adrian Bonenberger, a former infantry officer who fought with the brigade in Afghanistan and now lives in Ukraine, studying and writing about the conflict there. “If Russia uses electronic warfare to jam the brigade’s artillery, and its anti-tank weapons can’t penetrate any of the Russian armor, and they’re able to confuse and disrupt and quickly overwhelm those paratroopers, we could be in for a long war.”

    “Could be in for a long war.” isn’t what I got from the article. Could lose a war really quickly is how I read it. And the Rs are supposed to be the support the troops, military loving party!! Not showing up for that, are they?

    The TREASON runs thick in the veins of the Republican party in my opinion.

  89. 89
    catclub says:

    @J R in WV:

    “Could be in for a long war.” isn’t what I got from the article. Could lose a war really quickly is how I read it.

    I agree. perhaps the fact that the war has been going on for a few years already is what makes it along war rather than losing a war quickly.

  90. 90
    d58826 says:

    @J R in WV: I was about to make the same point. Benghazi was a diplomatic (covering a CIA) post. Maybe somebody should have foreseen the need for air cover but that really isn’t in the State Dept. tool kit. On the other hand what happened in Niger was on a combat mission. There should have been air assets available.
    Wonder how long it will take for the GOP to hold 8 investigations and Faux news to turn Niger into a ‘Trump’s Benghazi’. I’d hold my breath but I don’t look good with blue skin. Of course the rest of the media hasn’t said a lot either but Trump is such a scandal target rich environment it might just be hard to get it all in

  91. 91
    Chris says:

    @J R in WV:
    @catclub:

    Yep.

    The fact that we’ve either stalemated or gotten our asses handed to us in four out of the five major wars we’ve fought since 1945 doesn’t do much to inspire my confidence, either.

  92. 92
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @lollipopguild: This is why I keep saying we’re not going to war against the DPRK any time soon.

  93. 93
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @JMG: Professionals discuss logistics. We just don’t have the land forces to fight a major campaign on the Korean peninsula.

  94. 94
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Ben Cisco: Pretty much.

  95. 95
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: No, he was playing golf. As far as I can tell there’s been no official statement, nor was a statement of condolences issued to Niger in regard to their Soldiers who were killed by anyone other than US Africa Command. The Green Berets assigned there did attend the Nigerien military funerals. I also haven’t seen anything expressing thanks to the French special forces that responded with aviation assets to back up the Green Berets and help evac the wounded.

  96. 96
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Roger Moore: Yep. 100% agreement with this.

  97. 97
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @raven: @Brachiator:Absolute nightmare. Textbook example of toxic leadership, toxic command climate, toxic unit combined with the failure of the chain of command to improve things.

  98. 98
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @NorthLeft12: That’s me quoting myself from a post on a related topic last May.

  99. 99
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @NorthLeft12: It is not. However, we have SF and SOF teams all over West Africa doing these FID missions with host country forces as part of an anti-terrorism campaign in the western Sahel. Given that reality, assets should have been in place and available.

  100. 100
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Leto: Yep. When we were at Baumholder I was amazed they actually still had Army cooks in the DFAC. Of course our DFAC in Iraq was all contractor run.

  101. 101
    Leto says:

    @Chris: @catclub: @Adam L Silverman: All three, spot on. I just got home and I know we’ve moved on, but I said I would talk about this so I’d like to give two examples, both from the ops and support side. They actually intertwine but you’ll see larger themes that have been discussed. This is probably going to be long, so apologies up front. Also I’m speaking from a strictly USAF perspective.

    Example A: Like Adam mentioned, the aviators have been flying since ’91. Back then we had a larger military, personnel wise. We had people everywhere taking care of jobs, specifically THEIR jobs. Fast forward to about 2004. If you recall, we’re in the middle of two wars with one really starting to ramp up. During this time the DoD rolled out a new program that was designed to allow travelers, in a timely and efficient manner, to create authorizations (TDY travel orders), prepare reservations, receive approvals, generate travel vouchers, and direct deposit payment to themselves and the government charge card vendor, all via a single web portal that is continuously available. While this seems like a good thing, a more streamline/efficent way of doing business, what this actually did was cut our finance personnel by at least 50%. Previously we had a finance section that handled all of this stuff. Come in, fill out a voucher, get paid. Have a question about something? There’s a person there to answer. What this system did was to 1) shift all of this online but 2) it also laid all of this work onto the end users themselves. Instead of having finance do this work, people in the squadrons had to do this.

    What does this have to do with the aviators? If you Google, “USAF pilot shortage” you’ll see that we’re having a retention crisis. It’s not that we have a recruiting issue, we still meet those quotas, but we can’t keep them. Why? Because we’re saddling our pilots with more and more additional duties that have jack $hit to do with flying, such as being the DTS person. It takes at least 18 months to initially qual as a pilot. They then spend at least the next 24 months qual’ing on their specific platform (plane). All of that training is major money and it’s why they have 10 year contracts. So then why are we saddling them with all of this additional bull$hit? The number one thing you’ll all hear them say is, “I just want to fly, but I have all of this additional crap that I spend more time doing BS stuff than my actual job.” DTS isn’t unique, and isn’t the only program that’s been implemented onto the squadrons. There’s a TON of programs like this. Why? Because the USAF likes to think of itself as “forward thinking/innovative” and has swallowed the BS line that we reduce personnel costs via technological solutions. This isn’t exclusive to the ops side, this is rampant across the ENTIRE force.

    Example B: This is more support side, specifically comm related. Way, way back in 1983 we had a little conflict in Grenada that was named Operation Urgent Fury. One of the more memorable things to happen was that time a soldier used a payphone to call back to the US to get artillery support in Grenada. Turns out, all four branches used different radio frequencies to communicate. How this wasn’t somehow noted/fixed before, who knows? (Acutally it’s because we’re stubborn #ucks, but everyone knew that.) But a major lesson from that was: find a way for all of us to talk together to prevent that cluster#uck to happen again. Solution: JTRS: Joint Tactical Radio System. Honestly, it’s a #ucking engineering marvel. Does so many damned things that it’s like Christmas day in a box.

    Now here’s where it gets… interesting. Back in the day the military bought systems and bought enough repair parts to keep these things going. In turn you needed maintainers (people to fix systems), logisticians (people/warehouse to store systems/parts), and other associated career fields to keep all of this going. In turn, everyone in that system had to go through training. That training varied from 3-12 months on average. Fast forward to about 2000 when the new JTRS systems started being rolled out. Not only did we get a new system, but we got a whole new supply/repair process too. You see the military was no longer on the hook to either repair the systems, OR to keep all of the repair components needed. All of that was included in the warranty that was purchased with the radios, and most of those warranties were for AT LEAST ten years. And with that… well why do you need all of those maintainers? Logisticians? Why do they need those long/expensive technical schools? Why do they need to learn really intricate component level repair when they basically need to understand how to prepare the radio for FedEx shipment? We haven’t even touched on the fact that since this manning reduction that they still have an in-garrison mission to keep going, at reduced manning levels, but they still have to fill deployment billets.

    This might seem like an anti-progress rant, but this isn’t. Technological change is going to happen. This is a rant against the lean efficiency MBA style model of management that has ripped through the military. This is a rant against the goddamned Republicans who have shivved us in the back at every turn, removing benefits/pay/experience/manning, while smiling and saying, “WE SUPPORT YOU!” This is a rant against every Republican asshole who tells me/us, “Thank you for your service!”, with a smile on their face. This is a rant against trying to run the military like a business. That model doesn’t #ucking work for us, much less at the federal level. When you reduce manning/experience/proficency like that and expect it to be replaced by a 2 hour CBT, and someone with a real full time job plus 50 other responsibilities… I mean, you’re asking for it all to break. Or at the very least, you’re asking for all of the best people you need/want to quit. Because continuing to try to keep our ops tempo sustained with pre-1947 manning levels is just… it’s #ucking insane. That’s all it is. As Adam said:

    Eventually something will have to give.

    And he’s correct. And it’s a hell of a lot closer than what military leaders are saying. I started hearing, “Doing more with less” around ’03. By ’11 I had Colonels telling us we needed to start saying, “Do less with less”. And now 6 years on from that… people aren’t saying shit because we know it’s not going to end. That no matter how many times we say it, people (civilans, Congressmen, military leaders) aren’t going to #ucking listen. So people have been responding with their feet. And hell, from what Monte Cristo said regarding his mom, maybe this is what they want. If so, they’re getting it.

    And I haven’t even spoken about the Blended Retirement System, that new #ucking sham of a retirement system that’s going into effect for us in 2018. Man, I’m all worked up and it’s bed time. THANKS ADAM! /s Again, apologies for length.

  102. 102
    Chris says:

    @Leto:

    This is a rant against the lean efficiency MBA style model of management that has ripped through the military. This is a rant against the goddamned Republicans who have shivved us in the back at every turn, removing benefits/pay/experience/manning, while smiling and saying, “WE SUPPORT YOU!” This is a rant against every Republican asshole who tells me/us, “Thank you for your service!”, with a smile on their face. This is a rant against trying to run the military like a business. That model doesn’t #ucking work for us, much less at the federal level.

    You know, I increasingly think that model doesn’t even work for businesses, either. Though I’m sure it works fine for the CEO. But there is no way that constantly piling more and more work onto fewer and fewer people, making no effort to retain talent, not caring about keeping experience, etc, makes the business itself run any better.

    “Run it like a business” is a misnomer. What it really means is “run it like a personal fiefdom of the CEO.”

    Thanks for the insights, too.

  103. 103
    Stan says:

    @Leto:

    This is a rant against the lean efficiency MBA style model of management that has ripped through the military.

    Former Infantry officer and MBA here….

    This is just *stupid* LEANing. I’ll admit there’s a fair amount of this sort of shortsighted thinking in MBA-land, but, in my organization we try to weigh out the cost of person X’s time vs. person Y’s time and if there are ways that Y (who is cheap, like your former finance people) can make X (an expensive pilot) more effective….then do it. Someone failed to see that for your pilots. Which is pretty stupid since even nonmilitary people kinda know pilots are very highly trained (i.e., expensive) people.

    So really the Air Force hired the wrong MBAs. Maybe they were former Infantry guys who were tired of being tasked with rescuing pilots and this was their revenge. Just kidding, really.

  104. 104
    Tehanu says:

    I know this is late but I just wanted to say: what a goddam shame it is that I, and most of the commenters above, now know more about this whole topic — just from reading the post and the comments — than Fkg Idiot President* Dump ever will.

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