Trump and the Challenges of 2017

As we end 2016 and look forward to 2017, it is difficult not to believe that we face a year of upheaval.

Several dynamics in play at the same time and these dynamics will interact with one another to generate profound change in the world as we know it.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, we had a period up to 9/11 where the world was characterized by the increasingly power of the United States and Europe while China emerged as a global economic power.  The Islamic-Western conflict was already there but with the 9/11 crises it emerged full blown.

As we end 2016 and look forward to 2017, it is difficult not to believe that we face a year of upheaval. Several dynamics in play at the same time and these dynamics will interact with one another to generate profound change in the world as we know it.

As we end 2016 and look forward to 2017, it is difficult not to believe that we face a year of upheaval. Several dynamics in play at the same time and these dynamics will interact with one another to generate profound change in the world as we know it.

And then the two decades of the war on terrorism entered the Western agenda, with the strikes in Afghanistan and the ill fatted invasion of Iraq.  As the Middle East began to resemble the 12th century landscape of the crusades (a period which generated even more intra-Muslim conflict than that between Christians and Muslims), the ability to manage the geopolitical landscape became secondary to the struggle against various brands of Jihad, something not reducible to geopolitics.

The new phase of global development sees the continuing influence of the conflict with the Jihadists for sure, but with the inevitable collapse of the “deal” with Iran, the Israelis and key Arab states are very likely to confront the Iran leadership directly.

How violent the confrontation will be is anybody’s guess, but the challenge for the outside powers is direct: who is supporting whom and for what purpose?

The anti-terrorism paradigm and the flawed from the start policy of putting Western forces into the Middle East to reform societies that do not share Western values is over.

It has FAILED and both the military which has been sent on these missions and the citizens that support them recognize this, although many American strategists somehow think this will go on.

Certainly, Europe and the United States will accelerate their efforts at energy independence from the Middle East which poses significant challenges as well for the Middle Eastern and Russian oil producers.

What Western policies will be crafted to deal with the Iran conflict and with other Muslims and the Israelis?

And how best to define one’s interests in the Middle East when you are not largely dependent on energy imports from the Middle East?

Also changing are the global macro-economics as industry is starting to come back from Asia to the West, and both the Chinese and Russian leaders face significant economic challenges.

Their response to failure to meet these challenges are that they very likely to use military means to gain domestic support in the face of declining economic performances at home.

Europe is in fundamental change.

With the Brexit negotiations to start this year and with a new French Preisident for certain and a new German Chancellor probably, the Prime Minister of the UK will look to those two leaders for shaping what form Brexit actually takes.

At the heart of the change certainly will be the end of the free flows of people which was never part of the Treaty of Rome in any case.

Domestic security will return with a vengence with states having to demonstrate to one another that the proteciton of the lives of their citizens matters more than excessive protection of individual privacy rights.

Europe could divide on this issue and as it does, Britain could work with those states serious about domestic security and be part of a new European coalition.

The Euro will not survive in its current form, and how growth will be generated will be a serious issue in the period ahead.

It is into this world where Mr. Trump is becoming President of the United States.

His election should provide cautionl to those over confident in their predictive abilities.

One book which I just read is Imperium by Robert Harris which is the first of a trilogy which I now will have to acquire and read all of the volumes.

It is a book from the perspective of Cicero’s (slave) secretary and tells the story of Rome in the period of the late Republic and early Empire, in other words, the time where the public life of Rome’s most famous lawyer and orator unfolded.

There are many good comments throughout the book but this seems especially relevant now:

“You can always spot a fool, for he is the man who will tell you he knows who is going to win an election.

But an election is a living thing you might almost say, the most vigorously alive thing there is — with thousands upon thousands of brains and limbs and eyes and thoughts and desires and it will wriggle and turn and run off in directions no one ever predicted, sometimes for the joy of proving the wiseacres wrong.”

Trump is more of an independent than a Republican and has come to power promising significant change.

But then again so did President Obama (Remember Change You Can Believe In?)

But Trump certainly is different in that he ran against the leadership of the party whose nominee he eventually became.

It is somewhat akin to the Progressive era in the late 19th century where both parties where in meltdown over corruption and other issues and the election of President Theodore Roosevelt opened a new era.

In this sense, Trump is somewhat akin to his New York predecessor, although TR was known for his famous statement about speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

TR came to power by accident and in a period of Western ascendancy and self-confidence and relative calm.

Trump is not coming to power in such a period of history.  

And although to date his discourse about defense seems to revolve around cost, he will quickly find that capability and skill will matter more and are in short supply.

After a long period of fighting land wars against locals and jihadists expeditionaries, neither the U.S. military nor diplomatic elite are well prepared for the decade ahead.

This is one in which armed conflict with peer competitors has already started and skill in maneuver warfare and diplomacy will be learned or not.

Contemporary history is learned on the fly; it is not about inherited skills; it is about shaping skills appropriate to one’s age and with an old one ending a new one opening we shall see if we are up to the challenge.


Taiwan and Pacific Defense

The phone call between President-elect Trump and the President of Taiwan has sent shock waves to many in the diplomatic community.

But it is about time to turn the page and include Taiwan in the shaping of a 21st century deterrent strategy for Pacific defense.

The People’s Republic of China has made it clear by its actions and expressed intentions that the regime is moving out into the Pacific and asserting its power and influence and directly threatening U.S. interests and U.S. allies.

It is reaching beyond Taiwan in its military and diplomatic strategy and leveraging its expanded power projection capabilities into the Pacific to reach out to the Japanese Island chains as well as the key maritime access points to Australia.

It is clear how important control of Taiwan would be it shaping a pincer strategy against Japan and Australia and American military installations in the Pacific.

Why would the United States then simply stand by and ignore the defense of Taiwan and its key place in a strategic reshaping of Pacific strategy?

That would be turning the Pacific Pivot into the Pacific Divot.

There is little reason to be frozen in time with Kissinger and Nixon who pursued a strategy rooted in deterrence of the Soviet Union by embracing Communist China, Last time we looked the Soviet Union has collapsed.

Russia is not the Soviet Union in an essential sense of seeing no commonality of relationships with China except and only with regard to realpolitik.

As such, there is little to be gained by appeasing the PRC in hopes of containing Russia. Deterring Russia is a task all unto itself, as it forges a 21st century approach to power, using its military capabilities to shape outcomes seen as essential to Russian national interest by Putin.

Now China is a power unto it itself, one has virtually nothing to do with its condition or role in the global system when Nixon and Kissinger negotiated the Shanghai Communiqué.

As Danny Lam, a Canadian analyst, has underscored:

“Normalization of relations with the PRC was accomplished through the issuance of three communiqués in 1972, 1979, and 1982 that defined the relationship.   In those documents, the PRC and US explicitly acknowledged their differences.

“There are essential differences between China and the United States in their social systems and foreign policies.” (para 8, 1972) and made clear that the differences are only papered over temporarily for the sake of peace. Temporarily is the operative word.”

This was converted to the “one China policy” at the end of the Carter Administration where Carter severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognized the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China. Reagan came to office and rearmed the Shanghai Communiqué.

But Carter’s policy was also forged in the time of battling what is now the non-existent Soviet Union and before China turned into a military power seeking to assert that power deep into the region.

It is time to exit the Madame Tussaud museum of policy initiatives and shape a Taiwan policy for the 21st century, which is part of a broader deterrent strategy.

Both the technology available to the United States and the policy shifts of core allies in the Pacific are enabling the forging of a deterrence in depth strategy.

The Chinese military modernization drive continues to shift the military balance further in Beijing’s favor. Is the modernization of Taiwanese defenses part of the Pivot to the Pacific? Credit Image: Bigstock

The Chinese military modernization drive continues to shift the military balance further in Beijing’s favor. How best to include Taiwan in the deterrence in depth strategy? Credit Image: Bigstock

As Japan has focused on its extended defense, Australia upon the integration of its forces with a capability also for the extended defense of Australia and with U.S. forces focus on shaping a force to operate over the extended ranges of the Pacific, now is the time for a serious rebooting of the role of Taiwan in extended Pacific defense and security.

As then MARFORPAC Commander, Lt. General Robling put it with regard to deterrence in depth:

“I like the term deterrence in depth because that’s exactly what it is.

It’s not always about defense in depth.

It’s about deterring and influencing others behavior so they can contribute to the region’s stability, both economically and militarily, in an environment where everyone conforms to the rule of law and international norms.”

U.S. Navy leadership has pioneered the concept of building integrated kill webs which can allow for presence assets to integrate across the extended battlespace to provide for an integrated “no platform fights alone” multi sensor-shooter solutions. Taiwan can be seamlessly integrated in to a Pacific Island deterrence strategy with the political will expressed by President Elect Donald Trump.In our discussions with the new head N-9, Rear Admiral Manazir, he highlighted the key role of shaping integrated forces across a distributed operational area.

It is clear that both the Air Force, the Navy and Marine Corps team are focused on shaping the force for the high-end fight against peer competitors.

The Army’s main contribution in such considerations is the expanding and evolving role of Army Air Defense (ADA) Missile Defense systems. But in so doing, the focus is upon shaping a modular, agile force, which can operate across the spectrum of military operations; not just be honed simply for the high-end fight.

It is about shaping platforms into an integrated force, which can deliver lethal and non-lethal effects throughout the battlespace.

It is clear that Taiwan can enter easily into a force structure operating in terms of distributed defense with a deterrence in depth approach. One can start doing so by involving them in various security efforts associated with allied coast guard forces in the region.

They can become a regular participant as a presence force associated with allied and U.S. security operations.

Their involvement with their Air Force and Navy in engaging in partnership in the evolving distributed approach to an integrated Pacific defense strategy is important. And over time their Air Force and Navy can fit into a strategy, clearly designed for defense.

President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan's first woman President.

President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first woman President.

To defend against a PRC pushing out its military capability into the Pacific, a Taiwan isolated unto itself and NOT part of an overall deterrence in depth force generated by the US, Japan and Australia will simply leave it as a an apple to be plucked from the tree for an aggressive and assertive Beijing government.

President Elect Donald Trump’s phone call put a very powerful marker down for a new chapter in deterring the PRC.

As we wrote in our book on Pacific strategy published three years ago, Taiwan is considered by Beijing from the perspective of holding together their control over the centrifugal forces in their empire; and we can consider as clearly part of a strategy to do the opposite.

“The conflict with Taiwan is subsumed in Chinese thinking as part of the core territorial-integrity challenges.

The Island of Formosa was part of China since its conquest in the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century. It was ceded to Japan in 1895 and returned to China after the war.

In the ensuing Chinese civil war, the forces of Chiang Kai-shek were pushed off the Chinese mainland and relocated to Formosa. Here the Republic of China was established.

Over time, the Republic of China has evolved into a vibrant democracy, and it is the quality of Taiwan as a modern democracy that is a major challenge to the authoritarian Chinese leadership on the mainland.”

Laird, Robbin; Timperlake, Edward; Weitz, Richard (2013-10-28). Rebuilding American Military Power in the Pacific: A 21st-Century Strategy: A 21st-Century Strategy (Praeger Security International) (pp. 25-26). ABC-CLIO. Kindle Edition.

A new Taiwan policy and indeed a new approach to Pacific islands is a key part of any new “constrainment strategy” towards China. Taiwan lies at the juncture of any effective Pacific military strategy with the PRC coming out deeper into the Pacific.

The PRC has changed the nature of the game; Neither Tawian, the United States, Japan nor Australia should accept their encroachment on freedom of the sea in the Western Pacific and South China Sea.

A PRC dominated Taiwan would be militarily poised to disrupt US and allied operations and significantly disrupt the ability to operate in a strategic quadrangle. If the PLA (generic for all PRC military forces) is given time to dig in and build a robust redundant ISR network from survivable hardened ground facilities and dug in and hardened 2nd Arty missiles batteries, it would be a significant new combat challenge.

The PLA combing survivable ISR 100 plus miles off the China coast linked with sea based platforms, PLAAF attack planes, and their satellites (if they are allowed to survive) can be very deadly at sea for the USN and allied forces.

With the PLA propensity for digging, they will literally dig in, and shape combat capabilities at the heart of the strategic quadrangle. It is no wonder that the self-declared ADIZ was yet another round of the PRC trying to assert its reach and affecting Taiwan.

Enhancing the defense of Taiwan is a legitimate right of Taiwan and is permitted by the Taiwan Relations Act. “In furtherance of the policy set forth in section 3301 of this title, the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”

But self-defense of Taiwan against a PRC reaching deep into the Pacific can not be done without shaping interactivity with the US, Japan and Australia and a broader strategic effort.

We can look for ways to both enhance Taiwan’s ability to defend itself and contribute to Pacific defense. One key way would for Taiwan to build up their ISR reach into the area and enhanced C2. These capabilities could evolve as the US Army builds out its Air Defense Artillery or ADA capability in the region.

The US Needs to Operate in Two Strategic Operational Zones: A Triangle In Support of Japan; and a Quadrangle to Support South Korea and Core Asian Allies.

The US Needs to Operate in Two Strategic Operational Zones: A Triangle In Support of Japan; and a Quadrangle to Support South Korea and Core Asian Allies.

A new way to think about the ADA approach is to build the support facilities throughout the Pacific whereby THAAD and air defense can be supported. THAAD–globally transportable, rapidly deployable capability to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or outside the atmosphere during their final, or terminal, phase of flight. THAAD Weight launch vehicle, fully loaded 40,000kg=88, 184 lbs or 44 short tons.

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of missile battery truck alone is 66,000 lbs. Now let us rethink how it might be deployed to remote islands as part of a flexible grid. The CH-53 can take 30,000 lbs internal or sling 36,000 external-range unrefueled is 621 nm. The MV-22 human capacity is 24 combat-loaded Marines-range app 700 miles.

The actual missile battery is 26,000 lbs and well inside the lift capacity of a CH-53.

The problem is the mechanics to raise and lower the battery and rearm. A battery lowered from the air sans truck on reinforced concrete pads with calibrated launch points may make sense. A separate modular lift device could be put in place to load and reload.

Consequently, taking apart modules doesn’t appear to be a showstopper, and Marine MV-22s flying in Army ADA troops into any reasonable terrain is absolutely no problem. The weight of TOC and Radar maybe of concern, and it appears that in todays world there may have been little appreciation by Big Army on using MV-22 and CH-53Ks.

To be very fair the US Vietnam War Army did get it brilliantly by setting up firebases in remote areas with helo lift of very heavy guns. A THAAD island maneuverability concept is the same in principle but with different technology.

Combine ADA Batteries with the ability to move a floating airfield as needed inside the potential sanctuary of a 200+ KM protection umbrella of disbursed island bases with ADA batteries and power projection of the sort needed in Pacific defense is enhanced.

As the US shapes a defensive belt and operates within a strategic quadrangle, Taiwan could be plugged into this belt as it shapes its ISR and C2 capabilities. At some point in the future, Taiwan could operate its own version of ADA and become part of the defensive grid.

The Taiwan Relations Act clearly permits such actions: “To maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.”

The way ahead is to shape a template, which creates synergy between the self-defense of Taiwan and the evolving US, and allied strategy for deterrence in depth.

President Trump has started the process of setting in motion a new policy. There is the possibility that history may record with Donald Trump taking a phone call from President of Taiwan that just taking the call may resonate with the same moral imperative of  “tear down this wall” did for President Reagan in Berlin.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in Breaking Defense.

Taiwan, Trump, & The Pacific Defense Grid: Towards Deterrence In Depth

on December 29, 2016 at 4:00 AM


Award Winner 3: Ambassador Hunter

The board had settled on another candidate for the third winner of the award when this article from former US Ambassador to NATO, Robert Hunter,  came in and produced a hands down winner.

In one article, the entire Inside the Beltway “high priesthood” was brilliantly characterized, by one of their own.

“Washington, DC, our nation’s capital and the center of governmental angst in fair times and foul, is going through its most profound trauma in years, a collective PTSD.

For most of Washington’s political class, even on the Republican side of the aisle that divides the city, “this wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Hillary Clinton was to be president and Donald Trump an also-ran, a showman who provided entertainment, though all-too-often holding up a mirror to the foibles and hypocrisies of those who do politics for a living.

But here we are.”

Well exactly where are we?

Being cast aside is the high priesthood:

“The foreign policy establishment, most of whose members will now be excluded from power and influence, deprived of their God-given right to set the nation’s agenda abroad and determine its directions.”

So cast adrift of the proper teachings, Donald Trump, which according to Hunter, was characterized by the Main Stream Media as a second-rate Elmer Gantry, has nominated the head of Exxon as the next Secretary of State.

But he will not be confirmed according to Hunter because of his close ties to Russia and his general lack of proper background for the job.

Mr. Tillerson’s nomination elides into the other question that is most pertinent, now: the allegations of Russian meddling in our election campaign, whether accurately portrayed or inflated in their impact (which can never be truly assessed).

 At one level, Mr. Tillerson is a stand-in for Mr. Trump, who has spoken so often of wanting to create a more positive relationship with Russia and Mr. Putin.

What that would in fact mean is anyone’s guess–most likely Trump himself does not yet know.

There is some risk that, in seeking both to “reach a deal” and to be different (and more effective) that President Obama, President Trump might compromise objectively-important interests–both America’s and others’.

But it is easier for opponents of any change in U.S. policy toward Russia to challenge a nominee for a cabinet post than to take on the president, while sending the same “message.”

Unfortunately, Putin’s actions disrupted the strategic direction which President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry had in mind.

Putin is so 19th Century, as Secretary Kerry provided strategic guidance to the nation.

The new U.S. president could find himself crippled in trying to work out the kind of relationship with Russia that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry would have liked to achieve but could not–in major part because of Russian behavior, but also because of hardening attitudes here, including old Cold War overtones, that exist far more in the foreign policy establishment than in the country at large.

We could look back and look at the overreach of the 1990s when the European Union and the Clinton Administration and then the Administration of George W. Bush pushed for the broad inclusion of Eastern Europe into the European Union and into NATO without any commensurate growth in growth in the case of the EU, nor in defense resources for the significantly expanded defense perimeter of NATO.

What impact do those actions have now on Russia and the way ahead with regard to European security?

The election of a President which has a show me attitude towards the expansion of NATO is more than simply about what to do about Putin.

It is about the shape of Europe over the next decade as the Euro crisis, the Brexit, and the immigration implosion take a full impact on the national and European institutions.

The team that Trump is putting together is more likely than one populated from the keepers of the foreign policy flame to address the critical issues facing the strategic tsunami which is going on with or without Trump.

Trump and India: A New Opportunity?

President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to appoint South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as his future UN Ambassador underscores that the incoming administration, which begins on January 20, understands the importance of developing stronger Indian-U.S. ties.

The bilateral national security relationship is critical for realizing both countries’ core defense objectives.

Showing how Trump can set aside political differences for the national interest, Haley initially supported Marco Rubio’s candidacy for the presidency, then that of Ted Cruz, before backing Trump.

If confirmed by the Senate, Haley would become the most prominent Trump political appointee representing the more than three million Indian-Americans in the United States. The Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans represents the largest House caucus focused on a single foreign country.

President elect Trump is appointing new faces who are not simply camp followers. A case in point is the South Carolina governor to the post of US UN Ambassador.

Haley could also help Trump deepen relations with India.

When Trump spoke at the Republican Hindu Coalition in mid-October for a charity concert in New Jersey, he praised the Hindu faith, India as a nation, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong leadership.

Then and elsewhere, he described India as a vital ally in the fight against Islamist terrorism.

The personal relationship between the two presidents go off to a good start.

Modi was part of the select group of leaders to speak on the phone with Trump the day after his election. The Prime Minister also tweeted to Trump, “We appreciate the friendship you have articulated towards India during your campaign.”

The two men have similarities in their political background—both are outsiders who challenge conventional views by pushing for free-market policies at home and nationalist policies abroad in the face of generally unenthusiastic foreign-policy establishments.

U.S. defense leaders have come to see India as a key U.S. partner.

Leon Panetta called India a “linchpin” of U.S. policy in Asia; Chuck Hagel termed India a security provider “from the Indian Ocean to the greater Pacific”; and Ashton Carter has said that “the U.S.-India relationship is destined to be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”

Indian-U.S. defense exchanges have been expanding substantially in number and kind, making the United States the main foreign military exercise partner of the Indian Armed Forces. In particular, the two militaries have participated in frequent bilateral and multilateral exercises during the past decade, with special emphasis on naval cooperation.

The Trump team has opportunities to broaden and deepen the Indian-U.S. defense relationship.

In addition to the single-service drills that they regularly undertake, the United States and India can expand their bilateral military training to include rehearsing large multi-service combined exercises.

In addition, the number of army exercises should increase since India’s army receives more than half of the country’s defense budget while its navy, which has been the Pentagon’s most active exercise partner, receives a much smaller percentage.

On a multinational plane, increasing cooperation with Japan and other third partners—for instance, by following the advice of Admiral Harry Harris, U.S. Pacific Command chief, who called for a revival of the Bush-era “quad” between India, Japan, Australia and the United States—would expand the impact of the Indian-U.S. security partnership.

India may play a key role in regional security assistance as the incoming Trump administration seeks to transition defense and security burdens local partners. For example, the United States should encourage India to provide more extensive assistance to the Afghan and Central Asian security forces. Trilateral Russia-U.S.-Indian security opportunities may emerge in Eurasia if U.S. relations with Moscow improve.

Indian-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation can be strengthened by furthering intelligence sharing, reviving their stalled homeland security dialogue, deepening nuclear and biological security cooperation, encompassing a wider range of narcotics trafficking issues, and signing the planned cybersecurity framework agreement.

India should heed the Trump administration’s likely demand that India join the U.S.-led “Global Coalition against Daesh,” which now includes 68 members.

The Trump administration can better overcome Indian resistance to this step by encouraging India to provide non-combat intelligence, economic, and humanitarian assistance.

In future negotiations with India, the Trump administration may be torn between continuing previous administrations’ policies of developing a strategic partnership to share common security burdens and adopting a more short-term transactional economic focus.

The former approach will be more difficult to achieve, it but should be the objective of the new administration regarding India.

In an increasingly competitive global arms market, India has become a key partner of choice for the West and Russia. (Credit: Bigstock)

In fact, the latter strategy might work better with Pakistan, where generous past U.S. assistance has failed to attain much U.S. influence over Pakistani policies. Indians might enjoy seeing Trump set aside diplomatic niceties to more explicitly attack Pakistani ties to Islamist terrorism.

By strengthening India’s counterterrorism, homeland defense, and nuclear security capabilities, moreover, the United States can reduce the risks that Pakistani-backed terrorist attacks could escalate into a major Indian-Pakistani military conflict.

In this regard, Trump should continue the recent practice of de-hyphenating India and Pakistan, making aid to Pakistan more conditional and reducing both U.S. security and developmental assistance. While Pakistan is a U.S. regional partner, India is a strategic partner throughout Asia, and increasingly globally.

Meanwhile, India should raise its ceiling on foreign defense investment and relax some offset requirements. For instance, the Indian government should specify when 100% FDI is permissible.

India should also strengthen the barriers against the unauthorized transfer of U.S. military technology to third parties like Iran. These changes will help meet the Trump administration’s goal of boosting U.S. exports and developing more balanced international economic relations without compromising on U.S. security goals.

Enhancing Indian-U.S. security ties along these lines should balance the tensions that might arise during Trump’s presidency over immigration (India has a large Muslim minority), climate change (Indians had expected to receive foreign funds and technology to curtail their carbon emissions), and the possible de-emphasis of democracy promotion and Afghanistan.

While potentially a point of friction with the Indian government, it remains to be seen how the new administration would curtail the outsourcing of labor to India.

Although Trump criticized outsourcing in his book, Time to Get Tough, and said during the campaign that he would give corporations incentives to bring outsourced jobs back to the United States, Trump has spared India by mostly faulting China for predatory economic behavior. Indians will benefit if Trump’s tough approach leads China to treat its economic partners better.

Also see the following:

Trump’s Indian Opportunity

Lt. General (Retired) David Deptula

Lt General David Deptula  (USAF) retired in October 2010 after more than 34 years as an Air Force officer. He was the principle attack planner for the 1991 Desert Storm air campaign. He also served as Commander of the Air Operations Center for Enduring Freedom orchestrating air operations over Afghanistan during the period of decisive combat. His last post was Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Headquarters AF : first  to hold this position, he was responsible for policy formulation, planning, and leadership of AF ISR and remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).  He has flown more than 3,000 hours (400 in combat) to include multiple operational fighter command assignments in the F-15.  [read more about Lt. General Deptula]

Award Winner 2: The Canadian Ambassador to the United States

Even before the fainting couch award was announced, Ambassador MacNaughton was self-selecting for the award.

It is not clear whether his behavior is designed to (a) win the award hands down; (b) to get himself declared PNG by Trump, or (c) represents the decision of the PM of Canada to try to seize Washington which the Canadians did along side of the British during the War of 1812.

We will leave that to history.

But the self-nomination efforts are very clear.

A Globe and Mail article published on December 2, 2016 outlined the Ambassador’s case for self-selection for the Fainting Couch Award.

“He’s going to have problems all over the world,” Mr. MacNaughton says of a president-elect by many accounts already overwhelmed by the scale of a job he didn’t really expect to win.

 “And this is a place he can actually have a friend, in the sense of Canada being such a friend of the United States. Whether on infrastructure, defence, security, even trade – if I were him, I’d be looking to us to show that he can actually get stuff done…..”

Even before Mr. Trump’s shocking victory, there were calls for Mr. Trudeau to speak out against his demagogic and, in some cases, overtly racist messages.

File: As of Dec. 1, Mexicans are no longer required to obtain a visa to come to Canada.BRENT FOSTER / VANCOUVER SUN

Should Mr. Trump make good on his more offensive campaign promises, such as targeting Muslims with restrictive immigration policies and ramped-up surveillance or deporting millions of Mexicans, those calls – from media, opposition politicians, fellow Liberals – will ramp up.

And so, too, will expectations from abroad that, in the face of a nationalist push toward closed borders not just in the U.S. but much of Europe, Mr. Trudeau capitalize on his global profile to champion liberal internationalism…..

Trade policy, he insists, could prove one of the areas of consensus. Yes, Mr. Trump is set to deep-six the nascent Trans-Pacific Partnership, to which Canada was a signatory, and has threatened to tear up the North American free-trade agreement.

But once the president-elect wraps his head around the “depth and breadth” of trade and investment across his country’s northern border – responsible for nine million U.S. jobs, Mr. MacNaughton likes to point out – he will presumably see the need to “work together rather than being at cross-purposes.”

Mr. MacNaughton’s implication is that mutually beneficial tweaks to NAFTA (not a full “renegotiation,” a word he says he hasn’t used despite headlines shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory suggesting he did) could allow both sides to declare victory and move on. While others speculate about what those changes could involve – perhaps easier cross-border mobility for certain professions, or resolutions to long-standing disputes over specific industries, such as softwood lumber – he declines to start negotiating in public.

Besides, having likely given little thought to the intricacies of Canada-U.S. trade, Mr. Trump and members of his administration will need to be brought up to speed before diving deep into discussions.

On shared infrastructure investments (perhaps to speed cross-border traffic), on continental energy strategies (including not just the possible revival of the Keystone pipeline project, but also such things as transmission of Canadian-generated power south of the border), on defence (the frequent joint missions and daily intelligence-sharing that often flies under the radar), Mr. MacNaughton tells a similar story.

The relationship runs so deep already that Mr. Trump should with time recognize opportunities to continue building it to mutual advantage, but only if Canada mounts an unreserved effort to make him recognize them.

“They just haven’t thought about it,” he says of the incoming administration’s grasp of the economic relationship in particular. “It’s just like, ‘Oh yeah, I like the Canadians, they’re nice people,’ but I don’t think they really understand the degree to which their prosperity and ours are linked.”

So it falls not just to the federal government but “the provincial governments, the business community, labour, others” to educate.

That also means, for Mr. MacNaughton, insulating Canada from volatility in the White House by forging ties at other levels of government. “This is not a system like ours where because the person ends up as prime minister with a majority government, they can do everything,” he says, highlighting that he’s spent much of his first year on the job travelling the U.S. meeting with state governors and other regional leaders.

And it is not just the “rookie” President who needs training and tutoring, but his Administration as well, folks like Senator Sessions really are not up to speed.

MacNaughton’s musings

On what he told cabinet before the U.S. election

“When I made the presentation at the cabinet retreat in August, I was obviously asked what I thought was going to happen.

I said that all the smart people in Washington said that Hillary was going to win and Democrats were going to win the Senate and Republicans would hold the House, and the only thing everybody should understand was that all the smart people in Washington had been wrong every single time during the last year.”

On Trump not necessarily representing a huge change from Canada’s perspective

“What I did before the election [with Canadian politicians] was to try to highlight the areas where there were differences between the Obama administration and Clinton and Trump, but also the areas where there actually wasn’t much difference.

There may be differences in rhetoric.

But the Democrats have been worse – what I’d call worse – on trade than the Republicans, in terms of the Congress. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Donald Trump in their own ways have described burden sharing, in other words other countries stepping up to the plate on defence. Everyone’s had an emphasis on security.

And Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump have all talked about improving the lives of the middle class.”

On members of the Trump administration he’s gotten to know already

“I’ve met [chief of staff Reince] Priebus before, he was at the embassy, I chatted with him a couple of times. I’ve had a couple of conversations with Senator Jeff Sessions [Mr. Trump’s choice for Attorney-General], mostly about college football, but we talked about the Canada-U.S. relationship and the depth of it and everything else.

Particularly with people like him who are from Alabama, who don’t come from Great Lakes states or border states, they have a fond view towards Canada but it’s not a terribly in-depth one.”

On the ongoing debate about whether most Trump supporters were motivated by racism or by economic anxiety

“When you find people talking about the good old days, or expressing attitudes about others, it’s usually as a result of economic insecurity. The United States is a country like ours that was built by immigration and openness and generosity.

And the only time that is challenged is when people are having economic insecurity. I attribute most of it to economic insecurity.”

On lessons for Canadian politicians from Americans’ rebuke to their political establishment

“I think the most important thing you learn from it is don’t spend all your time talking.

Make sure you listen, and I mean really listen, to what people are saying.

Because that’s the only time you’re really going to be able to talk to them in terms that indicate that you understand what they’re feeling.… You get into that bubble, and with all of the pressures in government, it’s like drinking out of a fire hose.

You actually need to spend more time listening to what people have to say because that’s where you’re going to get a sense of what their priorities are. Particularly these days.… If people think you think you’re too important to talk to them, and you only want to talk to important people, you’ve got a problem.”

A good example of the new “working together” policy has been Trudeau’s decision to turn Canada into a haven for Mexicans who will no longer need visas to come to Canada.

A great move which simultaneously enhances Canadian and American security by opening up the aperture for the Mexican drug cartels.

According to piece published by the Calgary Herald on December 8, 2016:

Violent drug cartels are expected to expand their reach in Canada now that a visa requirement for Mexicans has been lifted, according to government documents obtained by Postmedia News.

The Canada Border Services Agency report says “the visa lift will make travel to Canada easier in order to establish or strengthen existing cartel smuggling chains.”

“In the next three years, Mexican drug cartels are expected to expand their presence in Canada by sending operatives and recruiting local airport or marine port workers with ties to Mexico,” says the document, obtained from a source.

Postmedia only obtained a section of the document titled: Implications for the Canada Border Services Agency and Canada.

Postmedia earlier reported on the increasing presence of Mexican cartels in Canada, as well as the fact that gangsters and organized criminals were working at the Port of Vancouver.

As of Dec. 1, Mexicans are no longer required to obtain a visa to come to Canada. The previous visa program had existed for seven years.

The CBSA document said the cartels generally don’t use tourists to smuggle drugs for them.

“While Mexican drug cartels do employ drug mules, they prefer shipments with high profitability and high likelihood of successful delivery,” the documents says. “As a result, they are expected to continue to focus their large scale smuggling efforts on commercial cargo in the marine, air and land modes given the higher likelihood of successful delivery and much higher profit margins.”

Mexican cartels have taken over legitimate businesses in Mexico in industries such as the production of goods and oil and mining, the CBSA report says.

“The flexibility and openness of free trade has proven beneficial to Mexican cartels over time,” it says. “Increasing trade ties will create additional opportunities for Mexican drug cartels to smuggle inside legitimate shipments, particularly using legitimate avenues such as the planned international trucking corridors for easier transport of higher cargo volumes between Canada and Mexico.”

Not to worry as part of the new “working together” policy, the US can tighten up border controls with Canada and in the words of one analyst create 30 mile long lines waiting to cross into the United States as documents are carefully scrutinized.



A Communications Revolution: Putting A Politico Article in Context

Glenn Thrush is a good writer and is a good researcher with an entertaining style.

His recent article published on Politico is excellent in capturing the elements of the Presidential election campaign.

However, he missed a key element underlying the Trump victory which informs the entire effort and is crucial to his forthcoming way of governing.

As a well-respected card carrying member of the political media, Thrush neglected the strategic shift in communications strategy which underlies the entire Trump approach.

He does not account for how Trump overcome the virtually unanimous hostility of the Main Stream Media.

The MSM functioned as a self-appointed judge, jury and executor in all things political.

From day one, Trump operated a work around with regard to the MSM.

And given the close twining of the Clinton campaign with the MSM, Trump had to run against BOTH at the same time.

The Trump Team decided to beat the MSM, because both Clinton Inc. and MSM  were almost completely one and inseparable during the campaign.

Political scientists may look back at lessons learned during  2016 that running against the media was, as Col Bill Buckey a retired Marine Fighter Pilot said, “a focused attack on Clinton’s real center of gravity.”

Taking on the MSM and actually goading them to grossly over-react to the point that their story lines ended up angering most reasonable Americans is a never before attempted strategy.

Ironically, it appears that many “I’m With Hillary” supporters in the MSM just could not stop themselves.

But once their credibility was finished Hillary’s Campaign was finished.

The historic take down of the American MSM media occurred drip by drip.

Donald  Trump Tweets along with focused campaign events throughout the country were used to highlight the distortions of the MSM and their de facto and often explicit support for his opponent.

The message was received by the voters and a major cause for victory.

A few insightful reporting sites like Briebart, and Gateway Pundit  got it very early that a true revolution was playing out hidden in plain sight.

The MSM in order to survive, which is doubtful as currently constituted, because once trust is broken it is almost impossible to get back, must -wake up and understand a much bigger context.

To be fair, the article does signal that big money is involved in understanding what is occurring because ratings equal windfall profits and may drive a major re-think of how to actually report the truth.

It became apparent that the Trump campaign team set their narrative for eventual victory very early; Rule 1 destroy media monopoly of the “truth”, Rule 2 see Rule 1.

The article does cleverly touch on that skill set with real political communication rock and rollers like Steve Bannon and Roger Stone.

Although there is  a very cheap shot taken in the Politico narrative against Steve Bannon, does present a more insightful and decent portrayal of Roger Stone

Wikileaks was an added factor further confirming  the absolute slimy win at any cost DC style of  “the high priests” as status quo keepers of the flame, which was found to be unacceptable to the voters in  Electoral Map America.

Advance notice of debate questions, the promise of positive coverage, and even editorial control over stories are among the eyebrow-raising revelations in emails to and from campaign chairman John Podesta.

“We have had her tee up stories for us before and have never been disappointed,” a January 2015 memo said of former Politico and current New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.

Clinton campaign officials have not denied the authenticity of the emails, but have sought to blame Russia for supplying the hacked correspondence to the hacktivist group WikiLeaks, and have warned that they could be doctored.

This was written very early in the Forum (March 24 2016) by Robbin Laird :

“Journalism properly practiced can help in this journey (writing the facts about the campaign) by informing of what is going on, rather than informing me of what you believe.

For that I can go to church.”

Currently being very sore losers “The Russian did it The Russians did it” is just another last ditch maneuver by a failing cabal of Democrats and the MSM.

Donald Trump again demonstrated his understanding of Cyber War made in politics today as quoted in Jeff Bezos’ personal blog AKA The Washington Post:

Trump added: “It could be Russia. And it could be China.

And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

The Washington Post reporting is now taking their angry blogging masquerading as news so over the line that it is rapidly destroying what is left of any credibility they aspire to retain.

Russian “Cyber” Attacks and the Election in Context



A Two-Time Loser: Putting Hillary Rodham Clinton in Perspective

A political scientist like me loves case studies from which one can then develop broader hypotheses.

A good analyst always looks for multiple instances of events and connects them to shape broader judgements.

Although the press and analysts are looking at the “causes” of the recent victory of Trump versus Clinton and seeking causes such as the Russian factor or “whitelash,” what is being ignored is that this is the SECOND case of a collapse against the ultimately successful candidate.

And what makes it particularly interesting is that she has done this against candidates who represented different political tendencies.

It is almost a perfect opportunity to shape a general approach.

And it is clear from even a cursory examination of the two cases, that the causes are the same — an inability to communicate effectively to the electorate beyond her own committed cohort.

Also evident is an ability to shape a broader program attractive enough to the voters to elect her, and a clear inability then to communicate that program.

And by program, I mean a clear and short list of tasks and actions supported widely enough to win.

And she is a polarizing figure, one who is disliked enough to give the other candidate a solid start to victory.

The 2008 Case

Going back to 2008, here is what an evaluation of Clinton’s loss to Obama looked like:


No Respect for the Voters

The flipside of Obama’s respect for voters was Clinton’s disrespect. It began with her announcement of her candidacy in early 2007, when she said she was “in it to win it.”

Why else would someone run?

The not-so-secret assumption behind her entire campaign was that she was the inevitable nominee.

But voters don’t like to be told how they will vote by politicians (or pundits).

It’s disrespectful. And primary voters, particularly the well-educated ones who helped power Obama’s campaign, don’t like to be pandered to, on the gas tax or anything else.

Well-informed college-educated voters are no longer a sliver of arugula-eating elites; they are the backbone of the Democratic Party.

Most of all, voters don’t like to be played for fools.

When Clinton ran ads in South Carolina claiming that Obama admired Ronald Reagan and must be some crypto-conservative, she wasn’t just wasting her money. She was offending people in a state that proved pivotal.

The rest of the list included: Poor strategy, weak management, arrogance, entitlement.

Sound familiar?

And no cyber threat could explain this one:

While Hillary turned out to be a much stronger candidate as time went on, one thing never changed: the sense that the Clintons felt they were owed the nomination.

By repeatedly moving the goal posts on party rules, sideswiping Obama at every turn, whining about rampant sexism on the basis of two or three anecdotes, and claiming that the Florida primary resembled the 2000 fiasco and a rigged Zimbabwe election, Clinton continued to reinforce the impression that she considered the title hers no matter what.

Compare that with this year’s election.

Enough said.

Russian “Cyber” Attacks and the Election in Context

President Elect Trump’s appropriate push back is exactly correct with regard to the Main Stream Media (MSM) attempt to discredit his victory by shouting “The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming”

I sincerely doubt there is anyone in the Intelligence Community (IC) who would and can say definitely that the Russian Government played a “cyber game” in trying to effect the election.

They could have but then again so could many many other merry band of hackers and leakers both domestic and worldwide.

Jeff Bezos. Credit: Business Insider

This is the smartest understanding of Cyber War made in politics today quoted in Bezos’ personal blog AKA The Washington Post:

Trump added: “It could be Russia. And it could be China.

And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

The Washington Post reporting is now taking their angry blogging so over the line that it is rapidly destroying what is left of any credibility they aspire to retain.

Putting Foreign Influence in Perspective

First it must be noted that there actually has been proven foreign influence in an American election. Clinton Inc with 100% certitude took massive amounts of dirty and illegal PLA money to help them win the Presidency and Michael Ladeen nails it perfectly:

“While Capitol Hill and the American media was transfixed on the Presiden t’s dalliances with young women, Timperlake and Triplett, who have a combined fifty years of service in American national security agencies, collected information from recently declassified U.S. Government documents and traveled to China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, combing through records and documents related to key Donor-Gate personalities.

In colorful description, they describe how they used undercover techniques to interview numerous sources with first-hand knowledge of illegal links between the Chinese military- industrial establishment and the Clinton-Gore political campaigns.

The tragic consequence is the rapid escalation of China’s military into a world-class nuclear, space and information-warfare power.”

Information War and Cyber Ops

With the emerging influence of “Information War,” of which cyber is a subset, I discussed Russian Cyber War in an American Thinker article in 2009.

“The First War in Cyber Space:”

It is well known they are excellent Cyber Warfighters who have now also apparently harnessed their criminal hackers to augment their worldwide reach.

This melding of Russian conventional military might with reported state sponsored criminal cyber syndicates is ominous and powerful.

And “Information War” from the PRC, the Peoples Liberation Army more accurately sticks with Information War recognizing “cyber” is just a technical way of acquiring and moving information inside a larger context:

The Peoples Republic of China’s attacks in United States Cyberspace are well known to even casual-mail and Google users, where viruses linked by the media to Chinese sources circle and wait for openings.

If the dollar value of the troves of information reported by media to be carted off by the Chinese were toted up, the number could be many billions, if not a trillion. 

If George Washington and Thomas Jefferson could visit America in 2009 they would call the Chinese attacks Acts Of War.

Finally, I served for over 5 years as Director, Technology Assessment, International Technology Security (OSD), responsible for identifying and protecting from espionage US world leading military technology.

I was also the DOD representative to the National Counterintelligence Executive Committee NCIX (DNI) as principal liaison to FBI in their Government wide “Critical National Asset” project.

I was also a graduate teaching Assistant at Cornell on computers and decision making. Consequently in 2011, I was asked to testify on “Cyber-attacks, Espionage, and Technology Transfers to the People’s Republic of China,” Foreign Affairs Committee, United States House of Representatives.

The Revolution in Military Affairs and Cyber War

While Congress was researching the issues mentioned above in the late 90s, Mr. Andrew Marshall Director of Net Assessment, Office of the Secretary of Defense, published his short and very direct paper heralding the advent of a “Revolution in Military Affairs.”

The PLA and especially their spymasters were paying close attention.

Mr. Marshall’s vision was profoundly simple.

He postulated that technology and war fighting would evolve toward two constantly improving military capabilities.

  • Precision-guided munitions with remote sensors
  • Information war (the word “cyber” had not yet come into vogue).

In developing their “Information War” military doctrine, the PLA was awarding Doctorates in Information War to military officers as early as 1998.

Since that time PRC cyber espionage attempts have been growing and are unrelenting.

Traditionally the commonly accepted thoughts about PRC espionage is that they have different “spy craft” than the “cold war Russian” model of linear cells and cut outs.

The evidence in the 90s is that the PLA approached collecting information and technology much differentially than the Russian “cold war” model.

It has been my experience in investigating illegal money contributions that the PLA as needed will use their military along with their Intel community professionals, criminal elements (Triads), businessmen “hustlers,” academics both professors and students and even relatives of all those groups—what ever works.

So when the world become more digitized through the computer revolution, the PLA adapted, and became world class offensive cyber war fighters.  However, this time there was a role reversal from Russian cyber activity.  Russian cyber activity has been reported to be very wide open ranging from military and state sponsored activity, to numerous criminal enterprises for profit, to any of many other reasons.

As mentioned above, PLA collection efforts in the field are very freewheeling and unstructured.

But in cyber activities the PRC has adopted a Russian paranoid “cold war mentality.” They appear to be trying to keep their cyber war fighters in a rigid military chain of command.

In fact there are significant criminal penalties in China for violating cyber restrictions put in place to keep their citizens from freely playing on the web and also acquiring information.

The leadership of China is trying to constrain and contain the growing World Wide Web sharing of information.

It will be interesting to see if overtime the PRC is capable of stopping their citizen’s nascent “Jasmine Revolution” which is currently originating in Africa and the Middle East and spreading.

The PRC essentially has two cyber targets, those external to China and also their own citizens.

Only totalitarian dictatorships and closed societies have this challenge.

It is an Intel/cyber seam for a free and open society to exploit.

Shaping a Way Ahead

President Elect Trump is correct in essence stating the IC does not know.

To be kind most every article actually “fuzzes” up the reality of IC speculation into full certitude that the Russian Government got him elected.

Or at least that is where the MSM is taking it.

Now Congress is involved on “getting to the bottom” of it all.

Tough words from a US Senator:

“I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia,” Graham said.

“I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage.

I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want [Russian President Vladimir] Putin personally to pay the price.”

It will be interesting to see where all this goes and the veracity of the IC is offered up to the new President, after all both the current National Security Director and DNI are proven public liars for political gain.

Tip Over the Outhouse: How to Achieve Accountability For Veteran’s Affairs

Accountability, prominently including an executive personnel system that fires miscreants instead of shuffling them from job to job. is essential if one is serious about reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

I’d like to suggest the thought, however, that the problem with VA goes deeper than the problem of the people running it.

The system is dysfunctional.

The system is focused on itself, on the “integrity” of the structure of VA—the institutions, the buildings, the workers—not on veterans and their families.

Protecting the status quo is an “Iron Triangle” of bureaucrats, veterans organizations and congressional figures that serves to decentralize power and responsibility and resist transformative change.

It begins with a towering, hardened steel superstructure that’s so stove-piped that people who work for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) don’t recognize the FACT that there are other parts of VA.

They think they are the VA.

They’re so out of touch that half of them still answer the phone “Veterans Administration” (an entity that ceased to exist in 1988).  They send out letters from the “Veterans Administration.”

They don’t have the slightest idea who the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is and what they do (and VBA likes it that way).

They think the “Cemetery Service” is a part of the hospital, like the janitors.

VA spent millions back in the ‘90s on a smoke screen called “One VA” that required tens of thousands of high-priced managers and executives to travel to gigantic conferences around the country and hear stories about the various parts of VA and how they existed in their alternate universes.

A guy I worked with summed it up:  “I’m one VA and you’re another.”

Why is it so dysfunctional?  

There are three basic reasons for its failure.

One: The rugged steel skeleton of the VA edifice is based on a model that is 72 years old.

The GI Bill of 1944 was based on the need to craft a system that would help 16 million WWII veterans readjust to a civilian society that was booming economically, still based largely on manual labor on the farm and in the factory, and politically united as never before and never since.

The decades since have seen the classic art deco style of the VA skyscraper become festooned with antennas, exposed wiring, computers hanging in cages, diverse bric-a-brac added to keep up with the times, etc.

As written in law and regulation, the system is simply too complicated and opaque to be reformed.

Two: Ever since the aftermath of the Vietnam War, VA has become more and more partisan and less and less focused on veterans.

Meeting the needs of veterans has become another problem like the deficit, immigration, security from terrorists, an education system that teaches the best and the brightest to burn the flag, etc., etc.

Like defense itself, veterans affairs has become just one more government program like building sewage treatment plants.

It goes on and on devoid of purpose except spending money.

It’s part of the vast, muddy swamp that is the federal government.

Three: Neither Republican nor Democrat administrations can get a handle on the problem because they each fear the other side will excoriate them for “not serving veterans.”

So, they add another ornament on the Christmas Tree, send out a news release about how wonderful they are, and pretty soon you’ve got a system that is so thick and impenetrable that you can cut that baloney any way you want to.

The bureaucrats love it because they have ALL the power in a system that makes no sense.

Here are some principles for fixing VA.

Force DOD and VA to talk to each other or send people packing.  

Not next year, but next month.  DOD’s exit physicals should be good for VA purposes and the computers should talk to each other.

If it makes the most sense—FOR THE VETERAN—to keep him in uniform but in a desk job or something like that, KEEP HIM (or her).

Serve the veteran first.

The system now is adversarial.

The system assumes the veteran is a crook and a four-flusher.   Serve the veteran first and then adjust if you find out that the veteran is a crook.  (Over the history of VA, the crooks have almost overwhelmingly been the bureaucrats, not the veterans.)

Eliminate the lawyerly, adversarial nature of the process.   Abolish the Board of Veterans Appeals and the “U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.”

Eliminate both VHA and VBA.  

That is, abolish the stovepipes.

Essentially, make them one organization.

Build a new structure based on the medical centers that includes offices that provide veterans the non-medical help they need, whether it’s educational, employment, adaptive housing, monetary, family assistance, whatever is needed.

Some VA specialties such as insurance, home loans and cemetery and memorial services can remain as individual organizations, sort of like the coffee shop, lunch counter and bar on the ground floor of the skyscraper.

Focus on the individual veteran and his family.  

Families need help working with the bureaucracy on behalf of the veteran, especially when it comes to serving young, seriously disabled veterans and elderly veterans with limited means.

Maintain veterans’ healthcare delivery separate from civilian hospitals.  

Civilian doctors, administrators and patients don’t understand the veteran milieu, and veterans function best around other veterans.

Get a handle on the problem of being all things to all people.  

VA needs to focus on the bullseye, which is the severely service-connected disabled veteran.

VA should expend every effort on operating and maintaining hospitals that are world-class in terms of treating the worst disabilities such as amputations, burns, blindness, psychological trauma and environmental diseases, for example. The big thing, however, is that most veterans have proudly served the country without suffering crushing loss.

Yet, all veterans are now eligible for health care but their access is limited by a priority system that, supposedly, pushes the least affected to the back of the line. When the current framework was adopted in the 1990’s, then VA Secretary Jesse Brown told Congress that VA couldn’t provide medical service to every veteran without a lot more money.

Politicians and bureaucrats sang the siren song of directing third party reimbursements to VA to pay for serving veterans without service-connected disabilities who also had the means to pay for their own health care. It was another typical act of budgetary slight-of-hand.

The country needs to focus on this problem and decide (through its elected representatives) whether it can stand the wailing and gnashing of teeth it will cause if they tell veterans to take care of themselves if they have the means and are not damaged by their service to the nation.

Some may need to be “grandfathered” in and one size may not fit all when it comes to this problem. The delivery of health care is much different in different parts of the country: urban vs. rural, for example.

At the same time, VA needs to own up to its responsibility to serve elderly veterans who have nowhere else to go, whether they are service-connected or not.

It needs to be acknowledged, too, that some disabilities—such as hearing loss—become progressively worse and may not be a problem until long after the veteran has left active duty.

By and large, however, the system has foisted the mission of taking care of elderly veterans on to the states but done it in such a way that lots of cronies get rich running veterans homes that VA should have been running to begin with.

One last thought: The election of Donald Trump is so far out of the box as far as American politics is concerned, that maybe this is the time to go for a complete house cleaning of VA.

Don’t stop at firing the bad actors, drain the swamp!

Get rid of the manure piles!

Tip over the outhouse!

Bill Jayne, was Marine infantryman wounded at Khe Sanh who who was given “the great opportunity to make a career of serving his fellow veterans and their families.”