Friday, January 29, 2010

Every News Story You've Ever Seen

Nails it: the template for each and every news report you've ever seen. Now I know why I don't watch the news on TV, because I see the same thing over and over again.

Does Not Compute

Okay: Ew, yuck, I think I need a shower now.
Doesn't add up. So, you're a skank, and you figure you'll get over on the system and score a box of Marlboro Reds by trading some guy sex for smokes. Disgusting, but it's a free country.
But then, you have the Knight Errant of the Turkish Blend arrested because the sex wasn't very good. So, you're willing to trade ass for butts, find some schmuck who thinks this is a good thing, and then you're devastated, shocked, and vindictive 'cause you didn't get quality sex? Fat, stupid, and reeking of nicotine is no way to go through life, chicas.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Scenes From The Area

I haven't really 'ginned any "street scenes" posts since The Mungadai re-deployed. But street scenes in S. Florida can sometimes be as interesting (although rarely as lethal) as street scenes from Iraq. So, with a little bit of narrative, here's some local color:

On my (ass-ripping, have I mentioned that before?) long commute every day, this is my favorite caution sign.Of course, I've yet to actually see a croc trying to cross the road. If I do, I'm thinking new shoes and luggage.

Not to sound too provincial, but I found seeing the Muslim profession of faith prominently displayed in S. Florida a little jarring. Then again, the poor guy that owns the truck, if he saw me, might have found a uniformed guy taking pictures of his truck and the legend on the rear windshield a little jarring.

After my thirteenth or fourteenth consecutive night shift, I splurged on the way home this morning and grabbed chow (and, uh, a couple Bloody Mary's) at one of my favorite diners. If you're ever headed south on Hwy 1 in the Keys and see this sign, do yourself a favor and pull over for great eats. Due to the lovely weather, and the dearth of sunshine I've had lately, I ate outside under the awning. I was just pondering weather to indulge in a third Bloody Mary (just to help get to sleep, don't'cha know), when I heard the awful racket of heavy pipes tuned low. Jeez, the ground shook. Across the street, the Rat Patrol had arrived. I thought the vehicle was too cool, and crossed the road to check it out. This, in and of itself was a comedic event. I was coming off an all-night 16 hour shift. In the wee hours of the morning (about 0300), I'd taken a break and ran the 8-mile loop around the airfield, just to keep the blood pumping through the remainder of the shift. As I'd done the run in my monkey shoes, six hours later I was a little hobbled up. That, and the two Bloody Mary's, made scuttling across Hwy 1 (not known for its surfeit of tip top drivers) look like an outtake from Benny Hill. I'm sorta glad I was the only one around with a camera.

The vehicle was even more awesome up close. I dug the high-mod up suspension. (For anyone interested, note that the vehicle is for sale. You're welcome. No finder's fee necessary but gratuities are always appreciated)

The 105 mm shell case rear turn indicators (and note the Mermite container in the back. Hot Chow!) Also, the Kilroy graffiti was a nice touch.
The engine was definitely not GI issue.
The interior was bare bones, high-speed and functional.
And for the sticklers for detail out there, note the .50 cal door handles and front turn signals.

I'm not into all things hooah, but for this victor I'll make a grudging exception.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Protecting the Force: A Boss Mongo Recommendation

I just realized: in casting aspersions upon the DoD Fort Hood Report, I committed the cardinal sin of the potshot blogger. I bitched and kvetched without offering a better countersolution. So, here goes:

Instead of spending an inordinate amount of money and man-hours implementing the recommendations of the report (the recommendations regarding Force Protection anyway, I've got no opinion on all the recommendations--and there were lots of them--on the peripherals), spend a little bit of time and money standing up a Guardian program (I'm using the term Guardian because it's an FBI reporting program that the report recommends we get nested with. My Guardian is better). Or whatever name fits.

Do a threat vulnerability assessment of each military post; analyze which areas would be the most lucrative targets for an active shooter scenario. Then identify the "right" ratio of Soldiers that should be armed in order to keep that area safe. Then ask for military members to volunteer to act as armed Guardians on their post. Guardians would:
-be in the rank of Staff Sergeant or above
-receive a SECRET clearance, with the background check enhanced the way that the Fort Hood report says that MAJ Hasan's should have been
-undergo a psych screening, like unto the screening that our snipers go through before their training
-in states/counties allowing a CCW permit, Guardians would receive the training and permit, in states without CCW, Guardians would draw their weapons from the arms room or the Provost Martial at the startof the duty day and relinquish them before leaving post
-each post with a Guardian program would have an Army shrink dedicated to monitoring Guardians
-Guardians would receive an intensive entry level training program, and then have a required number of range and situational training hours per month
-Guardians would be thoroughly familiarized with the layout,"reaction plan" and anticipated timelines for all lucrative/vulnerable targets on the post (PX, Commissary, schools, day care, SRP centers, hospitals), they would know the local SWAT/SRT plans and reaction times for all these locations, and would train periodically with those higher-end units
-Guardians would carry concealed throughout the duty day both at their place of duty and wherever they might go on post through the course of the day
-Guardians would receive an additional skill identifier that 1) counts toward promotion and 2) goes with them when they change units/posts, so that the pool of Guardians is always growing
-the Army already has a designated Force Protection compact pistol, the M11, which Guardians would carry instead of the M9 (just because I don't like the M9, and hey, it's my program, right?)

Two minutes and forty seconds after the first 911 call, first responders were at the scene of Hasan's shooting spree, 90 seconds later Hasan was incapacitated. In the interim, fourteen people were killed and 43 others were wounded or injured. How much lower would those numbers be if trained, motivated, and armed Soldiers with the charter to protect their brethren were in that SRP Center when Hasan started shooting?

I'll guarantee you two things: this solution would have a better chance of stopping or mitigating another active shooter scenario on an Army installation than all of the recommendations in the DoD report, and Army leadership will never, ever acquiesce to this sort of program. Too risky, from the bureaucracy's point of view.

Oceans of Diamonds on Uranus

I'm not touching that headline. But the possibilities are endless.

A Timely Update

Writing that last post reminded me: I still haven't heard back from these guys.

By Bureaucrats, For Bureaucrats

I've heard bad things about the Fort Hood killings AAR. I just sat down and read the whole thing.

Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood is dreck.

First, as reported, the document doesn't cover the "alleged perpetrator's" (and that whole "alleged" bit pisses me off) religion. Doesn't mention Islam, Islamic extremism, jihadi, takfiri, Muslims, extreme Muslims or the Religion of Peace. Apparently, the authors of this report obviously got the guidance not to write anything that might attenuate diversity. After reading the whole thing, I went back and word-searched all those terms, as I might have missed it when my eyes sorta glazed over reading about the DoD's shortcomings in providing Memorial Service support (really: finding 4.11).

Actually reading the report, I realized that most of the pundits and polemicists that have decried this piece of desktop dung couldn't imagine the scope of its awfulness because they're outsiders looking in. As someone eking out my living in the bowels of the Defense bureaucracy, let me tell you; as bad as you may have heard this report is, it's even worse.

First of all, it's one of those reports that is so chock full of bureaucrat-ese, it is probably four or five times longer than it needs to be. Second, it runs up recommendations with no concern for cost or efficacy. Basically, it proffers that the answer to a failure of the bureaucracy is...more bureaucracy. For example, did you know that for the DoD to stop "internal threats" such as MAJ Hasan,
An effective protection system requires robust information sharing and command and control structures that facilitate active information gathering on potential threats, and disseminating the analysis and assessments of the threat derived from such indicators to the appropriate levels of command. While leaders at Fort Hood responded well under the stress of a rapidly evolving crisis, we are fortunate that we faced only one incident at one location. We cannot assume that this will remain the case in the future.
Our command and control systems must have the right architecture, connectivity, portability, and flexibility to enable commaners to cope with near-simultaneous incidents at multiple locations. Commanders also require the tools to intercept threats before they conduct their attacks, physical barriers, and access controls to prevent unauthorized access, and appropriate response forces to defeat attackers who have gained access to DoD facilities. (p8)

Gosh, that helps clarify the situation.
Apparently, statutory and regulatory guidance prevents the release of the "alleged perpetrator's" performance evaluations, although the report does point to failures in that regard by Hasan's supervisors. According to open source reports, the guy was a shitbag whose chain of command passed him along with adequate reports despite shortcomings in his academic prowess, duty performance, and physical fitness.

Hey, we all lament the officer and NCO evaluation system. Apathy or lassitude on the part of Hasan's chain of command could well have stemmed from a well-founded suspicion that it wouldn't do any good, anyway. The way that our evaluation system works, the uneducated layman could put the report cards of the single best officer and single worst officer in a battalion side-by-side and a) not pick out which one is the best and b) think that they were both pretty good performers. I have been counseled numerous times in the past that writing a negative report on a guy, even when that report was fully justified by a robust package of counseling, "just wouldn't be worth the effort," and that the subject of the report would probably win on appeal. I would be interested to know whether Hasan's raters were truly derelict in their responsibilities, or were just cowed by the prospect of investing an extraordinary amount of work in justifying a negative report and having it all come to naught, anyway. The report charges the DoD to
Reinforce the serious effects of failure to reflect fully, accurately, and completely all aspects of professional, ethical, and personal career development in performance appraisals. We can only deal with internal threats if we can rely on the quality of the information reported in our official records

without ever considering that DoD also needs to facilitate the flip side of the coin. Writing a negative evaluation (and making it stick) should not require effort like unto an Everest expedition. And that's without even considering that the guy was a minority, and that the DoD had gone to great expense to train and educate him. I'm not saying that his chain of command shouldn't be sanctioned for not shithammering him. I am saying that DoD makes it oft times extremely difficult to do the right thing. A fact that the report blithely ignores.

The report states that because of his SECRET security clearance, Hasan had pretty much open access to the installation.
In the Fort Hood incident, the alleged perpetrator held an active and current SECRET security clearance based on a February 2008 National Agency Check with Local Agency and Credit Check of background investigation. Although accomplished in accordance with current guidelines, this background investigation did not include a subject interview or interviews with co-workers, supervisors, or expanded character references. We believe that if a more thorough investigation had been accomplished, his security clearance may have been revoked and his continued service and pending deployment would have been subject to increased scrutiny.
Okay, let's think about this. All Army officers have a SECRET clearance. Qualifying for one is a pre-commissioning requirement. The DoD already has a huge backlog in performing clearance investigations, and that's without performing subject/co-worker interviews for SECRET-level clearances. Is the report suggesting that we increase the burden on an already over-tasked system by an order of magnitude by having all SECRET clearance candidates interviewed? Or, do we diminish the scale of the increase by using common sense to levy more in-depth investigations on those with certain...uh...attributes that might make them more high risk? Hmm, what would such attributes or characteristics be? Let me think on it, I'm sure it'll come to me.

For that portion of the readership composed of my military brethren: Do you enjoy all those annual training requirements you have to attend? You do? Good, get ready to add another one, because DoD is going to
Integrate existing programs such as suicide, sexual assault, and family violence prevention with information on violence and self-radicalization to provide a comprehensive prevention and response program.
Great. I just love all that training. Y'know, the Army is so big on establishing metrics for every mission, has anyone ever established that all those classes actually do any good? I mean, good for the actual Soldier, not good for the command so it can cover its ass by saying "hey, we did our annual training." I have been to relatively few of these sessions that I thought would really do any good, although some are as effective as they are necessary.

The report, to me, seemed a study in jackassery. It levied a lot of recommendations against DoD that would be either peripheral or useless in stopping another attack. It didn't consider the costs in money, time, or effort that its recommendations would place on Commanders--even though all the recommendations are purportedly to help Commanders frustrate future attacks. This rag is definitely "by bureaucrats, for bureaucrats."

Is there anything at all positive about the report? Sure.
Know what the name of the US Postal Service's anti-workplace violence program is called?
The Going Postal Program. Really. (p C-5)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Blame Global Warming

The recent cold snap experienced down here devastated the fish populations. While my own observations are anecdotal, I went down to my jetty the other morning and counted 27 dead fish in the area between the jetty and the boat ramp (an area about 10m X 15m). The whole of the island smelled like dead fish.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haitian Vacation

Posting will be light until we get the Haiti relief effort up and running smooth. Big units go into full-scale 24/7 operations by slicing some of their bloated staff into a night ops crew; minimal impact on the organization except for sleep schedules. In itty-bitty units like mine, you gird your fucking loins and run a marathon at a wind-sprint pace.
Also, I will for the most part pass on posting about Haiti. I'm a little too close to Haitian relief efforts to be a disinterested commenter. I'd wind up either being a contrarian or a cheerleader, and neither is appropriate. Maybe later, when the AARs are written, I'll toss off attaboys and bullshit flags, but not right now.

Sherlock Holmes vs James Bond

...Is an analogy used in Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan. The comparison and contrast may have lost a little luster since Sherlock Holmes has been bad-assified in the new movie (thoroughly enjoyed the movie by the way. One point to ponder: in issuing the coup de grace hit on a hand-to-hand opponent, Holmes analyzes the efficacy of and then employs a liver punch, only it's wrong. So, film gaffe or safety measure so that kids don't run around exploding each others' livers?) but the paper is, in my humble opinion, a great overview of the shortfalls of our current information and intelligence architecture and a decent roadmap where it needs to go in order to better serve our national interests in Afghanistan.

In an effort to practice what they're preaching MG Flynn, Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence for ISAF and his co-authors have produced an eminently readable paper that "critically examines the relevance of the US intelligence community to the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan." The authors avoid delving into egghead esoterica and succinctly flense the current modes and methods of procuring intel in Afghanistan and offer up sound recommendations on improving the system. The authors proclaim that
The most salient problems are attitudinal, cultural, and human. The intelligence community’s standard mode of operation is surprisingly passive about aggregating information that is not enemy-related and relaying it to decision-makers or fellow analysts further up the chain. It is a culture that is strangely oblivious of how little its analytical products, as they now exist, actually influence commanders.
The study demands that the intel community shed its current "Powerpoint" mentality and start banging away on MS Word. The authors point out that the intel community doesn't provide Commanders on the ground the breadth and depth of information needed for a Commander to matriculate enduring positive effects for Afghanistan. Instead, by focusing primarily on anti-insurgent (as opposed to counterinsurgent) intelligence, the intel community predisposes Commanders to adopt a "capture/kill" mentality against the Taliban, rather than an "isolate, diminish, and starve" approach. Thus
“A military force, culturally programmed to respond conventionally (and predictably) to insurgent attacks, is akin to the bull that repeatedly charges a matador’s cape – only to tire and even­tually be defeated by a much weaker opponent,” General McChrystal and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Command Sergeant Major Michael T. Hall recently wrote. “This is predictable – the bull does what comes naturally. While a conventional approach is instinctive, that behavior is self-defeating.”
The changes that the intel community needs to make are to begin looking in depth across the breadth of Afghanistan and focusing on every dimension of Afghani society that might provide a lever or fulcrum to a Commander. The best analogy offered on how the system needs to change its perspective was a neo-Clausewitzian comparison of the COIN intel requirement to that of a political campaign in that
To understand the dynamics of this process, it is useful to think of the Afghanistan war as a politi­cal campaign, albeit a violent one. If an election campaign spent all of its effort attacking the oppo­sition and none figuring out which districts were undecided, which were most worthy of competing for, and what specific messages were necessary to sway them, the campaign would be destined to fail. No serious contender for the American presidency ever confined himself or herself solely to the “strategic” level of a campaign, telling the staff to worry only about the national and regional picture and to leave individual counties and elec­tion districts entirely in the hands of local party organizers, disconnected from the overall direction of the campaign. In order to succeed, a candidate’s pollsters and strategists (the equivalent of a J-2 staff) must constantly explore the local levels, including voters’ grievances, leanings, loyalties, and activities. Experienced campaign strategists under­stand that losing even one or two key districts can mean overall defeat. (Recall, for example, the defin­ing impact of two Florida counties – Miami-Dade and Palm Beach – on the national outcome of the 2000 presidential election.) To paraphrase former Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill’s famous quote, “all counterinsurgency is local.”
The proposal to build Stability Operations Information Centers, each with a healthy demographic of journeyman analysts that go out with every possible ground element in order to survey and collate information picked up by every available sensor, is sound. The folks who live and operate in a given area will know everything knowable about it--up to and including minutiae that they don't even realize will be important in gleaning a better picture of cause and effect within their respective AOs. As the paper says, "The soldier or development worker on the ground is usually the person best informed about the environment and the enemy. Moving up through levels of hierarchy is normally a journey into greater degrees of cluelessness."

The most important piece of the paper, though, is that it emphasizes, again and again, that intel is Commanders' business. Leaders need to constantly push their intel shops to collect, evaluate, and assess the relevant information and intelligence that they need to shape their campaigns. Too often, Commanders demand that their intelligence be diluted into bite-size bubble charts that may track what happened, but not how or--more importantly--why.

The Stability Ops Info Centers would in many ways replicate the intel procedures prevalent in current intel Fusion Centers. However, while Fusion Centers usually concentrate on "red" activity (enemy activity), The SOICs would concentrate on "white" activity (the population, economy, development and government). So, an example of the efficacy of the SOICs would be when
An NGO wanting to build a water well in a village may learn, as we recently did, about some of the surprising risks encountered by others who have attempted the same project. For instance, a foreign-funded well constructed in the center of a village in southern Afghanistan was destroyed – not by the Taliban – but by the village’s women. Before, the women had to walk a long distance to draw water from a river, but this was exactly what they wanted. The establishment of a village well deprived them of their only opportunity to gather socially with other women.
The authors also make a good argument for keeping the intel system bifurcated along the Fusion Center/SIOC dichotomy. Access, timeliness, and customer culture between the two intel venues differ so wildly that it is best to keep them separate.

I would push, though, for a trifurcated (yuh, I invent words as I go along) architecture. Rather than a red vs. white paradigm for collection, analysis, assessment, and dissemination, I'd like to see a "black, grey, white" paradigm. Black for lethal/bad guy targeting, white for all the DIME stuff, and grey for those actors about whom we're not real sure. Many of the persons, infrastructure, locations, and organizations on which we collect would probably be graded on a sliding scale along that spectrum, depending on which dimension was prioritized. For example, a local political figure might be pro-Coalition (white) and have a lot of influence with various tribal shuras (white), but he might have sticky fingers when it comes to aid money (grey), spend a little too much time with certain criminal elements (grey) and meet regularly with his brother's wife's cousin's husband, who just happens to be a Taliban bigwig (black). In order to get the holistic view that the authors want, the firewalls betwixt the different targeting systems would have to have access points so that analysts could braid the information coming from the three areas into a coherent picture. I don't think the introduction of grey intel necessitates a whole new third type of center, I just think that there's got to be an overarching means of getting the full picture of any particular person, place, or thing. Get this right, and Sherlock Holmes becomes the bad ass he needs to be without requiring James Bonds "double-0" status.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Speaking of Phonetic Anomalies...Like I Was Saying

This report has me trying not to dislocate anything patting myself too hard on the back:

A timeline provided by the State Department officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, showed that an initial check of the suspect based on his father's information failed to disclose he had a multiple-entry U.S. visa. The reason was that AbdulMutallab's name was misspelled.

"That search did not come back positive," said one official, who called it a quick search without using multiple variants of spelling.

Like I said, spell it in standardized Arabic, optically scan it, turn it into a bar code, and disseminate.

Here's To All You Ladies Celebrating Mongo Day

Glad the Mongo clan could be of service...
The difference in spelling is a phonetic anomaly from the Irish...