Commentary

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Keep Your Rosaries Off My Deterrence

Arms control elicits strong emotions and sparks great debates. In that tradition, Kingston Reif and Travis Sharp offer a rebuttal to the recent commentary we ran from the folks at the Heritage Foundation. Here’s the take of two dedicated arms control advocates. In their recent commentary on DoD Buzz (“Will START Talks Go MAD,”), the Heritage Foundation’s Baker Spring and Helle Dale recycle a snake oil sales pitch that first emerged at the dawn of the Atomic Age. The illusion is that the awesome destructiveness of nuclear weapons can somehow be neutralized by a panacea—in this case impenetrable missile defenses.


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Tanker’s First Big Test For ATL

The Obama Pentagon proclaims it’s commitment to reformed acquisition and greater competition. Robbin Laird, international defense consultant who advised the Air Force on the last tanker competition, argues in this commentary that Northrop’s decision to pull out of the KC-X competition will pose a basic test of the administration’s commitment and it’s ability to oversee a major program.


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Will START Talks Go MAD

Russia has tried to use these treaty talks to lock in its nuclear advantages and take away any potential American defenses, and our side seems ready to agree it will neither improve nor expand its existing system for countering long-range ballistic missiles. Meanwhile, true to Obama’s dream, the U.S. government doesn’t seem to think that having the ability to inflict widespread damage on Russia would be essential to an improved bilateral relationship.


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Paying More, Buying Less

Much will be made of a few reluctant acknowledgements of reality. The Navy won’t plan on, for now, a new cruiser it can’t afford even under the wildest budget growth assumptions. The Army will continue redesigning the vehicles for its “system of system” target hunting technologies that we now know can’t find even primitive enemies. The Air Force will have to wait, but just a bit, for a new bomber to try, yet again, to attack what it called decades ago “critical nodes.” The Marine Corps will declare a return to its amphibious warfare heritage: to fight its way onto hostile shores — something it has not done since 1945.


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US Less Dominant But So What

Last week several respected Washington defense analysts told the House Armed Services Committee that we are in decline while Asia is on the rise. While most military analysts watch China closely and never forget the always ambitious Russians, few have been willing to tell Congress or anyone else that what the Chinese might call US hegemony is on the wane. Such an essential critique invites a closer look and requires debate. Our first critique is from two respected scholars, one from the Naval War College and the other from Harvard’s Kennedy School and the war college. Their conclusion: the end of the world is quite a ways off, though US power is in “relative decline.”


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More Troops Won’t Fix Afghanistan

A major troop buildup in Afghanistan would prolong the war at a moment when the U.S. should be looking for ways to end it. Worse, military escalation could further destabilize South Asia and hinder the Obama administration’s larger efforts to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” al Qaeda. How might things unravel? Consider the last eight years of conflict in the region. In 2001, U.S. troops and their allies routed much of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.


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IW Needs Armor, Firepower

A key part of the seemingly endless debate about Afghanistan and Pakistan — not to mention Iraq — has been just what forces are needed to succeed. Most analysts agree that mass — numbers of troops — is one key to success. Most thinktank analysts agree that a counterinsurgency (COIN) approach is best. Deploy close to the people and clear, hold, build. The part that doesn’t get a lot of attention in the public debate is just what it takes to do to the “clear” part. Read Doug MacGregor’s pungent comments on what he thinks the US needs to send.


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Win 100 Battles With No Losses

With President Obama heading to China as part of his sweep through Asia, it’s a good time to assess the recent and groundbreaking visit of Gen. Xu Caihou, the Chinese equivalent of the defense secretary to America. The Chinese put on a full-court propaganda press, filled with images of PLA troops helping the afflicted and laced with declarations of China’s peaceful intentions. We turned to Dean Cheng, one of the top analysts on the Chinese military who recently joined the right-wing Heritage Foundation, for his more independent assessment.


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Hill Pork Meisters Retreat, A Little

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have taken a small but significant step to eliminate – well, almost – one of the most outrageous congressional behaviors in defense legislation. The appropriators have not — yet. It will be interesting to see what the appropriators do. We should all pay attention.


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Shop Euro For Euro Missile Plan

The CEO of Europe’s premier missile company, MBDA, thinks the US should use the MEADS and Aster anti-missile systems and buy European radar and subsystems as part of its missile defense plan for the continent.


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FAA Acts or Drones Stop Flying

Army drones will have to curtail training and operational flights by fiscal 2012 in the United States unless the FAA approves some form of UAS deconfliction, a top Army UAS official says.


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GOP Keeps Heat On Euro Missile Plan

House Republicans mounted a spirited critique of the Obama administration’s new European missile defense plan, saying the intelligence does not support the administration’s claims of a change in the threat. GOP members also claimed the new plan would not sufficiently contain the threat from Iran.


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Call Me Throw Bot

Through the years I’ve seen a good deal of ground bots being developed for troops in the zone. But I’ve never seen one as seemingly resilient and simply functional as the Recon Robotics Recon Scout XT. Weighing in at 1.2lbs and able to withstand a drop from three stories up, the Recon Scout XT can shoot real time video day or night.


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Missile Plan Sound, But…

While Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ new missile defense plan has been slammed by Republicans for either giving in to the Russians, abandoning our allies or focusing on the wrong threat, there are other questions that need answering.


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Buying Smart When Money is Tight

As the Obama Administration shapes the acquisition approach of the Department of Defense for the years to come, hard choices will be taken. Among the key drivers will be Afghanistan, Iraq and the operation and shape of power projection forces. Finally, how the administration approaches the re-shaping of US expeditionary and power projection forces will have a fundamental impact on the US posture.


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Holes in US Defense Umbrella: Wynne

One of the debates bubbling beneath the surface over the last few months has been about just what effects Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ program cuts, combined with a flat defense budget projected for the next five years, would have on America’s ability to project power. Former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne argues in a commentary that the administration is schizophrenic about its national security approach. On the one hand, the State Department is offering the broadest defense umbrella it can to friends and allies. On the other hand, Gates is cutting crucial systems that would help the US extend and maintain that umbrella.


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QDR An Honest Review? Rep. Akin

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress and the American public that the Quadrennial Defense Review would answer many tough unanswered policy and acquisition issues. Now Rep. Todd Akin, ranking member of the House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary warfare, accuses the senior Pentagon leadership of using the QDR “to evade any question they did not want to answer.” Akin calls for his colleagues to pass language ensuring that an independent National Defense Panel will offer “balance” to Gates’ review. Read his commentary.


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Top DHS Cyber Cop Resigns

Another senior cyber official has resigned and I hear few encouraging noises from the cyber warriors I speak with at the Pentagon in the wake of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ decision to create a cyber command. They worry that fundamental policy issues have still not been addressed, leaving the military uncertain what actions it can reasonably expect to take in the event of conflict. Much of this worry derives from the fairly timid report issued by the administration about how it would handle offensive and defense cyber issues. Kevin Coleman has the rest of the story.


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‘It’s Not About Osama’

The Obama’s administration’s top counter terror official, John Brennan, argued that it’s not about Osama, “It’s about what he represents — the organization that he has tried to build. Clearly, the leadership of al-Qaida is something that is very important. It’s part of our strategy. I think it is important to dismantle that leadership.”


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BotNets Biggest Cyber Threat

The US has long pondered how best to use its cyber capabilities to attack another country and has long shied away from using them, fearful that we might pull down the Internet curtain on ourselves if we tried to wipe out an enemy’s networks. The New York Times ran a piece this weekend about just how daunting is this balancing act. One of the reasons for that concern is that BotNets — networks of infected computers that can be controlled without the owner knowing it — have become what Kevin Coleman says is “a critical problem that must be addressed.” Wiping out one country’s cyber capabilities could easily affect its neighbors and also invite retaliation against the U.S.