Turning Civil Airliners into a Skeet Shoot

The missile strike in Ukraine against a civil airliner is a dramatic set of events in and of itself.

But given that the use of missiles by terrorists is an act which can be copied in the future, ensuring that the noose is tightened and pulled on the perpetrators is done quickly and rapidly.

But this is not a legal case, where sanctions are used to up the legal anti; this is a geopolitical crisis in which the pawns of war are terrorists who have demonstrated that the use of sophisticated weapons even against civil airliners does not lead to a lethal response.

Putin has clearly noted:

The MH17 crash must not be used for ‘selfish political ends’ and urged separatists to allow international experts access to the crash site.

Wearing a dark suit and looking tired and drawn during a rare television address, the Russian president insisted ‘all people’ in Ukraine had a responsibility to the families of the 298 passengers and crew who died last week.

But he added: ‘No-one has the right to use this tragedy for any kind of vested interest in the political sense. Such incidents should unite people rather than separate them.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2699881/Defiant-Putin-warns-West-not-use-MH17-tragedy-selfish-political-ends-Ukraine-accuses-Russia-spiriting-away-shrapnel-hit-bodies-implicate-rebels.html#ixzz3870tKjtD

Rather than asking Putin to take responsibility for an action done on UKRAINIAN territory, the West should send force to cordon off the crash site and punish the Russian separatists immediately.

The Ukrainian government can ask NATO to come and to act NOW to protect Ukrainian and civilized interests. Putin can have no objection unless he is culpable in the incident.

It is time to stop “sanctioneering” and to insert force to protect the interests of civilization against a band of terrorists who believe they are justified in destroying the lives of innocent civilians and even worse than that move their bodies as if they were simply ducks bagged at a duck shoot.

We do not need a long reflective process or the President running a continuing Oprah Winfrey talk show, we need to reinforce Putin’s point: Russia does not have the right to use this tragedy for their vested interests.

And if NATO is wants to have its own talk show, cut the session short and the Ukraine and the United States can act.

The US created a Special Purpose MAGTF force now operating from Spain which could be in the area in a matter of hours to enforce the will of Ukraine and the civilized world. In addition, a NATO combat air patrol over Ukraine would immediately establish Air Dominance.

The NATO Supreme Commander General Philip Breedlove knows how to establish such a force over the Marines and any other NATO allies on a humanitarian mission to cordoning off the debris field. . The Commanding General made a very prophetic statement:

At a June 30 Pentagon news conference, NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove said Russia had been providing air defense training to Russian separatists on its side of the border with Ukraine that focused on “vehicle-borne” surface-to-air missiles. 

A vehicle-borne capability would involve a surface-to-air missile with a longer range than portable shoulder-fired missiles known as MANPADS.

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2014/07/nato-general-warned-of-russian-anti-aircraft-training-for-separatists/

To do less, is simply to continue the process where the US simply becomes a commentator on global events and sends diplomats to talk about what we do and do not like.

There is a straight line from Benghazi to the “red line,” to Iraq, to Crimea to terrorists turning civil airliners into a skeet shooting contest.

Maybe the President can not see the connection but the rest of the world can.

This piece first appeared on Family Security Matters.

 

The Downing of a Malaysian Airliner over Ukraine: A New Instrument of Terror in Play

It started with a crisis in Ukraine; it then became a Russian invasion of Ukraine and “taking back its legitimate territory” from the Putin-led Russian perspective. It has continued with an intermittently savage conflict on Ukrainian territory with Russia watching up pressure and fostered in part by so-called “Russian separatists” working to reduce further the size of the territory controlled by the government in Kiev.

This is Russian map re-writing at work. One would think after being caught by surprise by the takeover of Crimea by Russia that DNI Clapper would have put significant tasking on all American intelligence assets to keep a sharp focus on that geographic part of world.

It has been widely reported that there was a breakdown in US Intelligence Community on US strategic warning of Russia making a move on Ukraine. Regardless of DNI Clapper’s public statements some very good reporting is coming out about a strategic intelligence failure of the first order. It will take time to see the real facts of the IC’s performance.

Overtime, Congress is fully capable of seeing that if NSA can read the private e-mails of the Presidents of Brazil and Germany what did they do in the case of Russian and Ukraine leaders?

This should be a very high priority work in progress to bring disclosure to the American people; after all they paid for all this. With the revelations of the overzealous and highly inappropriate attack on world leaders by NSA, and early strategic miscalculations about Russian intentions a continuing bi-partisan serious effort by Congress to address “all things NSA” is important.

http://www.sldinfo.com/meeting-the-challenges-of-the-beaten-zone-at-sea-shaping-a-way-ahead/

With a swift destruction of a Malaysian airliner by the use of a sophisticated surface to air missiles shot from Ukrainian territory, a new instrument of terror in the hands of those who wish to use it has been clearly demonstrated. And in the world of terrorists, imitation of success is a demonstrated way forward.

Putting the entire civil aviation industry at its feet is a distinct possibility. When terrorists slammed into the World Trade Center and stuck the Pentagon, the effect on the civil aviation industry was immediate. With ground missiles in the hands of terrorists the same dynamic can easily be unleashed.

Unfortunately, this might not be a one off event, even though the specific context is clearly unique. For example, the loss of thousands of manpads from the Odyssey Dawn intervention has been a lingering threat overhanging global aviation or evident in threats directly against the state of Israel. By conducting air strikes against Libya in March 2011, the stockpiles of manpads were not destroyed. The decision to NOT put boots on the ground to secure the KNOWN Libyan manpads stockpile, but to strike without any real consideration of the OBVIOUS consequences of thousands of manpads escaping destruction or control.

In the United States, the Obama Administration and its Department of Homeland Security have placed the counter-Manpads issue on a very back burner.  Most of the activities of the last Administration to deal with manpads as a long-term issue have been set aside.

One or simultaneous manpad attacks against civil airliners are possible.  The proliferation from Libya to Egypt and Lebanon has already been reported.  If a group associated with the former Libyan regime, based in Lebanon or Egypt sought to bring further focus on the crisis in Libya, attacking European airliners coming into Egypt would be plausible. How would domestic opinion in Europe in an election year view the wisdom of Libyan operations in the presence of the demonstrated impact of manpads proliferation?

The initial reaction to such a manpad attack would clearly be to focus on the source of the attack.  Intelligence sharing would be crucial to determine who and where the source of the threat lies.  And there should be an immediate concern with copycat activities of other groups who might see an advantage from disrupting specific countries and to try to isolate them by using pressure to shut down airline based travel and commerce.

Within countries like Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and ISIS, there are distinct advantages by outsider groups to use such tactics to shape the political process. In the wake of such an attack, Europe and the United States and Asia would go back to planning underway when the Bush Administration was in power.  The need to introduce defensive measures on airliners must be debated.

The threat of manpads now seen in terms of its more sophisticated brother has become a reality chilling the global aviation industry and providing a new chapter in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis

Which terrorists – whether state-sponsored, state-supplied or even worse able to gain access to lethal weapons and training to pop a civil airliner – remains to be determined, and that is an unacceptable strategic intelligence failure.

Threats not dealt with and eliminated in an earlier moment simply do not go away because your attention span is one day or one crisis.

The attention deficit syndrome affecting modern policy systems is chronic and deadly.

http://www.sldinfo.com/one-missile-away-the-global-impact-of-missing-libyan-manpads/

http://www.sldinfo.com/spy-games-general-clapper-in-history/

This article was first published on Family Security Matters.

 

 

 

 

The Iraq Dynamic: A Pressing Need to Shape a Kurdish Option

Iraq is clearly in play.

Putin has put down his mark and is working with Iran, working Syria and befriending Maliki. The US is frozen in place by recent memories of Iraq, but this does not mean that US interests are not clearly affected by trying to ignore history moving again.

History does not always march in the direction one might want. But that does not mean that you turn your back and hope overcomes the need to act in less than optimal situations. That is clearly the situation in Iraq today.

As Ken Maxwell recently reminded us:

Obama wants a unity government of all the factions in Baghdad.

But it is too late for this. Maliki is not inclined to step down.

Nor are the Sunnis and Kurds prepared to accept him any longer. In fact the Kurds are moving towards a referendum on the establishment of new Kurdish State.

In face of the rapid expansion of Isis control in Iraq and in Syria, and with the abandonment of border crossings by Iraqi forces, Saudi Arabia has already mobilized 30,000 troops on its border with Iraq.

With events moving so quickly and unpredictably on the ground, neither time, nor history, is on the US side this time around.

One thing is certain: The US and the West desperately needs a strategy and it needs one quickly. 

http://www.sldinfo.com/turmoil-in-the-middle-east-western-engagement/

There is a dynamic within Iraq which should be of clear concern to the US and an opportunity to protect our interests and to shape effective policy options.

The ISIS are bent on the destruction of Iraqi Christians, and the Kurds are coming to their aide. Indeed, the Kurds have demonstrated a level of tolerance in Iraq not evident by other ethnic groups within Iraq itself.

The action of the Kurds in Iraq, and the obvious moral imperative to protect a minority being attacked by Islamic extremists simply because they practice another religion requires US action, rather than standing aside and pondering the future.

To gain a sense of what is going on in Iraq, we recently had a chance to interview Joseph Kassab concerning the current situation of Iraqi Christians and the positive role which Kurds are playing to try to shape a more secular Iraq.

We have included a biography of Mr. Kassab at the end of this article, but his ties in the country provide him with a regular flow of updated information and it is about that situation which we discussed with him.

Iraq Region

An important aspect of understanding the current situation is to understand the terrain and its occupants. At play in the struggle between ISIS and the Kurds is the Nineveh Plains. And in the midst of this struggle the fate of Iraqi Christians is being determined.

According to Kassab:

The Nineveh Plains are a highly contested area; they are not mountainous but very open and thereby provide an invasion area for the ISIS.

It is also highly undeveloped because it is so contested.

In this area are many minorities and among those minorities maybe 60-70% of them are Christians.

The area is also floating on a lake of oil and makes the area very desirable to control; the Kurds want it; and the Arabs want it. It is a very strategic location.

The ISIS is clearly targeting the Christians for ideological reasons; when you want to establish a medieval theocracy you want to create the politics of ethnic elimination of your “enemies.” The U.S. stands for secularism in Iraq; ISIS is on a clear direct collision course with U.S. preferences and policies.

There are many stories and incidents coming from Iraq of ISIS pursuit of and persecution of Christians.

This is our interview:

SLD: Mr. Kassab are you getting reports from various individuals on the ground on what’s happening? Can you could describe what you think is happening?

Mr. Joseph Kassab: Well, I was just talking this morning to some regions on the ground in the impacted area, and from Nineveh Plain where ISIS, or ISIL is getting some real power there. And it seems to me and the way I heard it from them it is done, already. No more Christians are [in Mosul], and if there are any, we believe that there are less than 50 families there.

I was also told especially that women could not leave homes. Unfortunately, two days ago, two or three days ago, two nuns and three orphans, they were asked to leave but. the ISIS people spotted them, they kidnapped them, and they took them, and nobody knows where they are. We are appealing to the U.S. administration and our friends in the Senate and the Congress, and also the Department of State, and the Pentagon to see whether they could help us finding these people. Their families are U.S. citizens, and here in the states. So we have a dilemma in our hands.

Joseph Kassab talks with Senator Cruz about the Iraqi Christian plight

Joseph Kassab talks with Senator Cruz about the Iraqi Christian plight

As far as the combat situation people are on the edge, there was a fight early last week near the Christian Al Hamdanya District (Qaraqush) in the heart of Nineveh Plain between the ISIS and the Kurds who are creating a wall of defense to stop ISIS. It looks like ISIS, has a strong interest in Nineveh Plain   Let me explain why.

First of all, it is the size of Lebanon, and a very plain area, not mountainous. It is to the southwest of Kurdistan. And it is a highly contested area, and a significant dispute between the Kurds and Arabs to annex this particular area. It is highly undeveloped because nobody knows who it’s going to belong today, and it’s up to the Kurds.

The majority of those living there are minorities and 60 to 70 percent of them are Christians. The Kurds want it and the Arabs and specially ISIS want it because it’s floating on a lake of oil, and is also a very geographic strategic and fertile location.

Question: The history of Kurdistan is that the Kurd people are very protective of all minorities. They have a reputation of being kind — a very kind people and also fierce warriors, and protective of all minorities. Is that a fair statement?

Mr. Kassab; Yes, 100 percent it is. And that’s why they want to incorporate with Kurdistan because they know they can and will protect the Christians. They are taking a lot of Christian refugees right away because they’re very, very nice, and they’re doing a lot of work to help them with the humanitarian, aid, and food, for the Christians whom they are taking into Kurdistan.

And I’ve been talking to the leadership,

I know them all and they’re very, very supportive.

I met with them several times with their people, and they always say that they’re more than willing to help the minorities, especially the Christians. Because they believe in one thing that they’re — what the Christians going through at this time, it is also what they went through during the ‘70s and the ‘60s.

(For a powerful overview of what the Kurds went through in this period see the following:

http://www.meforum.org/220/the-last-years-of-mustafa-barzani).

SLD: We have read that tragic history and you are so right.

Mr. Kassab: As a matter of fact, if you remember, they were hit with chemical weapons. So they feel for the Christians. But just as importantly, the Christians at one time when Kurds were fighting for their lives the Christians joined the military police squadron of security people and joined them in fighting for democracy and independence. So that’s why the Kurds like us, because we are trustworthy and supportive of democracy.

SLD: But if you were looking at a situation like this where the current Iraq government is obviously not your favorite government, you have to look at how do you protect your interests.

And the proposition on the table is it’s the right thing to do to work with the Kurds and the Christians is also strategically relevant because by helping these two people, and protecting their interests, you can do two things. You can deal with ISIS, the threat from radical Islam.

And on the other hand, you can actually influence the government or whatever comes next. In other words, it allows you to do the right thing, but it also allows you to put a piece on the chessboard that allows you to influence an uncertain situation.

Mr. Kassab: We’re talking with our friends in the Congress, and some of the National Security Council. And what we talked about is what we should do to save the Christians of Iraq and the minorities, and others that see democracy take hold in Iraq.

And last Thursday and Friday, I was in Washington DC, I had a meeting with maybe seven or eight U.S. Senators on both sides of the aisle, also the Speaker of the House’s office. I went to Congress to help us in saving the Christians of Iraq.

My message was that the only way at this time to save the minorities or the Christians of Iraq, in Northern Iraq, is to empower the Kurds in order to provide this defense for our people.

©LAPRESSE) MOSUL. PROTESTS OVER ATTACKS ON CHURCHES

©LAPRESSE) MOSUL. PROTESTS OVER ATTACKS ON CHURCHES

So they ask me how, so I suggested to them, that since we cannot have boots on the ground, I suggested to them that maybe we should empower them by giving them Intel and equipment in order to fight back against ISIS.

People are contemplating action; they are reaching out to the Kurds based on that. The Kurds are reciprocating, they are happy to see that, but we haven’t seen anything significant yet.

But hopefully we will see that very soon, the U.S. administration will take action.

SLD: Please tell the world about your understanding of ISIS;

Mr. Kassab: Now, who is ISIS? This is something we need to know who ISIS is first. And a lot of reports, they’re misinforming us who ISIS is. I, myself, I can read and write, and understand the language or the dialect of Iraqi people when they speak.

The ISIS people, sometimes I hear them speaking on the videos, none of them, there are people who make fun of them because when they speak, it is not in the Iraqi dialect.

So they are definitely foreigners, that’s number one.

Number two: many stay mute. They don’t say anything.

Do you know why? Because they are Iraqis!

And do you know where they’re coming from? I’ll tell you where they’re coming from. They’re coming from the Iraqi desert tribes, and they are armed, and they are very angry at the el-Maliki government. Some of them are previous officers and generals of Sadam’s advanced army that was disbanded by the CPA administrator in 2003. They are very mad and angry at everyone except their comrades.

Now they are joining the ISIS because they see ISIS has the power and because it’s extremely brutal. And what’s brutal can achieve a lot of things.

SLD: There is a broad strategic point, which is if the Administration gets serious about this and actually looks at how to do something other than to tell us that everyone should get along.

And obviously, they’re going to have to come to terms with Turkey, they’re obviously going to have to come to terms with Turkey and Kurdish issue if the U.S. is going to do what you just described.

Joseph Kassab with Kurdish President Barzani in Washington.

Joseph Kassab with Kurdish President Barzani in Washington.

Mr. Kassab: The Kurds, in the last, let’s five or ten years, they became very, very strong friends with the Turks. And let me explain. I was in Turkey several times; I had meetings with the high ranking officials in Turkey, including the Prime Minister himself, and the Foreign Minister at an interfaith conference in Istanbul in 2012.

All of them assured me they are willing to help the minorities in their country, and that’s exactly what they plan to do at this time, there’s a big reform on that and also with regard to the minorities in Iraq. They’re saying that in order to do that, we need to empower the Kurds in order to support your people.

So we are all on the same page. When I met with the Prime Minister of Kurdistan after he told me bluntly that the Kurds are doing business with Turkey at this time for over 20 billion dollars a year of trade.

They took me to some of these people to the border area, and I saw myself — how should I put it? A convoy of trucks around a thousand of them waiting to take to go to Kurdistan, to take merchandise and take it to Kurdistan.

So that in fact, yes there is a strong relationship, a strong friendship, and strong commerce between the Kurds and the Turks. Turkey is ready to help the Kurds if the Kurds need the help in fighting ISIS because the Turks don’t like ISIS.

SLD: One critical issue is the oil pipeline through Kurdistan into Turkey, so it is not just the trucks, but also the oil, and then it goes to a port and goes on the open market. You mentioned that the Nineveh Plain is floating on a sea of oil.

Can it be part of the strategy to saved Christians first and foremost, but s also to stop ISIS from grabbing resources that will keep them fueled with huge financial resources?

Mr. Kassab: The ISIS now, they have already taken over some refineries and some oil rigs in Iraq, in Northern Iraq, and Mosel, and they are selling the oil for cash, and cash is a fuel for international terrorism as you know. I don’t know whom they’re selling it to, but they are selling it for cash.

Let me explain something very important for you, you should know this area. Three years ago, I was going from Kurdistan on my way to Europe. The flight was around 3:00 or 4:00 in the early morning the plane took off and I looked through the window, and I saw fire everywhere.

I asked the stewardess what is this? What’s going on here? Is the area on fire or something?

She laughed at me and she said no, sir. These are oilrigs.

These are oilrigs in Kurdistan?  She said yes, sir. And they are doing it whether the Iraqis like it or don’t like it.

Biography of Joseph Kassab

He was born in Telkaif- Nineveh, Northern Iraq in 1952 to a Chaldean Catholic family. In 1975 earned his undergraduate degree with excellence from College of Science-University of Baghdad.

This qualified him for graduate studies program at College of Medicine-University of Baghdad to again become the first on his class and earn in 1979 Master of Science degree in Medical Microbiology and Immunology under the auspices of the Royal College of Medicine-UK .

He was then hired as assistant professor at the same college, but the regime in Iraq demanded that he joins the ruling party, when he refused he was threatened and his position was downgraded. When the threats continued and the intimidations intensified he decided to flee Iraq and join in Rome, Italy his two brothers, a pharmacist and an engineer who earlier faced similar challenges to seek asylum. Later on in 1980 they were resettled in the U.S as refugees.

In the U.S, Joseph continued his education by acquiring Graduate Certificate (GC) in Community Education Leadership from Wayne State University, under the auspices of the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) in Washington D.C

He also pursued an intensive curriculum in political science at Wayne State University.

While doing all of this he worked for 25 years as Bio-medical researcher and instructor at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine.

He is currently the Chief Science Officer of Nano-Engineering and Consulting Co.

www.nano-consultant.com

From 2005-2012, he served as the Executive Director of the Chaldean Federation of America (CFA) (www.chaldeanfederation.org) where he has dealt with a number of issues affecting Iraqi Christians in Iraq. He started his advocacy, consultancy, and humanitarian work on the plight of the Christians of Iraq and the Middle East since his arrival in the United States in 1980.

Photos and graphics provided by Joseph Kassab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 4th of July is a Perfect day to Thank Congressman Bridenstine

On Wednesday, 2 July 2012, the Commander General of Fort Sill US Army Base, Major General John Rossi, Fires Center and Commanding General, put out a PR blurb on their official “ Centers of Excellence” webpage, with a picture the General having lunch with Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.)

They were having a pleasant lunch and discussing a range of topics before the Congressman was announced as departing to visit HHS.

http://sill-www.army.mil/

He may have departed to visit HHS but HHS is located on a US Army Base. A US Congressman, the peoples Representative, has every right to actively engage with all non-classified activities on Ft Sill. It is understandable that provisions have to always be made for classified visits, but as our representative, under our Constitution, Representative Bridenstine was well within the scope of his responsibilities:

Taken from the Committee on Government Oversight and Reform:

“We start with several basic premises on which there is general agreement.  The power of Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes. It includes surveys of defects in the social, economic, or political system for the purpose of enabling Congress to remedy them. It comprehends probes into departments of the federal government to expose corruption, inefficiency, or waste.” – Chief Justice Warren for the Majority, Watkins v. United States

But the Congressman’s HHS visit to their “facility” on Ft Sill, did not occur as the Congressman stated in his Press Release:

Congressman Bridenstine said, “There is no excuse for denying a Federal Representative from Oklahoma access to a federal facility in Oklahoma where unaccompanied children are being held.  Any Member of Congress should have the legal authority to visit a federal youth detention facility without waiting three weeks.”

Rep. Jim Bridenstine visiting Ft. Sill. Credit: The Congressman's Website

Rep. Jim Bridenstine visiting Ft. Sill. Credit: The Congressman’s Website

The Health and Human Services (HHS) official who appears to be in charge of the facility told Congressman Bridenstine he could schedule an appointment for July 21.  HHS Deputy Director of the Office of Public Affairs, Ken Wolfe, would not take the Congressman’s phone call.  The Congressman was told to send Mr. Wolfe an email, as that was the preferred method of communication for this “transparent” agency.

The essential element of this event is captured in the statement- “The Health and Human Services (HHS) official who appears to be in charge of the facility.”

So General Rossi, where is the official Memorandum of Agreement or Understanding (MOA/MOU) that allows the Commanding General of a US Army Base to give up the sovereignty of his command?

Can your Army MPs enter the Ft Sill “HHS facility” and a US Congressman cannot?

What are the direct communications from anyone in the Chain-of-Command to General Rossi?

What allowed this to occur?

What was the direction and guidance from the Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of Defense, Chairman Joint Chiefs, Secretary of the Army or Chief of Staff US Army, outlining the scope, mission and legal authority of HHS taking over a facility on an Army base?

All communications to Ft. Sill connected to allowing HHS to have this authority on an Army Base should be made available to the American people.

What about e-mails and communications between HHS unelected bureaucrats and their Secretary?

There are many precedents for joint basing it is the denying of Congressional oversight that is so troubling.

This is not just another in the endless Administration transgressions.

This matter goes right to the heart of Civilian Control of the Military.

Civilian control is both President Obama’s power as Commander-in-Chief and a partnership with Congress having the power to declare war, pass legislation, the purse, and oversight.

This is not the usual inside the beltway Hot House debating point this is our American Constitution breaking down

On this 4th of July, Independence Day this egregious unilateral action involving both the US Military and a Civilian Cabinet Department cannot be allowed to stand and should be fully investigated by Congress and appropriately acted on by all Americans at the ballot box next November.

Are we really willing to allow a small but nasty step taken toward a potential military/civilian authoritarian partnership?

Think about; what if the Department of Homeland Security is allowed to put a fence and their security guards around a Minuteman Silo/Launch Command post. That principle, however absurd, extreme and easily mocked in print by apologists of all of the Administration’s actions is actually being established.

It is that slippery a slope, and both conservatives and liberals in Congress must react very strongly to protect their Constitutional authority and find out how all this occurred.

As a reminder the last time this type of event occurred was President Carter’s inspired Mariel Cuban Boat lift. It cost Governor Clinton his job, from wiki:

Crowded conditions in South Florida immigration processing centers forced U.S. federal agencies to move many of the Marielitos to other centers in Fort Indiantown Gap,PennsylvaniaFort McCoy, WisconsinCamp SantiagoPuerto Rico, and Fort ChaffeeArkansas.

Federal civilian police agencies such as the General Services Administration’s Federal Protective Service provided officers to maintain order inside the gates of the relocation centers. Riots occurred at the Fort Chaffee center and some detainees escaped which became a campaign issue in the re-election defeat of Governor Bill Clinton.

 

 

 

Ready on Arrival: The USS Bush on Station for the Iraq Crisis

In 1966 the US Navy made a short movie about what was then called an “Attack Carrier.” The movie describes going to flight quarters and conducting combat air operations from an aircraft carrier off Vietnam. The political maneuvering by a President and Secretary of Defense who asked them to put their lives on the line was not discussed.

The US Navy when sent in harm’s way does whatever is asked to their last full measure, combat is their profession and loyalty to the Constitution not politics is their code.

“Ready on Arrival” highlights a simple truth evident today off Iraq that the direct lineage of the large deck aircraft carrier is an American point of pride. Engaging in combat almost fifty years ago and a modern carrier ready today personifies the fundamental point of the movie that the U.S. can with unexpected events put a Carrier on Station to support friends and confront enemies.

https://archive.org/details/gov.dod.dimoc.22036

And so it goes fifty years later, off of Iraq.

The USS George H.W. Bush with escort ships the Destroyer USS Truxton, fresh from showing presence in the Black Sea, http://www.sldinfo.com/meeting-the-challenges-of-the-beaten-zone-at-sea-shaping-a-way-ahead/ , and the guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea are now on station.

Now the question is on station to do what?

Perhaps the “to do what” is captured in an interview with a Naval Aviator who was a Marine General on the ground in Iraq. On December 9th 2009 USMC Brigadier General Walsh, USNA ’79, a Naval Aviator, discussed his recent experiences in Iraq with the Second line of Defense.

http://www.sldinfo.com/general-walsh-on-the-usmc-use-of-airpower-in-iraq-from-precision-strike-to-presence/

In December 2008 BG Walsh became the Commanding General of the 2ndMarine Aircraft Wing Forward and deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom on November 3rd. One of his previous assignments was serving an instructor at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) and he is a decorated Marine Corps Aviator.

His words are noteworthy today:

For the Commanding Officer, the challenge is simply the following: “How does aviation provide support in such a chaotic environment? Just as the guy on the ground is not certain of what is about to happen, so does the pilot trying to support those ground elements: all must deal with managing uncertainty.”

As the Iraqi leadership began to perform more functions, there was a remaining need to reassure the population that support could be provided throughout the country to the Iraqi allies. “For example, when the provincial government was to be seated in Al Anbar in June 2009, there was an Al Qaeda threat to Ramadi.  The Governor asked us to fly our F-18s at 5000 feet to reassure the population and to deter any threats.”

“I was on the ground; we were stopped at a check point and the check point came under motor fire.  Several vehicles in front of us were destroyed.  All hell was breaking loose with mortars coming in every few seconds.  We did not know where the things were coming from.  We of course had no battery radar.  We called in some F-18s and the minute the planes showed up the firing stopped; the enemy figured out that the F18s would know where they were with the obvious consequences. How do you measure this effect?”

Notice Generals Walsh’s direct combat experience and his comments on the effective use of F/A-18s. The Hornet is same aircraft on station today that makes up the combat strike package of the Bush.

If the “to do what” turns to combat an opportunity will not have been squandered.

In preparing for combat strikes, one of the most important opportunities, if possible, is to make combat ready but non-kinetic “fam” for familiarization flights in the air over any potential ground targets. Air dominance over Iraq allows Navy combat pilots the luxury of becoming very familiar in their view from the cockpit with the terrain, the movement of the enemy, the location of “friendlies” and potential targets that they might be asked to attack.

Consequently, it is critical that the more Bush F/A-18 pilots  gain  eyes on  experience over potential targets the better is the chance to mitigate collateral damage. If in doing so they get the attention of ISIS forces, as General Walsh experience shows all the better.

I suspect Special Forces also appreciates hearing what is often called in characterizing US Military Jet noise–“the sound of freedom”

USN/USMC aviation forces understand deeply their direct human responsibility when the pickle button or trigger is pulled–it is to first do no harm in accurately taking out some very bad people-that dimension of pilot in the cockpit CBG capability is critical and not well understood by non-aviators.

Ed Timperlake is a Carrier Qualified Naval Aviator who was CO of VMFA-321 a Marine Reserve Fighter Squadron.

See also:

http://www.sldforum.com/2014/06/obama-administration-military-power-adversary-perceptions/

 

 

 

 

The Obama Administration and Military Power: Adversary Perceptions

The crisis in Iraq is the latest chapter in the post-Arab spring narrative.

But Iraq is not an-itself crisis but part of a wider context starting with Benghazi, to Egypt, to Syria, to Iran and back again. Actions across any one part of the region reverberate throughout the region and shape the way ahead for any Western power.

The US has unique military power available for use in the region.

It also has an historical legacy: a significant Iraq engagement recently concluded with a number of on the ground participants with the US in shaping the post-US occupation.

The US is not simply an historical bystander.

And the ongoing engagement in Afghanistan is itself affected by lessons learned from Iraq by those working for and against US interests in Afghanistan.

A significant Inside the Beltway debate and effort to shape a realistic post-Arab Spring policy is clearly needed.

This would be true even if the Russian leader had not clearly demonstrated that the assumption that Russia would acquiesce in the Western led and shaped post-Soviet order is clearly no longer valid. The European security order, and that of the Mediterranean and the Middle East is clearly now a work in progress, with Putin busily engaged to reshape the situation to reflect what he perceives to be the proper role of Russia in the region.

Beyond the policy debate, a critical consideration is to avoid simply debating with ourselves.

It is crucial to focus as well on how adversaries view the likely actions of President Obama and his Administration with regard to the use of military power in supporting US objectives in Europe and the Middle East.

President Obama has worked hard to differentiate his views and the role of his Administration from past ones. He has succeeded. The world understands that he approaches the use of military power differently from the past, and adversaries and allies alike are reaching their judgments about what this means for them.

A clear research agenda for the policy community in the United States is to do a realistic assessment on ourselves: what conclusions are being reached by allies and adversaries alike about how the US will use military power affect my policies and interests?  

One answer is to look at the President’s evident sweet spot with regard to military power. The President has prioritized counter-terrorism as the number one issue facing the US with regard to usable military power and his preferred means is a new strategic triad: the use of NSA-led intelligence gathering, the use of drones and selective use of Special Forces.

The President tends to view military power as a means of law enforcement.

Putin has mocked the President with regard to Ukraine and in so doing revealed his judgment about the current US approach.

In a late May characterization of US policy and its limits, Putin made this comment:

Who is he to judge, Putin told CNBC during an interview this morning.

‘Who is he to judge, seriously?’ he repeated, according to a translator. ‘If he wants to judge people, why doesn’t he get a job in court somewhere?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2637764/Who-judge-Putin-jokes-Obama-job-court-wants-judge-people.html#ixzz35MVHClDD

There is a clear means-ends issue. If the preferred pattern is the use of NSA-Drones-Special Forces, then those means define the ends. One looks to apply the formula broadly, whether or not strategic ends will be met by such an approach.

The new strategic triad is rooted in a belief that “boots on the ground” and “airpower” are not only different things but steps in a ladder of escalation. The options which the USN-USMC team can put on the table rapidly to insert and withdraw force – boots and airpower simultaneously – is not relevant unless there is a military relevant law enforcement activity in prospect.

The triad can be deployed and removed easily it is believed, although the footprint necessary to do intelligence and use drones tends to be overlooked.

Notably, the parallels between Iraq and Afghanistan are not in play, and considering how the friends and deadly enemies of Americans in Afghanistan are drawing conclusions about US behavior AFTER the US has withdrawn.

The Iraq crisis is the first test of the Obama West Point doctrine, and the President’s words clearly inform adversary and allied perceptions as well.

If one looks at those words, it is clear how limited military power is in the President’s panoply of power tools.

Indeed, the President counterpoises diplomacy with military action, a virtual dichotomy that Putin has clearly recognized before the speech and has acted upon.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/full-text-of-president-obamas-commencement-address-at-west-point/2014/05/28/cfbcdcaa-e670-11e3-afc6-a1dd9407abcf_story.html

The overall tone of the speech is that the US is a unique world leader. There is no recognition in the speech that he is direct confrontation with a leader he sees his task as gaining global fear and respect to return Russia to its place in the world, or the clear intent of the PRC leaders to expand their power in Asia and beyond.

Yet these are not bumps along the road but key challenges directly facing the US, the West and our Asian allies.

The President clearly puts military power in its place:

“Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”

The President highlights the transition from having too many hammers to what he views as the proper approach:

Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed.

We have removed our troops from Iraq.

We are winding down our war in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more. 

And through it all, we’ve refocused our investments in what has always been a key source of American strength: a growing economy that can provide opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard and take responsibility here at home.

What is the residual role of the US military?

The good news is that there are no direct military threats – no mention of nuclear threats – to the US; there are only indirect threats to the US via allies and partners and only lingering law enforcement threats writ large threats from terrorism.

Our military has no peer.

The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low, and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War

Russian and Chinese challenges are put in the category of the indirect threats via our alliance basket.

Russia’s aggression towards former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors.

And the role of US military power in supporting US global interests?

But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.

Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences, without building international support and legitimacy for our action, without leveling with the American people about the sacrifices required.

Tough talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans…..

I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.

And lest one misses the point about the reluctance to use military power other than the triad:

Because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader — and especially your commander in chief — to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.

And what is the strategic rationale for the new strategic triad?

I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy, drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.

And the need for a new strategy reflects the fact that today’s principal threat no longer comes from a centralized al-Qaida leadership.

Instead it comes from decentralized al-Qaida affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in the countries where they operate.

And this lessens the possibility of large-scale 9/11-style attacks against the homeland, but it heightens the danger of U.S. personnel overseas being attacked, as we saw in Benghazi.

It heightens the danger to less defensible targets, as we saw in a shopping mall in Nairobi. So we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat, one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin or stir up local resentments.

The President is meeting his objectives stated in 2008:

“I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place.”

But while he is changing the American mindset, the world is a tougher place.

The words of his West Point speech were barely dry when Iraq broke and the crisis in Ukraine deepened.

How will the new triad work to deal with these situations?

Or is Putin reading the President correctly that Russia can recover its place in the sun while Europe deals with its Euro crisis and President Obama puzzles over which nails and hammers might be used if necessary?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obama’s Berlin Vision a Year Later: How Did That Turn Out?

On June 19th, 2013, in Berlin, President Obama called for a new 33% reduction in America’s already barely-adequate nuclear arsenal, from 1,550 to just 1,000 deployed strategic warheads. This is intended as a step towards his goal of eliminating nuclear weapons completely.

In Berlin, he claimed that the US could still maintain nuclear deterrence, and its own as well as its allies’ security, even with such a dramatically reduced nuclear arsenal. But the nature of the nuclear competition evident today and evolving clearly challenges the President’s position as articulated in Berlin.

A nuclear arsenal, in order to be adequate, has to be large enough, so as to be able to a) threaten credible retaliation on the vast majority of an enemy’s military bases, units, and assets, and b) survive any enemy first strike. A small arsenal, consisting of 1,000 or fewer warheads, will be capable of neither, considering Russia’s and China’s large arsenals.

The inadequacy of merely 1,000 warheads

Russia has at least 375 ICBMs, all of which except Topol and Topol-M missiles carry multiple warheads; collectively, they can deliver 1,259 warheads to the CONUS. 58 of these are “Satan” heavy ICBMs with 10 warheads and up to 38 countermeasures each.[i] It has just fielded a road-mobile ICBM also capable of carrying 10 warheads: the Yars-M[ii]. Furthermore, it has 251 intercontinental bombers (63 Tu-95s, 16 Tu-160s, 171 Tu-22Ms, though not all of them are combat-capable at all times[iii]) and 14 ballistic missile submarines (5 Delta III, 7 Delta IV, 1 Typhoon, 1 Borei class), all of which can carry 16 SLBMs. Each of these, in turn, can carry 4-12 warheads – the R-29M Sinyeva carrying four to ten, the SS-NX-30 Bulava ten, and the R-29RMU2 Liner twelve warheads each. Russia’s bombers can each carry 3-6 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on its wings and one nuclear freeball bomb in the bay.[iv]

That’s just Russia’s strategic nuclear triad.

Russia also has a significant tactical nuclear arsenal, consisting of, according to various estimates, up to 3,500 deployed warheads and potentially up to 10,000 additional ones in storage. All of these are deliverable by a wide range of systems, including submarines, their cruise missiles, surface ships, artillery pieces, short-range missiles, and tactical strike aircraft.[v] Some of these, namely, Russia’s attack submarines armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, can deliver atomic warheads to the CONUS itself – thus adding to Russia’s intercontinental nuclear striking power.

Russia is now steadily growing and modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

It is developing several new ICBM types: the “Son of Satan” heavy ICBM (10 warheads), a rail-mobile ICBM, the “Avangard”/”Rubezh” medium ICBM, and a “pseudo-ICBM” with a 6,000 km range, in addition to the forementioned Yars-M 10-warhead missile now entering service. Moscow is also developing a new bomber type and fielding a new class of up to ten Borei class SSBNs.[vi]

As numerous experts have observed, Russia has significantly increased, not cut, its nuclear arsenal under New START, and Mark Schneider warns Moscow will actually deploy more strategic warheads than New START’s “notional limits” allow, and that New START places no limits on the size or payload (including number of warheads carried) of the Russian forces. It is also building up its Tu-160 bomber fleet from stockpiled components.[vii] And, the introduction of newer Bulava and Liner SLBMs, capable of carrying – as noted above – 10 and 12 warheads, respectively, will dramatically increase the warhead carriage capacity of its SSBN fleet.

The other major nuclear adversary of the United States with a large arsensl is China.

How large is the Chinese nuclear aresenal?

Former Russian Strategic Missile Force Chief of Staff Gen. Viktor Yesin puts it at 1,600-1,800 warheads, while former Dr Philip Karber estimates it may number up to 3,000 warheads, given the length (3,000 miles) of China’s tunnels and bunkers for nuclear weapons.[viii] Beijing would certainly not have built such a large network only to hide a small arsenal – and no serious person denies that network’s existence or length.

China is currently modernizing and expanding all three legs of its nuclear triad, including the bomber leg, for which it is developing a stealthy intercontinental bomber. Russian and American analysts predict it will be able to strike the Continental US. It is also developing new variants of the JL-2 missile, which will be able to carry 12 warheads over a distance of up to 12,000 kilometers.

In addition to the large aresenal countries targeting the United States, there is North Korea, which plans to increase, not surrender, its nuclear arsenal, and aspirants such as Iran.

To deter these potential adversaries, a larger nuclear arsenal than the President proposed is needed – both to threaten them all with credible retaliation, which requires thousands of warheads, and to survive any first strike by Russia or China.

The Heritage Foundation estimates that America needs about 2,700-3,000 warheads to deter adversaries.[ix]

America cannot deter Russia nor China, nor provide for its own and its allies’ security, if its nuclear deterrent is cut as low as 1,000 deployed warheads.

Fewer nuclear weapons is not ipso facto better. It’s can be considerably worse, if adversaries perceive and act on what they see as US nuclear inferiority. America does not want to face a nuclear analogy to the Crimean land grab.

This is not surprising to those of us who are knowledgeable about defense issues: security and peace can be provided for only through military (including nuclear) strength, not weakness – and cutting America’s nuclear arsenal dramatically will significantly weaken her further. This is not Cold War thinking, this is a timeless truth, which will be proven right many times in the decades ahead.

Contrary to Barack Obama’s stated goals, the US does not rely on a “Cold War posture”. It has already reduced its nuclear arsenal by over 75% since the Cold War’s end. Since 1991, the US has also stopped designing, producing, or testing nuclear warheads; has withdrawn tactical nuclear weapons from surface ships and from South Korea; has unilaterally decomissioned its nuclear-capable cruise missiles and their warheads (W80); and has dramatically deemphasized nuclear weapons while emphasizing conventional ones and BMD systems.

America’s strategic posture could not be more different from that of the Cold War.

Yet, such deep cuts have utterly failed to prevent China from expanding its nuclear arsenal or new nuclear powers from emerging.

Nuclear weapons are not relics of the Cold War: they are highly relevant today, arguably even more so than during the Cold War.

Back then, the US only had to deter the USSR, and to a lesser extent, China. Today, not only do Russia and China both have large arsenals, not only does North Korea have nuclear weapons, not only is Iran racing to acquire them, but all of these adversaries are more, rather than less assertive than a decade ago.

In the last 12 months alone, Russian bombers have practiced simulated nuclear strikes on the US and its friends at least 6 times: first in June 2012 near Alaska, then in July 2012 near California, then near Guam, then over Japan, then, in April 2013, nearby Alaska, and most recently, near Sweden, a neutral country. Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway have also had to intercept Russian bombers numerous times since 2007. Also, Russia has, since 2007, made 15 threats to use nuclear weapons against US allies.[x]

Given such Russian aggressiveness, America absolutely cannot afford to cut its nuclear deterrent further.

Nobody else is disarming themselves

But while America has cut its arsenal by 75% since the Cold War’s end, nobody has reciprocated. Moscow did cut its nuclear arsenal under the original START treaty, but, as noted above, since New START ratification has been steadily building back. China, as noted above, has increased its arsenal, reaching up to 3,000 warheads. Pakistan and North Korea have joined the nuclear club, India retains over 100 warheads, and Israel has 200 (and counting).

Indeed, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute highlights that everyone is modernizing their arsenals and nobody is willing to give those up (except Obama’s America, they forgot to add).

Hans M. Kristensen, a blogger for Federation of American Scientists, speaks of “rampant modernization” underway in all nuclear weapon states.[xi] Right-wing analysts such as Adm. James Lyons (ret.), Frank Gaffney, James Woolsey, and Michaela Dodge say bluntly: nobody is following Barack Obama’s lead to “global zero.” Even Jimmy Carter’s Defense Secretary Harold Brown (himself a nuclear scientist) and Clinton CIA Director John Deutch call the notion of nuclear disarmament a “fantasy” – which it indeed is.

As Brown says, “When we build, they build. When we cut, they build.”[xii]

Captain William Hoeft (USN, ret.) has recently demonstrated how utterly unrealistic Obama’s goal is.[xiii] For it to be achieved, a number of unimaginable changes would have to happen:

  • Russia would have to give up what it calls “sacred” weapons, its primary instrument of military power and bullying of America and its allies, weapons that play the principal role in its defense strategy;
  • China would have to agree to give up its arsenal and open it to intrusive inspections and arms limitation treaties, something it has stubbornly refused to do and continues to reject;
  • India and Pakistan would have to bury their decades-long hatchet and give up their nuclear weapons;
  • North Korea’s Kim Jong-un would have to suddenly become verifiably sane, break free of all the generals and Kim family members who control him, and give up his nuclear arsenal;
  • Israel’s neighbors would have to undergo a Damascene conversion from radical, jihadist Islam to some peaceful religion, stop threatening Israel, and start respecting its right to exist in secure borders before Israel could give up its arsenal (whose very existence it hasn’t even acknowledged);
  • Iran would have to verifiably and forever cease pursuing nuclear weapons (currently, it is making steady progress towards weaponization, which the recently-signed nuclear deal between Iran and P5+1 powers will only enable); and
  • France and Britain would have to give up world power status, and their only independent insurance against nuclear attack, by scrapping their respective nuclear arsenals.

None of these things, except maybe the last one (if the Labour Party returns to power in Britain), will ever happen.

Yet, if even one of them fails to, Obama’s entire fantasy of a non-nuclear world will be shattered.

The strategic reality is clear.

If America continues to cut its nuclear deterrent, especially as deep as Barack Obama wants to, it will be much less secure, as will its allies, who will have no choice but to develop their own nuclear weapons – and many will probably do that. They cannot afford to, and will not, bet their security, and indeed their very existence, on Barack Obama’s fictionary “world without nuclear weapons” – or on his false assurances that disarmament will make the West more secure. Nor will they pin their hopes on a much smaller, and thus woefully inadequate, U.S. nuclear arsenal of just 1,000 deployed warheads.

It is time for American politicians and policymakers to finally realize there will never be a world without nuclear weapons, stop daydreaming about one, stop disarming the US, and start building back and modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

It is the sole guarantee the US and it allies have against strategic attack – and so far, it has never failed.

[i] Pavel Podvig, “Raketneye Vyoska Strategichesko Naznachenya” [Rocket Troops of Strategic Designation], Russian Forces, http://russianforces.org/rus/missiles/, retrieved June 20th, 2013. Note that the FAS says Russia still has 170 SS-19 ICBMs, far more than what Podvig admits. See “SS-19 Stilletto”, Federation of American Scientists, http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/russia/icbm/ur-100n.htm, retrieved June 20th, 2013.

[ii] Bill Gertz, “Russia Conducts test of New ICBM Designer to Defeat US Defenses,” Washington Free Beacon, June 7th, 2013, http://freebeacon.com/russia-conducts-test-of-new-icbm-designed-to-defeat-u-s-defenses/.

[iii] Vladimir Karnozov, „In focus: Russia’s next generation bomber takes shape,” Flight International, October 15th, 2012, http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/in-focus-russians-next-generation-bomber-takes-shape-377251/; „Kuda Letit’ Rossiyskaya Aviatsiya”, Kommersant, August 25th, 2008, http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1014592; Sean O’Connor, “Russian Strategic Aviation – An Imagery Overview,” IMINT, December 22nd, 2007, http://geimint.blogspot.com/2007/07/russian-strategic-aviation-imagery.html.

[iv] “Russia Test Fires Sineva in Barents Sea,”, RIA Novosti, July 27th, 2011, http://en.rian.ru/military_news/20110727/165419044.html; “Vnezapnyi Liner,” Lenta.ru, August 10th, 2011, http://lenta.ru/articles/2011/08/10/liner/; „Bulava Missile Ready to Deploy”, RIA Novosti, December 27th, 2011, http://en.rian.ru/military_news/20111227/170517515.html.

[v] Gunnar Arbman, Charles Thornton, “Russian Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Part I: Background and Policy Issues”, Swedish Defense Research Agency, November 2003, http://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/1903/7912/1/thorntonrussia.pdf.

[vi] Mark Schneider, “Russian Nuclear Modernization,” National Institute for Public Policy, July 20th, 2012, http://www.nipp.org/Publication/Downloads/Downloads%202012/Schneider%20Russian%20strategic%20forces%20talkingpoints%20-.pdf.

[vii] Schneider, op. cit.; Robert Joseph and Eric Edelman, “Time for Kerry to Face Facts,” Foreign Policy, May 6th, 2013, http://www.csbaonline.org/2013/05/06/time-for-kerry-to-face-facts/; Michaela Dodge, “New START: State Department’s “Facts” Don’t Match Reality”, The Foundry, April 14th, 2013, http://blog.heritage.org/2013/04/14/new-start-state-departments-facts-dont-match-reality/; Schneider, “Russian Nuclear Modernization”, p. 8; Carlo Kopp, “The F-35: Can It Meet Canada’s Needs?”, Air Power Australia, October 19th, 2010, http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-NOTAM-191010-1.html.

[viii] William Wan, “Georgetown students shed light on China’s tunnel system for nuclear weapons,” The Washington Post, November 29th, 2011, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2011-11-29/world/35280981_1_nuclear-weapons-georgetown-students-military-journals; Viktor Yesin, “On China’s Nuclear Potential Without Underestimation or Exaggeration,” transl. Anna Tsiporkina, Georgetown University Asian Arms Control Project, May 2nd, 2012, http://www.asianarmscontrol.com/content/russian-article-chinese-nuclear-potential.

[ix] Rebeccah Heinrichs and Baker Spring, “Deterrence and Nuclear Targeting in the 21st Century,” The Heritage Foundation, November 30th, 2012, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/11/deterrence-and-nuclear-targeting-in-the-21st-century.

[x] Gertz, „Bears Buzz Alaska Again,” Washington Free Beacon, May 6th, 2013, http://freebeacon.com/bears-buzz-alaska-again/; Dodge, “New START: State Department’s “Facts” Don’t Match Reality”; Christian Gomez, “Russian Bombers Perform Simulated Strikes On U.S., Sweden,” The New American, May 14th, 2013, http://thenewamerican.com/world-news/europe/item/15387-russian-bombers-perform-simulated-strikes-on-sweden-us.

[xi] Hans M. Kristensen, Air Force Briefing Shows Nuclear Modernizations But Ignores US and UK Programs, May 29th, 2013, http://blogs.fas.org/security/2013/05/afgsc-brief2013/. The title of Kristensen’s blogpost is wrong, however, because the Air Force briefing in question did show all of America’s planned modernization programs.

[xii] Dodge, “Nuclear Weapons: Hagel’s Misguided Relief in Global Zero”, The Foundry, February 22nd, 2013, http://blog.heritage.org/2013/02/22/reality-crushes-senator-hagels-misguided-belief-in-nuclear-zero/; Frank Gaffney, “No Nukes Could Beget Nuclear War,” Center for Security Policy, April 3rd, 2013, http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2013/04/03/no-nukes-could-beget-nuclear-war/; Gaffney, R. James Woolsey, and James Lyons, “Obama’s Nuclear Zero Rhetoric Is Dangerous,” The Washington Post, April 1st, 2013, http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2013/04/01/obamas-nuclear-zero-rhetoric-is-dangerous/; Harold Brown and John Deutch, “The Nuclear Disarmament Fantasy,” The Wall Street Journal, November 19th, 2007, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119542524645797257.html.

[xiii] William F. Hoeft, “Deterrence Now More than Ever,” Proceedings, June 2013, http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2013-06/deterrence%E2%80%94now-more-ever.

Zbigniew Mazurak is a private defense analyst and the Defense Correspondent for Conservative Daily News. He has contributed over 20 articles to the American Thinker, over 190 articles to Conservative Daily News, and numerous articles to other conservative news sites, the vast majority of them dealing with America’s defense issues. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in History and is now working on his Ph.D. in the same field.

Note: The Crimean invasion by Russia against a state which gave up its right to possess nuclear weapons under a signed agreement for which the US was a party as well as the UK and Russia will certainly further enhance the desire of those who have them to ensure that they are credible and modernized.

Crimea is the death blow for sure to the Berlin speech.

Now it is time to get on to a credible and realistic modernization strategy.

“Schrecklichkeit” In Iraq

On the eve of the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of World War I, there is a word describing German Army doctrine employed in their advance into neutral Belgium that resonates to this day: “Schrecklichkeit”.

The word means “terror” or “frightfulness” a doctrine employed by the advancing German Army to subdue any opposition:

German army doctrine in force at the time called for such reprisals to be performed immediately and severely in any case of civilian resistance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schrecklichkeit

Press reporting coming out of Iraq read like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has, much like the Khmer Rouge taken the concept of Schrecklichkeit to an entirely new level of fanatical viciousness against all their enemies.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/13/isis-beheadings-and-the-success-of-horrifying-violence/

There will be a lot of posturing from both left and right on what created this advancing army of death loving fanatics. Both camps will have some with very strong positions that the U.S. has done enough so the concept of never fight harder for something that those directly affected are willing to fight comes into play. For those Americans who think we have a global moral obligation, or as the Obama Administration called it when triggering Odyssey Dawn, “the responsibility to protect” (R2P) there are various military options for Iraq.

Currently, it appears airpower maybe employed to some significant effect in stopping the ISIS in advancing any further into Iraq. American airpower is a long way from our total war WWII strategic bombing raids, which created huge firestorms that killed many civilians.

However, sadly the issue of innocents being killed from the air is still with us today.

The ISIS are current truly world-class bad guys, as fanatical as the Khmer Rouge and their Killing Fields. They are using the brutality of the horror of psychological terror as a weapon to their advantage in their 21st Century way of war. This is just like Khmers and WWI and WWII German Army.

US airpower cannot only level the fight but can tip the balance but there is a significant PR factor always in play.

The US has developed a real sensitivity for killing innocents and avoiding collateral damage, it is a very sincere doctrine that probably cost some US and allied troops their lives by withholding an air attack because of lack of intelligence with complete assurance innocents will not be killed. The book and movie “Lone Survivor” makes our current way of modern war very clear. The SEALs at the cost of their own life spared Afghan goat herders.

These bad guys know as bombs fall and precision cruise missiles are launched many in the world press will pounce on “what does difference does it make” by having one’s head cut off vice an innocent Iraqi being vaporized in a bomb explosion, which especially in the fog of war  will happen.

So accuracy is everything. A powerful headline announces an air campaign can begin literally overnight:

U.S. Aircraft Could Strike Iraq Tomorrow

That’s why a number of retired high-ranking U.S. Air Force officers, including Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who served as the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, say any strikes, if ordered, could begin almost immediately.

If you can provide me with the appropriate intelligence we can start doing (air strikes) within 24 hours,” he told The Daily Beast. “There are a variety of means do this, whether you are talking about long-range, high-payload aircraft or smaller aircraft. With the requisite intelligence information you can start again in 24 hours.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/13/u-s-aircraft-could-strike-iraq-tomorrow.html

Separating the evil from the innocent in Iraq will be a real challenge.

Hence, the critical importance that Lt. General Deptula places on “appropriate intelligence” which is the key dimension to using airpower to effectively stop a murderous rampage.

President Obama has dictated no troops on the ground as a principle; consequently the current reported state-of-play is that England is considering putting in their famed SAS on the ground.

In London, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said Britain was considering its options. While also ruling out direct intervention by troops, he said Britain was “looking urgently at other ways to help”. He proposed “counter-terrorism expertise”, which would mean advisers from British Special Forces such as the SAS and intelligence agencies.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/10899411/Iraq-crisis-SAS-may-be-sent-in-to-help-Iraqi-army.html

Eyes on marking targets by trained Special Forces will always help mitigate collateral damage.

With respect to US “boots on the ground” President Obama better be very careful with his wishful posturing because there is one combat problem that might be developing that needs airpower supplemented by troops on the ground.

If US and allied nationals are cut off by known killers regardless of current statements coming out of the White House, the world may soon see the horror of beheading of our innocents.

This would never be forgotten nor forgiven.

So the faster air strikes occur is a very good thing on moral and geopolitical grounds. But “no boots on the ground” may fade quickly if American and allied citizens are being in danger of being overrun.

There are about 5,000 American contractors remaining in the increasingly dangerous country, including a team that was bailed out Thursday from a base in Balad, an hour north of the threatened capital, Baghdad.

http://nypost.com/2014/06/13/us-scrambles-to-evacuate-americans-in-iraq-as-al-qaeda-forces-advance/

http://abc7news.com/news/california-contractor-struggles-to-flee-balad-iraq/113603/

A call to “land the landing force” of a Marine ARG-MEU specifically, the 22nd MEU on the USS Bataan, is a US combat force that can save lives. Combine a Marine battalion, an MV-22 enabled force with combat air cover from the USS George Bush and it will be truly a lifesaving force.

If the ISIS wants to take on a USN/USMC Air Ground team then those who advance will cease to exist.

Also see the following:

http://www.sldinfo.com/report-from-iraq-strategic-dynamics-in-play/

Has the President Exercised “Unlawful Command Influence” Over the Sgt. Bergdhal Case?

It may come as a surprise to many spinning pundits, but the Uniform Code of Military Justice is codified and if applied fairly and with transparency, it does lead to justice.

US Army Sgt Bowie Bergdhal, just as if he was being investigated as a civilian in our “law and order” justice system, is innocent until proven guilty.

The Pentagon spokesman and NSC Director Rice have both commented on the case:

“Both Rice and Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said only Bergdahl knows the full truth of what happened and why.

This is a young man whose circumstances we are still going to learn about,” she told CNN in an interview.

“He is, as all Americans, innocent until proven guilty.

He’s now being tried in the court of public opinion after having gone through enormously traumatic five years of captivity.”

Furthermore, NSC Director Ambassador Susan Rice takes the case to a logical conclusion.

“If the military finds Bergdahl deserted, he’ll face consequences, she said.”

http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/06/politics/bowe-bergdahl-release/

But not so fast.

In order for Sgt Berghal to be charged in Military Justice (UCMJ) up to a General Court Martial, which is where a charge of desertion would be tried, there must be an “Article 32” investigation.

UCMJ—Article 32 Investigation:

No charge or specification may be referred to a general court-martial for trial until a through and impartial investigation of all the matters set forth therein has been made.

This investigation shall include inquiry as to the truth of the matter set forth in the charges, consideration of the form of charges, and recommendation as to the disposition which should be made of the case in the interest of justice and discipline.

http://usmilitary.about.com/library/milinfo/ucmj/blart-32.htm

Any attempt to take Sgt. Bergdhal to trial will immediately come into collision with a significant check and balance in the UCMJ, the need to not taint the process with “Unlawful Command Influence.”

Often that provision is used effectively by a Military Lawyer defending a charged serviceman trying to get a case against their client thrown out because someone in the Chain-of Command has prejudiced the case. A great quote comes to mind-“there would not be a Court-Martial if the person was innocent.”

Fortunately that is both a cliché and hopefully never true. However, the reverse can also be subtly felt with improper influence determining the need for a not guilty verdict.

Unlawful Command Influence

Unlawful Command Influence (UCI) has frequently been called the “mortal enemy of military justice.” UCI occurs when senior personnel, wittingly or unwittingly, have acted to influence court members, witnesses, or others participating in military justice cases. Such unlawful influence not only jeopardizes the validity of the judicial process, it undermines the morale of military members, their respect for the chain of command, and public confidence in the military.

Consequently any U.S. Army Officer serving on a Court-Martial would most certainly know of the expressed opinion of their Commander-in Chief and his Senior National Security officials. This puts Big Army in a bad situation.

From the first White House Press release;

Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for nearly five years.  On behalf of the American people, I was honored to call his parents to express our joy that they can expect his safe return, mindful of their courage and sacrifice throughout this ordeal.

And the Presidents own words about the release of Sgt. Bergdahl:

His parents thought about him and prayed for him every single day, as did his sister Sky, who prayed for his safe return.

He wasn’t forgotten by his community in Idaho, or the military, which rallied to support the Bergdahls through thick and thin. And he wasn’t forgotten by his country, because the United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.

The President as Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s Commander-in-Chief has generated a major problem for the possible course of military justice.

And as a Harvard trained lawyer, he undoubtedly knows the consequences of his actions.

And echoing her bosses statements, National Security Director, Ambassador Susan Rice, underscored the message:

“Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had served in the military with “honor and distinction,” and she recently doubled down on her opinion.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/208472-susan-rice-bergdahl-being-tried-in-court-of-public-opinion

Unless President Obama distances himself from his most Senior National Security Advisor’s words, they will stand as his Administration’s official position on Sgt. Bergdahl’s conduct while in uniform.

Again, Sgt Bergdahl is 100% innocent until proven guilty, but the NSC Director’s words about facing consequences of desertion rings hollow on any quest for true accountability under the UCMJ.

An Article 32 investigation must determine the facts, and it will be interesting to see if it includes the words “Sgt Bergdahl served in the military with honor and distinction?”

Doing an investigation with politically charged public babbling as a backdrop by a team that should know better puts the US Army in a terrible position and perverts the course of justice.

Innocent until proven guilty is a crucial principle; exercising undue or unlawful influence from the Commander-in-Chief undercuts the process and calls into question the ability to determine guilt in a fair and equitable manner.

After all if you have already been declared to “serve with honor and distinction,” why would you be tried for desertion?

The Commander-in-Chief has put the US Army in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

The Latest New Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight: The Leadership of the Veteran’s Administration

Yesterday, May 28, 2014, the House Veterans Affairs Committee hosted three VA witnesses that testified under oath for four hours in an unusual evening hearing regarding the Phoenix VA Medical Center (VAMC) Wait List Times.

VA witnesses were Dr. Thomas Lynch, Deputy Undersecretary for Clinical Operations and Management; Ms. Joan Mooney, Assistant Secretary, Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs; and Mr. Michael Huff, VA Congressional Liaison Officer.

The hearing was stormy, the members were fired up, well prepared, expressed bipartisan frustration with VA, and concerned that Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Performance Metrics became goals instead of tools to help manage health care delivery.

The VA witnesses appeared to be generally ill at ease, unprepared for the rough questioning they received, offered platitudes and excuses while being evasive during Q and A.

In fact, based on Dr. Lynch’s answers to members’ questions, he stated there was no secret waiting list at Phoenix but rather in traditional VA lingo, “interim work products.”

You might also assume from his answers that VA’s IT architecture, known as VISTA, is the culprit because it created the off-line secret waiting lists.

Obviously VISTA did not create the “interim work product” nor the “secret waiting list,” rather this was an act administered by VA staff in a position of authority.

The most succinct summary of the hearing came from Congressman Mike Coffman (CO-6th) when he stated,

“You are not being forthright.

The impression all three of you give today is that you are here to serve yourselves and not the men and women that have made extraordinary sacrifices defending this country.

I have got to tell you nothing will change at the Veterans Administration until we have new leadership and just from the very top General Shinseki, but all of you, I think, have to find something else to do because you are not here to do your job.”

VA HAS DISPLAYED SERIAL INCOMPETENCE AND HYPOCRISY THAT IS BREATH-TAKING IN SCOPE AND MAGNITUDE.

Yesterday, the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) also released its Interim Report entitled, Veterans Health Administration Review of Patient Wait Times, Scheduling, Practices, and Alleged Patient Deaths at the Phoenix Health Care System.

The OIG Interim Report confirms some of our greatest fears.

Not only did Phoenix VAMC fail to schedule appointments for 1,400 for primary care patients, it also failed to schedule an additional 1,700 veterans who were waiting for appointments but were not placed on the Electronic Waiting List (EWL).

OIG also disclosed that by not placing veterans on the EWL, Phoenix VAMC, “leadership significantly understated the time new patients waited for their primary care appointment in their 2013 performance appraisal accomplishments, which is one of the factors considered for awards and salary increases.”

The OIG Interim Report reflects significant cheating by purposefully manipulating wait time data in order to help senior VAMC managers change the metrics and thereby yield higher performance evaluations and possible salary “kickers” and bonuses.

The Phoenix VAMC, has been caught red-handed “cooking the books” and delaying health care to thousands of veterans that led to misery, suffering, and untoward consequences for those veterans who languished helplessly while waiting for VA health care that came too late for some.

Adding insult to injury, while the OIG worked this investigation in Phoenix they “received numerous allegations daily of mismanagement, inappropriate hiring decisions, sexual harassment, and bullying behavior by mid-and senior-level managers at the facility.”

THE “GOLD STANDARD” FOR HEALTH CARE DELIVERY TO SOME VETERANS

I will concede that parts of VHA’s massive bureaucracy are indeed the “Gold Standard” when it comes to providing world class specialty care to veterans.

VHA’s Polytrauma, Prosthetics, Spinal Cord Injury, Research and Development units, and others do provide high-quality care and services that are often hard to find in the private sector.

Unfortunately, the good work of these entities as well as the doctors, nurses, technicians, and administrative staff that work very hard every day are overshadowed by the disgraceful scandal that continues to unfold.

RATIONING OF CARE THROUGH WAITING LISTS

Veterans were put on off-line or paper waiting lists because many VAMCs could not, for many reasons, meet the department’s stringent access goals.

These illegal actions by some VAMCs are straightforward rationing of care that reduces patient choices while increasing wait time for often life-saving treatment.

Despite the huge budget increases VA has received over the last decade, VHA seems incapable of providing timely health care to veterans without bilking the taxpayer and more importantly, manipulating patient wait times that caused preventable deaths.

Plain and simple, VHA does not have the resources that are exclusively focused on the provision of timely, high-quality care to all veterans seeking health services.

As a very general rule, once VA patients are established at a facility, they do receive fairly good care.

However, if a veteran lives in a highly rural area or near a VAMC that cannot recruit and hire critically needed clinical staff, the use of private sector health care may not be an option either.

INFIGHTING IS A VA BLOOD SPORT

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is now into his 6th year of being in charge at VA, a monolithic organization with a well-earned reputation for being one of the most political departments in the federal government.

From all appearances, General Shinseki is either personally hesitant or incapable of grappling with the entrenched bureaucracy to force the kind of change he says must be made to the VA’s health care and benefits delivery systems.

With a flood of returning warriors from the Global War On Terror (GWOT), VA needed a leader that has the “vision thing” and the proverbial “fire in the belly” to compel VHA’s leadership to prepare and preposition resources to successfully meet the onslaught of veterans seeking VA benefits and medical care.

Instead, many veterans got excuses, delays, incompetence, and blatant cheating so some Directors at VAMCs and managers at the 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) could look good statistically and capture financial bonuses.

THE VA WAIT LIST AND PREVENTABLE DEATHS SCANDAL DID NOT DROP OUT OF THE SKY

As a Vietnam veteran who sought care and benefits from VA, General Shinseki knows better than most, that the health and benefits systems were inundated with Vietnam veterans as that war wound down to a final conclusion.

VA knew, or should have been aware from past experience, that this phenomenon would repeat itself and, once again, the system would be tested as the GWOT veterans returned to civilian life seeking health care and benefits they earned as war fighters.

The root problem is not the “awareness” of the mismatch between available health care and the demand for services by veterans – the root problem is that competent VA leaders were at a premium.

When the Undersecretary for Benefits and Health both fail, that equals mission failure by the Chief executive, Secretary Shinseki. General Shinseki did not root out or solve the VA’s health care access problem nor did he or his team work with congress to identify problems and find solutions that would help mitigate the tsunami of veterans flooding VA.

Consequently, systemic malfeasance, corruption, cheating, and unethical behavior became acceptable in some quarters of VHA. VAMC Directors felt intense pressure to force staff to “hit the numbers” or face negative consequences.

Thus, some VAMC Hospital Administrative Services forced their schedulers to cut corners or simply manipulate the scheduling of patients so that it appeared as though the VAMC met VHA’s timeliness standards.

If a VAMC could not meet the stringent time lines dictated by VA Central Office in Washington, DC, they often times reverted to cheating as a form of self preservation.

Unfortunately, this cheating was at the patient’s expense.

WHAT THE TALIKING HEADS ARE SAYING

It is President Bush’s fault – after all, he started these two wars.

Response: Maybe so but that was then and this is now.

The Obama Administration has had 5+ years to work on and solve VA’s health care access problems and VBA’s backlog.

Congress has failed in their oversight responsibility.

Response: For several years, the House Veterans Affairs Committee has held hearings in Washington and across the country via field hearings regarding lengthy wait times, backlog of disability claims, VA construction delays, cost overruns, stonewalling of congress, bonuses for senior VA managers.

Additionally, much time was spent on another egregious VA scandal where taxpayer money to the tune of $6.1 million was spent on VA conferences in Orlando, FL. Congressional offices receive complaints about VA from their constituents and then interact with VA’s Office of Congressional Affairs to resolve these matters. Unfortunately, VA’s Office of Congressional Affairs is many times unresponsive and congressional inquiries go unanswered.

VA has not been responsive and therefore is derelict in its duty when VA will not provide answers to the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee for months or years.

VA has the executive oversight responsibility for VA’s problems, not the congress.

Sure congress gets involved but cannot force VA to do much of anything except call hearings and subpoena information.

Secretary Shinseki should stay at VA to fix the problems.

Response: How can anyone expect Shinseki who has exacerbated this scandal by inaction be expected to satisfactorily resolve this matter? To date, he has had over 5 years to fix many of these problems and failed.

It will take months to find a replacement for Secretary Shinseki and get Senate confirmation.

Response: Possibly, so start the process immediately since time is of the essence.

President Obama has sent a trusted senior adviser to “assist” Secretary Shinseki.

Response: Wise up and snap out of it!

His mission is to staunch the hemorrhaging and keep the scandal from widening. The first step in solving a problem is realizing there is one. Unfortunately, this Administration perceives “problems” as something to be shaped and massaged instead of fixing. Fixing VA is hard work.

President Obama should work with Shinseki to solve the myriad problems.

Response: On the contrary, the President should “count coup” by firing the Secretary to rebuild confidence in VA and his leadership. A demonstration such as a visible manifestation of empathy for veterans who suffered and those that died due to VHA ‘s “gaming the system” would be a smart move for the President and good for future veterans’ health care options.

Firing General Shinseki would also mean that the long tail of VA political appointees on that kite would also go. The people who have a vested interest in covering up the facts should not be allowed to stay in place and run interference.

VA should switch to vouchers or privatization.

Response: Vouchers have been tried in the past and were fraught with so much waste, fraud, and abuse the program had to be terminated.

Privatization is currently being used by VHA to augment care by private sector providers if the Fee Basis dollars are available, if the outside providers have excess capacity, and if VA leaders are willing to fully accept outside augmentation, something they have heretofore resisted.

Construct more Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC), Super Outpatient Clinics (SOPC), and VAMCs to handle the work load.

Response: Building new health care facilities is neither a short- nor long-term solution for the current VA access problem. In fact, VA should have a moratorium on further construction projects until they prove the department can handle what they have in the pipeline.

To date, cost overruns and significant construction delays for VAMCs, in the works for over a decade, have overwhelmed VA’s ability to handle the construction projects they current oversee.

The President’s loyalty to his cabinet Chiefs is laudable.

However, the President’s first loyalty should be to the veterans who served our country and especially those who suffered disabilities during that service. Political appointees are expendable, not the veterans they are supposed to serve.

THE FACTS ABOUT VA AND THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

When Senator Obama was in the senate, he was a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

As a presidential candidate, he ran on a platform of “fixing” VA’s problems exacerbated by America’s involvement in two wars.

VA’s overall budget has tripled since 2000.

In 2008, President-elect Obama’s VA Transition Team was specifically warned in a written Transition document that paraphrased the VA Office of Inspector General stating, “VHA has made only limited progress in addressing the longstanding and underlying causes of problems with outpatient scheduling, accuracy, of reported wait times , and completeness of electronic waiting lists(EWLs).” [emphasis added].

The Transition Document goes on to state that in the 2008 OIG report that wait time scheduling procedures were not followed and affected the reliability of reported wait times and caused inaccuracies;

“This report and prior reports indicate that the problems and causes associated with scheduling, waiting times, and waiting lists are systemic throughout VHA. Moreover, VHA has not ensured compliance with its policy that patients’ preferences for desired appointment dates are documented and that veterans receive appointments within the required timeframes.” [emphasis added]

ANOTHER SMOKING GUN?

The problems at VHA with scheduling practices, delayed health care, and preventable deaths are systemic and demonstrate gross negligence.

The big question asks “are there any VAMCs that are not “gaming the system” and putting veterans’ health in jeopardy?”

On April 26, 2010, Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management (DUSHOM) William Schoenhard wrote a 1-page memo with an 8 page attachment sent to all 21 VISN Directors. Schoenhard stated that, “The purpose of this memorandum is to call for immediate action within every VISN to review current scheduling practices to identify and eliminate all inappropriate practices including but not limited to the practice specified below.”

He further opined that, “It has come to my attention that in order to improve scores on assorted access measures, certain facilities have adopted use of inappropriate scheduling practices sometimes referred to as “gaming strategies.”

The 8-page attachment drafted by the VA’s Systems Redesign Office specifically describes the numerous ways VAMCs “game” the system and notes that “additional new or modified gaming strategies have emerged, so do not consider this list a full description of all current possibilities of inappropriate scheduling practices that need to be addressed. These practices will not be tolerated.”

Notwithstanding the terse warnings contained in both the Obama Transition Team documents and DUSHOM Schoenhard’s “gaming memo” VA Secretary Shinseki, Undersecretary for Health Petzel, various other senior staff, VISN, and VAMC Directors ignored specific warnings, condemning thousands of veterans to needlessly suffer and leaving scores to die.

FACTS ABOUT MISCONDUCT BY VA SENIOR LEADERS

According to recent reports, approximately 15,000 VA employees owe $150 million in back taxes.

VA spent $500 million on furniture, drapes, and other sundry items.

During Secretary Shinseki’s tenure, in one year VA spent $86.5 million on conferences and workshops.

On September 30, 2012, VAOIG reported that VA’s Human Resources spent $6.1 million for two training conferences in Orlando, FL where 11 VA employees improperly accepted gifts in conjunction with their conference management responsibilities.

The OIG found that VA leadership failed to provide proper oversight in planning and executing the conferences. The GSA scandal for spending taxpayer money for their conference pales in comparison to VA’s activities.

WHAT SHOULD SECRETARY SHINSEKI DO?

He should immediately admit the real scope of the problem and tender his resignation. This would give President Obama the opportunity to find a new VA Secretary and senior team to begin the long-term effort to rebuild the belief and confidence veterans deserve.

New leadership, especially political appointees, is required in order to restore a modicum of trust between VA and the veterans they are supposed to serve.

All VAMC, VISN, and VACO staff that failed to follow DUSHOM Schoehard’s April 26, 2010, Memorandum regarding “gaming the system” should be asked to immediately resign or be fired and referred as appropriate to DOJ for potential criminal prosecution.

VA must be redesigned and streamlined to make patients and beneficiaries the centerpiece of all work effort.

VA should finally begin to collaborate with Republicans and Democrats on the Hill. New leadership at VA’s Congressional Affairs Office must immediately occur to end the lack of communication and ongoing politicization of VA.

VA must immediately work with congress to modify VA Fee Basis Program to ensure funding and access to private sector health care is available to all enrolled veterans when timely or high-quality health care (within a reasonable distance from their homes) is not available.

Begin work on a new IT system that removes the ability of VAMCs to manipulate wait times for health care delivery.

VA must begin to timely pay all Fee Basis invoices from private sector providers that lag many months behind, especially in VISN centralized Fee Basis Programs. To continue to delay Fee payments to private sector providers will ensure they do not take care of referred patients in the future.

VA should seek legislation to lift the salary cap on all hard to recruit VA medical staff.

Primary Care clinician’s panel size of veteran patients must be significantly increased and the average number of patients seen per day must be substantially enlarged in keeping with private sector health care professionals.

The VHA Scheduling Package must be improved so that routine primary care appointments are not expanded from 20 minutes to 40 or 60 minutes except under specific circumstances.

Regular Saturday hours of operation must be instituted to increase access for veteran patients. A triage function must be established at all VA facilities in order to handle walk-ins, drug refills, and urgent care.

Performance pay for physicians is based on Stretch Goals that can be as high as $15,000 per annum. This payment must be based on patients treated and not on continuing education or other endeavors that actually reduce the number of patients seen. Continuing education for VA physicians must be accomplished “off clock” and not interfere with patient access and treatment.

All Hospital Admin Service employees must receive a high degree of scheduling training that precludes any form of data manipulation.

Without delay, President Obama should pull back the Intent to Nominate Jeffery Murawsky, MD as Undersecretary for Health.

VA is at a critical juncture in its history.

The department is at a tipping point where what is good with the system could be lost. That means a “house cleaning” is required and strong replacement management and leadership teams must be installed to begin the process of restoring faith in government generally and faith in the VA specifically.

VA’s Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight needs to start Shooting Straight with America’s veterans they serve and the taxpayers who foot the bills.

From Ed Timperlake, the Editor of the Second Line of Defense Forum:

Al Poteet is one of America’s top leading experts on the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has written a series of articles on the Forum focusing on the issues facing DVA .

This is his latest which provides an insightful  look at the Congressional DVA Oversight Hearings held on May 28, 2014.

He is a former Army gunship pilot with two tours in the Republic of Vietnam; a registered lobbyist for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW);Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs; Director of three VA Regional Offices; a VA Medical Center Director; and Executive Director of the President’s  Task Force To Improve Health care Delivery For Our Nation’s Veterans.

Ed Timperlake First Assistant Secretary Public and Congressional Affairs, then Assistant Secretary Public and Intergovernmental Affairs DVA. Editor Sldforum.com

To view the hearings see the following:

http://www.c-span.org/video/?319594-1/va-hospital-waiting-list-records or view below:

For earlier columns by Al Poteet on The Forum see the following:

http://www.sldforum.com/2014/05/veteran-administrations-secret-waiting-lists-fatal-veterans/

http://www.sldforum.com/2012/08/slow-motion-implosion-at-the-vba-or-where-warfighters-become-backlog/

http://www.sldforum.com/2014/05/next-veterans-administration-looking-past-shinseki/