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Monday, July 21, 2003
Army examines its choice of weapons lube

After taking sharp criticism from current and former soldiers alike for its continued use of "CLP" weapons lubricant, Inside the Army (subscription required) reports today that the Army has decided to relook its choice of lubricant for the standard M-16A2 assault rifle that most soldiers carry. (The same lube is also used for the M4 carbine and M249 squad automatic weapon)
Inside The Army
July 21, 2003
Pg. 1

Small Arms Problems In Iraq Spur Army To Investigate Lubricants

By Megan Scully

Problems with small arms during Operation Iraqi Freedom have prompted the Army to investigate alternatives to the standard lubricant used for individual weapons, like the M-16 machine gun, according to service officials.

Soldiers deployed to Iraq have consistently complained that the Army's standard “CLP product” attracted sand to weapons and otherwise performed poorly in the desert terrain, according to an Army after-action report on soldier equipment. CLP stands for the military specification for a lubricant -- cleaning, lubricating and preserving.

With confidence low in CLP, many soldiers turned to Militec-1, an artificial lubricant deemed by troops to be a “much better solution for lubricating individual and crew-served weapons,” the report states.

Army officials, however, are not so sure.

As a cleaner and a lubricant, the product works “fine,” according to an Army official. But because the product does not protect weapons against corrosion, it is not approved for small arms use by the Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Interest in the performance of small arms in Iraq has heightened in recent weeks with the release of the report on the March 23 ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company. The report details several instances in which the soldiers' M-16s malfunctioned during the ambush, but does not definitively indicate whether the jamming resulted from inadequate lubrication, poor maintenance or desert conditions.

The report on the 507th, however, does suggest that the weapons malfunctions “may have resulted from inadequate individual maintenance in a desert environment.”

According to a Militec Inc. official, the maintenance company never requested the Militec-1 product.

Militec-1 has been listed in the Defense Logistics Agency inventory for more than a decade. As such, field units were free to purchase it on their own until such requisitions were canceled in March, just prior to combat operations in Iraq, Russ Logan, senior vice president at Militec Inc., told Inside the Army last week.

Unit commanders and individual soldiers -- especially those from the 3rd Infantry, 1st Armored, 82nd Airborne and 101st Airborne divisions -- then began to purchase the lubricant individually, using both personal and military-issued credit cards, Logan said. Since March, the company has received thousands of individual orders for the product, which sells to the military for $3 per 1-ounce bottle -- enough to last a soldier in combat for six months.

In early May, the Army re-opened DLA requisitions for 60 days because officials didn't want to “second guess field commanders' operational requirements for lubricant,” the Army official said. That requisition window has since been closed and the service is now in the process of conducting an assessment of the “application and performance” of Militec-1 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Those findings will then feed into the overall lubricant study, which will review all alternatives to CLP -- not just Militec-1, the official said. The investigation will include representatives from across the Army, U.S. Special Operations Command, the independent Southwest Research Institute and industry.

“We're concerned about getting the best product to the soldier,” the Army official said. “If the study conclusions lead us to an entirely new military specification, that's one option. If it leads us back to CLP, that's another option; back to Militec-1, another option.”

But Militec claims that word never got out to the field on the re-opening of the requisition period and nearly $120,000 in canceled orders placed through the DLA in March and April were never recovered.

“The 60-day window was put into effect primarily after combat was over,” Logan said. “Very few people in the field knew about it.”

The Army and Militec are now locked in a heated debate over use of the product, with the service decidedly opposed to the full-scale distribution of any lubricant that does not meet military specifications.

“Our specifications are developed in response to operational requirements identified by [U.S. Army Forces Command] or [Training and Doctrine Command] soldier-customers,” Maj. Gen. Ross Thompson, commander of the Army's Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, stated in a May 15 memorandum to Militec.

Thompson adds that the Army has worked for the last two years to update the lubricant specification “with input from industry that capitalizes on advanced technology,” according to the memorandum. The service eventually determined that the current CLP specification represents “state-of-the-art performance for this multi-purpose product.”

Militec, however, has argued that the preservative specification is not essential in dry environmental conditions. In the jungles of Vietnam, the Army “might worry” about corrosion, but the risk of that occurring in the Iraqi desert is low, Logan said.

The company also argues that the product's lubrication capabilities would be hindered if it functioned equally as a lubricant, cleaner and preservative. CLP, Logan said, “doesn't do any one of those three things well.”

“If the gun doesn't work, everything else is not important,” Logan said.

Thompson, however, is firm in his memorandum, stating that specifications are intended to challenge industry to “meet the span of the users' requirements.”

The Army official questioned whether malfunctioning weapons during OIF can be directly attributed to the lubricant itself. More likely, he said, a weapon will fail to work because proper preventative maintenance checks and services (PMCS) have not been performed.

“In my opinion, malfunctioning weapons, particularly small arms, historically have had more to do with a lack of PMCS on the weapon than a lack of Militec-1,” he said.

Any changes to PMCS, a function of leadership at the tactical level, would be made by TRADOC and field commanders. The lubrication review will focus only on materiel fixes.

“Inadequate small unit leadership is often the elephant in the living room and, therefore, often lost in the debate when evaluating lessons learned,” said the official, a former small unit leader. “It's seldom a one-dimensional problem of hardware . . . or lubrication.”

* Reprinted with permission from Inside Washington Publishers. Copyright 2003.
This is something I've written on before, in connection with the report on the 507th Maintenance Company ambush. "Soldiers For The Truth" has also had some good reporting on this, along with blogger colleagues One Hand Clapping and Winds of Change. Few things are more important in combat than having small arms which work when they're needed. I'm not sure if Militec is the right answer here, but I'm pretty sure that CLP is less than adequate. Of course, no weapons lubricant will work when soldiers fail to do the necessary weapons maintenance, a trend which also appears in the 507th report. However, we owe it to our soldiers to give them the best materiel that our defense dollars can buy. I hope this investigation pushes the Army a little bit closer to that product -- whatever it is.

Update: I recently updated this post with the full text of the article from Inside the Army, which is an independent publication which covers the Army and is associated with several other such publications about the other services. The original article was quite balanced, but I made the editorial decision to only post certain excerpts which criticized the Army. I received a note asking me to post the entire article, as well as permission to do so from the publisher, in the interest of fairness. I thought it was the right thing to do. For more outstanding coverage of this issue and others, I recommend making Inside the Army a regular stop. Their reporters consistently do a good job of reporting on this kind of stuff -- which as we see from this story, has a direct effect on the way our soldiers perform in combat.

Sunday, July 20, 2003
Every generation has its heroes

Sunday's Washington Post has an extremely moving story about the men who suffered some of the most grievous wounds during the war with Iraq, and who now are recovering from their wounds at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. (The Post also has the photos from the article available online.)
On TV, the war was a rout, with infrared tanks rolling toward Baghdad on a desert soundstage. But the permanent realities unfold more quietly on Georgia Avenue NW, behind the black iron gates of the nation's largest military hospital.

Here, the battle shifts from hot sand to polished hallways, and the broad ambitions of global security are replaced by the singular mission of saving a leg. Ward 57, the hospital's orthopedics wing, is the busiest. High-tech body armor spared lives but not necessarily limbs.

The night President Bush declared the end of major combat, the soldiers on Ward 57 slept, unaware of victory.

Garth Stewart was curled in a miserable ball of blue pajamas.

First Lt. John Fernandez, the West Point graduate, was beginning married life from a wheelchair.

Pfc. Danny Roberts was wishing for Faulkner instead of a glossy guide about adapting to limb loss.

Their war was not yet over.

Walter Reed has been treating wounded soldiers since the beginning of the century, expanding and contracting with the rhythms of war. During World War I, the number of patient beds grew from 80 to 2,500 in a matter of months. Three generations later, the soldiers from Operation Iraqi Freedom arrive, some so fresh from the battlefield they still have dirt and blood beneath their fingernails.

Each morning, across the sprawling grounds of the 147-acre compound, reveille is sounded at 6. But up on the hospital's fifth floor on Ward 57, the fluorescent dawn is indistinguishable from the fluorescent night. Two long halls flank the nurse's desk, the command center of the ward. Doctors begin their morning rounds at dawn.
Some thoughts... The human cost of war is always one of the most troubling things to accept, because it really calls into question our reasons for the war itself. When you look at a wounded combat veteran, the question stares back at you: "Was this man's injury worth it?" I will reserve judgment on that question, given all that has come to light in the last few weeks regarding our casus belli in Iraq. However, I believe that we owe these answers to the men and women we sent to Iraq, and to the families of those who will not return. Our nation should never fight for an unworthy case; the cost in blood and treasure is too high.

Saturday, July 19, 2003
Two memorials in Santa Monica

I took my dog Peet for a walk today to the Third Street Promenade, and walked through two memorials to Wednesday's horrific incident at the Santa Monica farmer's market. One was what you might expect from the city of Santa Monica -- a multicultural, non-sectarian gathering to mourn the dead and give thanks for our existence. I've been a lot of memorial services, but this one didn't move me in any particular way.

The second memorial was the Saturday farmer's market itself, which promoters and farmers decided to hold today despite Wednesday's tragedy. Every vendor commemorated the incident in some way, whether with black cloth around his stand or black ribbons in front of his table. But the overall message was: we will persevere through this tragedy. That was a powerful message, and I think it was the best way to memorialize those who died on Wednesday.

Friday, July 18, 2003
Tony Blair: a great American

The British have been blessed in our time to have great orators like Winston Churchill and Tony Blair for national leaders. In times of crisis, these men lift their citizens' morale and spirits with moving words. Speaking before a joint session of Congress yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Blair turned his words towards us, his somewhat reluctant allies across the Atlantic.
Members of Congress, if this seems a long way from the threat of terror and weapons of mass destruction, it is only to say again that the world's security cannot be protected without the world's heart being won. So America must listen as well as lead. But, members of Congress, don't ever apologize for your values. (Applause.) Tell the world why you're proud of America. Tell them when "The Star-Spangled Banner" starts, Americans get to their feet -- Hispanics, Irish, Italians, Central Europeans, East Europeans, Jews, Muslims, white, Asian, black, those who go back to the early settlers, and those whose English is the same as some New York cab drivers I've dealt with -- (laughter) -- but whose sons and daughters could run for this Congress. Tell them why Americans, one and all, stand upright and respectful. Not because some state official told them to, but because whatever race, color, class or creed they are, being American means being free. That's why they're proud. (Cheers, sustained applause.)

As Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible, but in fact, it is transient. The question is, what do you leave behind? And what you can bequeath to this anxious world is the light of liberty. That is what this struggle against terrorist groups or states is about. We're not fighting for domination. We're not fighting for an American world, though we want a world in which America is at ease. We're not fighting for Christianity, but against religious fanaticism of all kinds. And this is not a war of civilizations, because each civilization has a unique capacity to enrich the stock of human heritage. We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind -- black or white; Christian or not; left, right or merely indifferent -- to be free -- free to raise a family in love and hope; free to earn a living and be rewarded by your own efforts; free not to bend your knee to any man in fear; free to be you, so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.

That's what we're fighting for, and it's a battle worth fighting. And I know it's hard on America. And in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I've never been to but always wanted to go -- (laughter) -- I know out there, there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, "Why me, and why us, and why America?" And the only answer is because destiny put you in this place in history in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do. (Sustained applause.)

And our job -- my nation, that watched you grow, that you fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond -- our job is to be there with you. You're not going to be alone. We will be with you in this fight for liberty. (Sustained applause.)

We will be with you in this fight for liberty. And if our spirit is right and our courage firm, the world will be with us.
Words like these remind us of our ideals, and of what it means to be an American. I can't help but feel pride when a national leader like Tony Blair speaks this way about America and its role in today's world. Now all we have to do is live up to these expectations -- a task which is easier said than done.

Planning for success?

The Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times has a very interesting (and very lengthy) report today on what went wrong with America's planning for post-war Iraq. This is more than your typical "first draft of history" journalism -- the Times reporters painstakingly lay out the pre-war planning process, and the various ways that nation-building planning was neglected by the Administration.
Since the fall of Baghdad on April 9, U.S. and British troops have struggled to bring order from chaos. Water, electricity and security are in short supply, fueling resentment among many Iraqis. A guerrilla-like resistance has taken shape against the occupation; U.S. casualties mount almost daily in an operation that is costing nearly $4 billion a month and stalling the withdrawal of American forces.

The Bush administration planned well and won the war with minimal allied casualties. Now, according to interviews with dozens of administration officials, military leaders and independent analysts, missteps in the planning for the subsequent peace could threaten the lives of soldiers and drain U.S. resources indefinitely and cloud the victory itself.

Rivalry and Misreadings

The tale of what went wrong is one of agency infighting, ignored warnings and faulty assumptions.

An ambitious, yearlong State Department planning effort predicted many of the postwar troubles and advised how to resolve them. But the man who oversaw that effort was kept out of Iraq by the Pentagon, and most of his plans were shelved. Meanwhile, Douglas J. Feith, the No. 3 official at the Pentagon, also began postwar planning, in September. But he didn't seek out an overseer to run the country until January.

The man he picked, Garner, had run the U.S. operation to protect ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Based on that experience, Garner acknowledged, he badly underestimated the looting and lawlessness that would follow once Saddam Hussein's army was defeated. By the time he got to Baghdad, Garner said, 17 of 21 Iraqi ministries had "evaporated."

"Being a Monday morning quarterback," Garner says now, the underestimation was a mistake. "But if I had known that then, what would I have done about it?"

The postwar planning by the State and Defense departments, along with that of other agencies, was done in what bureaucrats call "vertical stovepipes." Each agency worked independently for months, with little coordination.

Even within the Pentagon there were barriers: The Joint Chiefs of Staff on the second floor worked closely with the State Department planners, while Feith's Special Plans Office on the third floor went its own way, working with a team from the Central Command under Army Gen. Tommy Franks.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's civilian aides decided that they didn't need or want much help, officials in both departments say.

Central Command officials confirmed that their postwar planning group — dubbed Task Force Four, for the fourth phase of the war plan — took a back seat to the combat planners. What postwar planning did occur at the Central Command and the Pentagon was on disasters that never occurred: oil fires, masses of refugees, chemical and biological warfare, lethal epidemics, starvation.

The Pentagon planners also made two key assumptions that proved faulty. One was that American and British authorities would inherit a fully functioning modern state, with government ministries, police forces and public utilities in working order — a "plug and play" occupation. The second was that the resistance would end quickly.

Thursday, July 17, 2003
Great initiative... not so great judgment

Every month, the Defense Department General Counsel's Standards of Conduct Office publishes a monthly advisory on ethics within the Pentagon and the military services. SOCO has responsibility for promulgating ethics regulations, training guidelines, etc., for the Pentagon. Their staff takes it really seriously too, however, they often find ways to teach their lessons in humorous ways. Here's an excerpt from their July 2003 advisory:

In yet another remarkable case of bad judgment, a Marine Corps company commander who was deployed in Iraq asked a tobacco company to send his men its products for free. After receiving the free goods, he sent a "thank you" note that was used as part of the tobacco company’s advertising. The letter implied that the DoD endorsed the product, and, eventually, garnered the attention of two Congressmen. Please remember the standards of conduct apply in Iraq, too.
It's hard to suppress a smile at this Marine captain's initiative. If I was his commander, I'd probably recommend him for a Navy Achievement Medal for this sort of thing, while chiding him privately about the thank-you note. These are the kinds of things we expect of our junior leaders, who we entrust with the lives of our finest sons and daughters. I hope his chain of command took care of him the way he took care of his Marines.

Federal judge says legal mission to Iraq was a sham

USA Today reports today that 6th Circuit Judge Gilbert S. Merritt has blasted the American government in Iraq for impeding a mission arranged by the Justice Department to restore Iraq's legal institutions. The DoJ-sponsored mission included federal judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys who had the charter of advising Iraq on its Constitution and the establishment of a new legal system.
Senior U.S. District Judge (sic) Gilbert Merritt said the 25-member delegation's hopes of assessing Baghdad's judicial and law enforcement institutions were hindered by the chaos in the city of 5 million people. Guerrilla warfare continues, water and electricity service are limited, police forces are barely functioning, and many courthouses are bombed-out shells, he and other members of the delegation said.

But Merritt was particularly annoyed by the U.S. occupation authority's attempt to control information by limiting what his group and others involved in rebuilding said to the news media.

Merritt is a former chief judge of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. He said members of his delegation were given a directive authorized by the chief U.S. administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer. It said all contact with the news media had to be cleared by top officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).

Merritt said the order seemed odd for a group of judges, lawyers and law enforcement experts who had been sent to Iraq by the Justice Department to help put Iraqis on a course for more individual freedom. "When I read it, I thought it must be a joke," said Merritt, 67. "It's clearly unconstitutional. It's a hell of an irony, given that we were there teaching them the value of liberty and free speech."

Pentagon to call up two National Guard brigades for Iraq

Greg Jaffe reports in this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that the Defense Department has decided it must call up two brigades of National Guard soldiers for the Iraq mission, since it has been unable to enlist America's allies in the effort there. Two brigades equates to roughly 10,000 soldiers, which does not seem like a lot for the 480,000 active-duty Army to manage. However, as the article points out, nearly all of the Army is committed to operations in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Korea and Afghanistan right now, leaving the Guard as America's only option.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to sign off on a plan later this week that would establish a rotation to relieve Marine and U.S. Army soldiers deployed in Iraq, a Pentagon official said. After training, it would be March or April by the time National Guard soldiers would be deployed, likely for stints of 13 to 16 months including the training. Even so, demands on the active-duty Army would remain intense. Asked if he had ever seen the Army stretched so thin, one senior defense official recently said: "Not in my 31 years" of military service.
* * *
The U.S. has 148,000 troops -- Army and Marine Corps -- on the ground in Iraq, with 33,000 support troops in Kuwait. There are an additional 11,000 U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan. No National Guard combat brigades are in Iraq, though Air National Guard personnel are flying missions.

The two brigades probably would be called up this winter, the Pentagonofficial said. They would be given about 30 days to get their affairs in order and then go through two to three months of training before being deployed. The earliest they would arrive in Iraq would be March or April 2004.

Currently, 21 of the Army's 33 active-duty combat brigades are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea and the Balkans. Three more brigades are in the process of modernizing and can't be sent abroad. That leaves nine brigades -- or 45,000 troops -- to relieve all of the Army forces deployed around the world.
This is going to be a challenge. America's National Guard has already been stretched thin by consecutive homeland security deployments since Sept. 11, known as Operation Noble Eagle. In the California Army National Guard, nearly every combat arms unit has already deployed once. The units which have deployed have returned in deplorable condition, with most soldiers opting to leave the Guard. There are a number of National Guard units which have been left alone for homeland security, and these are the likely units to deploy to Iraq. However, even that is a finite supply. If America is to stay in Iraq for the long hall, this solution won't work.

Painful lessons in Santa Monica

Yesterday's tragic incident in Santa Monica which left nine people dead is a tragic reminder of how quickly accidents can escalate into mass-casualty situations when crowds are involved. The incident (not an accident -- nothing is ever accidental; it always has some cause) happened a short walk away from where I live. I go to 3rd Street a lot, and I've been to that farmer's market a dozen or so times. Suffice to say, it was hard to work yesterday afternoon as the story unfolded.

It appears that this driver had no evil intent. Details are still emerging, but it looks like he tried to pump his brake pedal, but instead found his accelerator pedal. That doesn't change the carnage he caused. He still killed 9 people, and left dozens more hurt. Despite the apparent lack of evil intent, this incident holds many lessons learned for us as we think about how we might respond to another kind of mass-casualty event -- a terrorist attack. This is just my thinking, as a former anti-terrorism plans officer, but I think it's what a lot of folks in the Santa Monica Police Dept. are probably thinking about right now.

1. Large groups of people are targets. The reasons are many fold. First, large groups of people maximize the chances for large casualty counts, and that's usually a goal for terrorists. Second, the proportion of people who have been to a place where lots of people are is high, thus, lots of people will say afterwards "I've been there before -- that could have been me." This increases the fear factor of an attack, adding to its psychological impact. Finally, large gatherings of people tend to be media magnets -- there's often a camera crew there already to catch the news. As Brian Jenkins said 30 years ago, "terrorism is theater."

2. Simple measures can work. A threat assessment for the farmer's market in Santa Monica would have noted the threat of an inbound car or truck-borne explosive -- either one of which would be deadly. The proximity of this market to traffic makes that a possible threat, though not a probable one. Moreover, mitigating this threat would not have been hard. Parking two cars to physically block the street at either end of Arizona Ave. would have been sufficient; so too would have been placing "jersey bounce" barriers (concrete barriers that can stop a speeding car) at either end. (This would've been more costly, and entailed a crane to move them every time.

Ironically, the 3rd Street Promenade has retractable, sunk-in metal barriers at all ends, but those devices were never installed for the farmer's market area -- which has become somewhat of a permanent fixture. Perhaps the City Council should consider those before they reopen these markets.

3. Mass casualty plans and mutual aid plans work. The city of Santa Monica does not have the ambulance or medical capacity to deal with this kind of event. Luckily, the larger West L.A. area does. Within minutes, reports indicate, ambulances from other jurisdictions sped to Santa Monica to help, as did Life-Flight helicopters. Emergency rooms elsewhere in the area also pitched in, adding to the capacity of UCLA-Santa Monica Hospital and allowing the most urgent patients to be seen at the closest hospital. These measures save lives.

California (and the L.A. area in particular) are actually quite good at this kind of anti-terrorism preparation. Our region has been cursed with natural and man-made disasters like earthquakes, wildfires, floods and riots. In response, our "consequence management" agencies (fire, medical, public health, etc) have developed great plans and working relationships for these kinds of incidents. Those plans and coordination paid off yesterday in Santa Monica.

There are more lessons to be learned, but those are my initial thoughts on this morning after. More to follow as the story develops.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Pentagon to loan Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to homeland security effort

The trade journal Aerospace Daily reports today that the Defense Department plans to loan some of its high-tech unmanned aerial vehicles ("UAVs") to the Department of Homeland Security for border security. The loan will include military personnel and equipment. It's not clear whether the DoD personnel will merely train and familiarize DHS personnel with UAVs, or whether this loan will include some operational use of the UAVs for actual border security missions.
The deployment, set to take place within the next few months somewhere along America's southern border, comes at the request of Gordon England, deputy secretary for homeland security at DHS and former secretary of the Navy.

"This is a technology - UAVs - that we need in the Department of Homeland Security," England said July 14 at Naval Air Systems Command's (NAVAIR) second public UAV demonstration here at the Webster Field annex of Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

"We've asked the DOD folks if they could just do some training missions with us, so we can gain some familiarity with UAVs, particularly our border and transportation security people," England said. "We just want to let our people see them in operation, understand their resolution, how they might operate, [and] how they may augment us in the future."

The platform and exact location for the training exercise have yet to be chosen, according to England. DOD personnel will operate the UAVs.
Analysis: This raises some of the same legal questions that I wrote about in Slate last year when the Pentagon loaned surveillance aircraft to look for the D.C. sniper. Federal law bars the use of military personnel for law enforcement, although a number of exceptions exist.
So, when, exactly, can soldiers help the cops?

Almost always, so long as they don't directly engage in police work. The Army can offer intelligence, transportation, and logistical assistance to cops, but it can't conduct searches or make arrests.
* * *
In the 1980s, Congress mandated even more ways the military could provide support to local law enforcement. The main exceptions grew out of the "War on Drugs," allowing the military to do things like fly surveillance planes on the U.S. border with Mexico, train police officers in various military specialties, or provide radar data to the U.S. Border Patrol and Customs Service. A federal law also allows the military to share intelligence with local law enforcement officers, provided the intel is collected during normal military operations. Another major exception, created in 1996 after the Oklahoma City bombing, authorizes the military to provide support to local cops in the event of a chemical or biological attack.

The Army's current plan to fly reconnaissance planes in Maryland is covered by these exceptions: Army personnel will fly the planes and operate the equipment, but civilian police will ride along to analyze any evidence gathered while in flight.
As a matter of law, this UAV plan may be different from the case of the D.C. sniper. Arguably, the Department of Homeland Security is a national security agency more than a law enforcement agency. Its primary purpose in guarding the border is to prevent entry and secure the nation, though it certainly has the secondary purpose of prosecuting those who might break the law entering the U.S. The Posse Comitatus Act bars the use of military personnel and equipment for law enforcement -- it does not bar their use for national security functions. In addition, a number of exceptions exist, such as 10 U.S.C. 372, which states:
(a) In General. - The Secretary of Defense may, in accordance with other applicable law, make available any equipment (including associated supplies or spare parts), base facility, or research facility of the Department of Defense to any Federal, State, or local civilian law enforcement official for law enforcement purposes.
Ultimately, these exceptions are limited by 10 U.S.C. 375, which states that such assistance shall not include "direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law."

Bottom Line: It looks to me like this UAV loan program will be covered by the exceptions to Posse Comitatus. The interesting thing will be whether the loan program will be covered by two provisions in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which created the DHS. Sections 876 and 886 expressly limit the military activities of the new department, and reaffirm Congress' commitment to the Posse Comitatus doctrine. Sec. 876 states:
Nothing in this Act shall confer upon the Secretary any authority to engage in warfighting, the military defense of the United States, or other military activities, nor shall anything in this Act limit the existing authority of the Department of Defense or the Armed Forces to engage in warfighting, the military defense of the United States, or other military activities.
There's a pretty good argument that this deployment of UAVs violates the spirit -- if not the letter -- of the Homeland Security Act. If Congress wanted a military homeland security effort, they would have simply told the Pentagon to make it happen without creating a Dept. of Homeland Security. Instead, I think that Congress wanted a civilian effort on the domestic security front.

Eventually, I think that DHS probably plans to buy its own UAVs to run its own border security operations. But in the interim, I think they need to answer some tough legal questions about their plan to borrow them from the Pentagon.

Judicial deference and national security

I have a piece today in Writ, Findlaw.Com's online journal of legal commentary, which criticizes judicial deference to the Executive Branch on national security grounds as somewhat anachronistic and out-of-step with modern reality. The piece tries to paint a picture of Constitutional tension between individual rights on the one hand, and the President's power to command the military on the other. Ultimately, what's needed is more of a balancing approach, rather than a strict policy of deference by the courts whenever national security is involved.
Does the judicial deference doctrine still make sense today? For a number of reasons, it may not be as well-justified as it once was.

Recall that one early justification for the doctrine was the Executive Branch's superior national security knowledge and expertise. In the modern era, however, judges are more knowledgeable about foreign policy than they may once have been. The information asymmetry which used to exist between the Executive and Judicial branches has been wiped away, thanks to CNN and the rise of the modern media establishment.

Moreover, to the extent that there are gaps in judges' knowledge, the executive branch can provide them with sensitive national security information through various means spelled out in the Classified Information Procedures Act. Judges can review this information "in camera" - outside the presence or access of the parties - if necessary to preserve secrecy and security.

Over time, the military itself has also changed in ways which are relevant to the issue of judicial deference. Our all-volunteer force is a more diverse cross-section of our society than any employer or university. To the extent that society has become more tolerant of gay persons and more inclined to honor their rights, so too has the pool of young men and women joining today's miltiary.

These young people are the product of a society that recognizes certain fundamental rights and liberties for all Americans. When they enlist, they choose a life that involves sacrifice and hardship. But they never fully leave behind the values and beliefs they had when they joined the service.

For this reason, deference to military policies that infringe individual liberties on this, and other issues, can create tremendous dissonance between the values of the military and civil society - leading servicepersons to question and doubt the military's institutional values.

The dissonance and doubt add other variables with which commanders have to contend as they train, assimilate, socialize, and lead soldiers. Thus, the very policies intended to bolster morale and unit cohesion, good order, and discipline, may end up detracting from all these values if many servicemembers consider the policies intolerably unjust.
Update: just picked up this piece and published it on the legal page of their news site.

Monday, July 14, 2003
3rd Infantry Division to remain in Iraq

MSNBC and others report that the Army has delayed the return of its 3rd Infantry Division from Iraq again. With attacks on Americans growing more frequent and deadly, Pentagon leaders appear unwilling to reduce their force in Iraq to deal with those attacks. The decision is the second for the "Rock of the Marne" division, whose soldiers had been told they would return to the U.S. in June. Many of 3ID's soldiers have been in the desert for 9-12 months, and numerous stories have reported on the morale problems for both soldiers and families created by the back-and-forth over the division's redeployment.
Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III, the division’s commander, said last week he hoped the division’s 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams of roughly 9,000 soldiers could return home to Fort Stewart within the next six weeks.

But homecomings for those soldiers, as well as the division’s 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, have now been postponed indefinitely, Fort Stewart spokesman Richard Olson said Monday.

"Now, that time frame has basically gone away, and there is no time frame," Olson said.

"It’s damned obvious why they’re not coming home as promised — there’s no stability in place yet," in Iraq, an Army official told NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski.

The extension order will pertain to the 1st and 2nd brigades of the Army’s 3rd Infantry division, many of whom have been in the Iraq area now for nearly a year.

The Army’s 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, was due to rotate into Iraq to replace the 3rd Infantry Division, but now it is unclear what that timetable is.
According to the 3ID website, a number of units have redeployed from Iraq, and more are on the way home. It also appears this redeployment is being done in rough reverse chronological order, based on who deployed to the desert first.

Balancing mission accomplishment against morale is a hard thing. It's the quintessential challenge for every military leader, in peace and war. Every unit finds its own balance; some are more "hard core" than others. The redeployment of 3ID is essentially a large version of this problem. The Pentagon must accomplish the mission in Iraq; we've spent too much blood and treasure to lose now. But at the same time, we must take care of our soldiers and their families -- we owe them that. I think it's time to bring 3ID home and rotate another unit over there. But I would hate to see this division come home at the cost of the mission, because that would undermine all the sacrifices these men and women have made.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Four-time Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong seized the overall lead today in the L'Alpe D'Huez stage that he has historically dominated. Although Lance didn't win the stage as he normally does, he did gain enough time on the pack to slide into 1st overall in the 21-day race. Lance now leads Joseba Beloki of Spain by 40 seconds. Winning the Tour De France four times in a row is spectactular enough, but Lance hopes to match Spain's Miguel Indurain by winning five consecutive tours.

As many people know, Lance nearly died a few years ago from testicular cancer -- a story which he tells in his extremely moving book "It's Not About the Bike". I think it's amazing for anyone to even finish the Tour De France, let alone win it. Add to that winning it four times. Add to that winning it four times in a row after near-certain death. Lance is one of my heroes, and I am stoked that he has taken the yellow jersey in the French Alps.

Friday, July 11, 2003
Rumsfeld orders restructuring of America's military
Policy changes would shift forces from the reserves to the active force

Esther Schrader scoops the competition in Saturday's Los Angeles Times by reporting on a memo that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent to his senior commanders and policy chiefs which directs them to start considering radical changes to the active/reserve mix of America's military. The changes come in the 22nd month of America's war on terrorism, with its military stretched to the limit with current operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The goal, Ms. Schrader reports, is to ready America's military for the next conflict -- one for which we may get only a couple of weeks warning.
In a July 9 memo to the secretaries of the Air Force, the Navy, the Army and to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rumsfeld called for shifting a broad range of professional specialties from the reserves to the active duty force to allow the military to mobilize for a major war within 15 days.

The proposal is running into opposition from senior officials at the Navy and the Air Force, who warn that moving these jobs into the active-duty force would drive up costs. Reserve officials say they were stunned by the proposal, which they fear would shrink the role of citizen soldiers into irrelevance.

Rumsfeld's office could not be reached for comment.

Calling the effort "a matter of the utmost urgency," in the memo obtained by The Times, Rumsfeld ordered plans for implementing it to be drawn up by the end of the month.

The secretary's action was a direct result of the crisis in force strength caused by the deepening violence against U.S. forces in Iraq, sources close to him in the Pentagon said.

Before and during the war, Army officials had planned for no more than 50,000 soldiers to still be in Iraq at this point. But 148,000 are there, and with attacks against them growing in number and sophistication, senior Pentagon officials say they expect troop numbers in the country to remain at or near the same level for years to come.

As the war on terrorism continues, more than 370,000 Army soldiers are deployed away from home and family in 120 countries around the world. About 138,000 are reservists, many in certain specialties that are being called up again and again. Another 67,000 reservists from the other military services are also deployed.
Ms. Schrader's article correctly points out some of the complexities of this issue. In Vietnam, America's political leadership made a conscious decision to fight without the reserves; to use a conscription-based force of regulars instead. This was done because the reserves reach into every city and town in America. A callup of reserves requires a tremendous amount of popular support and political capital -- two things lacking in Vietnam. After that war ended, Gen. Creighton Abrams and others created the "Total Force Concept", in which critical functions would be put into the reserves so that their callup would be necessary for any future wars. The idea was to force the President to only fight wars where he had the political capital to callup the reserves.
Acting on that idea, the active-duty services moved many of the specialties needed to fight a war - security, intelligence, transportation and logistics - over to the reserves and National Guard.

But the force that resulted was not designed to be in a state of constant mobilization. It currently takes from one to three months to mobilize most reserve units. Although some units are designed to deploy quickly, most must first undergo intensive training in the United States before being shipped out.

"The type of war that we're in, the war on terrorism, is going to be something that is going to require long-term commitments of our armed forces. And the way that we're structured right now is to have conflicts where you send people over, they fight, and they go home," one Pentagon official said. "The war on terrorism is a much longer, twilight struggle."

That struggle is putting unprecedented strains on the military - and the Army in particular, which shoulders the burden of peacekeeping and nation-building operations more than any other service. In recent weeks, Army officials have repeatedly and insistently told Rumsfeld that the service needs more soldiers to handle its new duties.

Before the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Army officials had openly voiced concern that Rumsfeld would seek to cut as many as two of the Army's 10 divisions. After the attacks, Rumsfeld has continued to insist that Army troops should be deployed in different places around the globe, and in new ways, but he has not proposed slashing troop numbers.

At his retirement ceremony June 11, departing Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki warned to "beware the 12-division strategy for a 10-division Army."
The Bottom Line: America has missions is has to accomplish with its military. Its military is stretched to the limit. Our leaders can influence the ledger on either side of this equation. We can increase the size of our military, or we can decrease our mission commitments. It looks like our war on terrorism will last for the foreseeable future, and the same can be said of our occupation in Iraq. Therefore, we must figure out a way to bolster our force. The Pentagon has relied on a steady stream of reservists for some time to do this, but those reserves may be running out. The Rumsfeld plan may be the best available option. More to follow...

The myth of the monolithic Pentagon:
SecDef's office opposes move to give health coverage to reservists

The AP reports today that the Secretary of Defense's office has written Congress to request deletion of a provision in the defense budget bill that would give full medical coverage to reservists and their families. This provision was designed to extend the benefits of the military health-care system to thousands of reservists (like me) who do one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. It would also have the side benefit of making mobilization easier, since these soldiers/families would already be integrated into the military health care system when the call to active duty came.

However, the SecDef's office warned Congress that the policy would be enormously costly -- to the detriment of the Pentagon's already bloated $380 billion budget.
[Rumsfeld] said he would recommend that President Bush veto the defense authorization bill if it included a Senate plan to expand TRICARE, the military health program. He estimated the change could cost $5 billion per year; Democrats disputed that figure.

"These unfunded entitlements would drain resources from important programs benefiting our military, such as continued improvements in pay, quality of life, readiness, and other pressing requirements," Rumsfeld said.

At issue is a plan approved by the Senate in May to allow inactive members of the National Guard and reserves to be covered under TRICARE, the health-care program offered to active-duty soldiers. National Guard members and reservists are now covered by the program while on active duty.

"It's only a matter of fairness," Sen. Tom Daschle (D., S.D.) said yesterday. "As we speak, members of the Guard and reserves are still on active duty... . I believe that as they come home, having sacrificed so much, at least we ought to give them the opportunity to pay for their own health insurance under TRICARE."
* * *
The Pentagon said 204,100 members of the reserves or National Guard were on active duty as of Wednesday.

One in five National Guard members or reservists do not have health insurance, and the TRICARE measure could allow them to be healthier when called to active duty, said John Goheen, spokesman for the National Guard Association of America.
Analysis: I think both sides have a point here. The SecDef is correct about the financial impacts this would have on the current military health-care system, and the cost for the Defense Department. However, that may be a cost worth bearing. America has relied on these reservists more in the last 22 months than anytime since the Korean War. Medical coverage would be one way to show the reservists and their families that America cares about them. It would also boost reserve readiness, since a major mobilization problem has been getting soldiers up to active-duty medical standards. There may even be a tangential recruiting benefit here, if joining the reserves carried the benefit of full medical coverage.

Bottom Line: I think the benefits outweigh the costs here. There's enough fat in the Pentagon's budget to pay for this; taking care of soldiers and families is more important than a lot of things in the $380 billion bill.

Thursday, July 10, 2003
Recommended reading: The El Paso Times has uploaded a scanned version of the Army's report on the 507th Maintenance Company ambush. This is an extremely well-written executive summary of what happened to these soldiers, and I think it supports my conclusions below.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Report: Unit's weapons didn't work during convoy ambush
Breakdown in basic soldiering skills led to disastrous capture of American POWs

The Washington Post reports tonight on a report (also reported by the NY Times and LA Times) that identifies the main reason why PFC Jessica Lynch and five other soldiers were captured by Iraqi guerrillas on the road to Baghdad -- faulty weapons training and maintenance. The report indicates that soldiers had difficulty firing both their personal weapons (the M16A2 rifle) and their crew-served weapons (the M2 .50 caliber machine gun) at the enemy when fired upon. Few things will end a firefight badly more easily than weapons that won't shoot. Unfortunately, it appears from this report and others that the culprit was poor weapons training and maintenance.
"These malfunctions," the report says, "may have resulted from inadequate individual maintenance in a desert environment" where sand, heat and improper maintenance combined to render the weapons inoperable.

The report on the incident, scheduled to be released this week, adds new details to the circumstances reported last month by The Washington Post, which described how the 18-vehicle convoy got lost in the southern Iraqi city after its company commander, Capt. Troy King, did not receive word that the larger column it was following had changed routes. The convoy then made several navigational errors, which required the slow, lumbering vehicles to make two U-turns in the middle of hostile territory.
* * *
The unit's 18-vehicle convoy had broken into three clusters as the unit retraced its route. "Most soldiers" in the first group reported that their M-16s malfunctioned as they tried to "return fire while moving," the report said.

When Cpl. Damien Luten, sitting in the passenger seat of a 5-ton tractor trailer in the second group, attempted to fire the unit's only .50-caliber machine gun, it failed, the report said. Luten was wounded in the leg while reaching for his M-16. Spec. James Grubb, in the passenger seat of a 5-ton fuel truck, "returned fire with his M-16 until wounded in both arms, despite reported jamming of his weapon," it said.

The third group of vehicles, which included the Humvee in which Lynch was riding, also had weapons problems.

After Lynch's Humvee crashed, Sgt. James Riley ran with two other soldiers to see if the vehicle's occupants could be saved. His weapon jammed. Riley reached for 1st Sgt. Robert Dowdy's M-16 to use instead. Dowdy had been killed instantly in the crash. Riley ordered the two soldiers with him to take cover and then tried to use each of their M-16s against the Iraqis. "But both jammed," the report said.
* * *
Spec. Joseph Hudson attempted to fire his M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon as he drove a huge wrecker towing a 5-ton tractor-trailer that had broken down. But the weapon malfunctioned. After driving past obstacles and debris strewn in his path, the vehicle broke down on the southern edge of the city as he neared safety. Iraqi forces fired on the stalled wrecker, killing Hudson's passenger, Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Villareal Mata.
* * *
U.S. officials also said recently that Lynch's weapon may have jammed during the ambush. Because she was seated between two other soldiers, however, it is also possible she did not fire it, one Army official said yesterday.
Analysis: I'm going to revert back to my NTC Observer/Controller training to pick out some issues that seem obvious from this story. These may seem like harsh criticisms, but if these things happened during a rotation at the National Training Center, these are exactly the things that would be discussed in the After Action Review. A causal link exists between each of these failures before combat and what happened in combat.

(1) Weapons Maintenance. Rifles and machine guns require a lot of tender loving care to work properly -- they require even more TLC in the harsh desert environment. Despite popular conceptions, the M16A2 rifle is a fairly intricate piece of machinery with lots of small moving pieces. It takes regular cleaning and lubrication in order to work. In the California desert, my platoon made a standard practice of field cleaning our rifles once a day -- more if possible. The sand is even more fine in Iraq. I have been told it resembles an awful form of talcum powder that gets in everything. In those conditions, the rifle would need to be cleaned and lubricated more than once a day. The rifle would also need to be protected in some way from the elements, such as with a plastic cap or latex balloon over the muzzle. Leaders must check their soldiers' weapons constantly to ensure this is being done. As the old maxim says: "Soldiers do what leaders check."

(2) Lubrication. It's not enough to clean the M16 rifle, M249 squad automatic weapon, or M2 .50 cal machine gun -- you also have to regularly apply lubricant in order to keep the metal parts moving against each other. The standard military lubricant for small arms is called "CLP" (See this discussion regarding CLP at Winds of Change). It worked okay for me in Korea and Texas, but not well. My platoon sergeant (an avid hunter) liked to use special commercially-available lubricants that he knew worked better. Apparently, he knew more than the Army's procurement folks. In the weeks since the war, several after action reviews have concluded that the Army's standard weapons lube was inadequate for the job in the desert.
Lubricant: Soldiers provided consistent comments that CLP was not a good choice for weapons maintenance in this environment. The sand is as fine as talcum powder here. The CLP attracted the sand to the weapon. ?… Soldiers considered a product called MiliTec to be a much better solution for lubricating individual and crew-served weapons.
Various current and former military officers echoed this report, saying that CLP was one of the worst lubricants the Army could buy for the desert:
"The CLP and Breakfree brand oil the military purchases is worthless," said Aaron Johnson, a 10-year veteran of the Army and Army Reserve, and author of a DefenseWatch guest column on the Army M9 sidearm "How to Save the M9 Beretta"; June 16, 2003). "I'm sure large amounts are acquired [by the Army] at relatively low cost, but that's why it should be done away with. That oil is too rich, and has little effectiveness at keeping weapons clean."

"The troops will tell you, CLP attracts dirt and grit," Johnson continued. "It is also so thick it can reduce recoil speed, resulting in stoppages. It thickens in the cold, and when in hot weather areas it is usually attracting dust and sand."

In an e-mail forwarded to DefenseWatch, retired Lt. Col. Robert Kovacic, who works for a defense contractor in Kuwait that trains U.S. military units, echoed Johnson's remarks. "I can say with complete assuredness, from many, many observations of training exercises], that CLP does not work. I did not use it at Fort Polk (cause it did not prevent rust)... I don't care what the government says... and it sure as hell does not work here."

What is bewildering to veterans such as these is that there is a product that has proven effective in desert combat. MILITEC-1 Synthetic Metal Conditioner, manufactured by the company of the same name, has been approved for Army use and is already widely used by the U.S. Coast Guard, FBI and a host of other federal police agencies. But the Army apparently is still shipping CLP en masse to the troops and has resisted ordering the synthetic lubricant, forcing unit commanders to pay out of their own pockets to acquire it.

The problem, Kovacic said, is that the Defense Logistics Agency allegedly refused to ship MILITEC to a number of units heading for combat in Iraq, despite previous approval of the product for Army weapons. "So, if front-line commanders order this product," he asked, "where does DLA have the authority to stop shipment? It is the brigade commander's butt in battle and if he wants to use a different lubricant, because the government stuff does not work, he can't"
Once again, our soldiers went into harm's way with lousy equipment because the procurement system failed them. There is some irony here, in that the original M16 rifle went into combat in Vietnam with many flaws that were learned at the cost of American lives. Today, we appear to have the best military in the world. Yet we are forced to learn lessons about our equipment the hard way.

3. Weapons Training. Weapons maintenance and lubrication are often a function of weapons training. Soldiers who know their weapons well will take care of them, because they are familiar with the effects of not doing so. Moreover, at least one part of the 507th Maintenance Company report indicates a probable failure of weapons training:
King [the company commander] then split the company into three groups, according to the Army investigation.

He took Group One, and they fought their way south through the city. Iraqis tried to block their exit with vehicles and debris. "Most of the soldiers in this group report that they experienced weapons malfunctions," the Army said. "These malfunctions may have resulted from inadequate individual maintenance in a desert environment."

But they made it out, and soon joined a Marine Corps tank battalion.

In Group Two, Cpl. Damien Luten "attempted to return fire with the 507th's only .50-caliber machine gun but the weapon failed," the report said. "Luten was wounded in the leg while reaching for his M-16."

Small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades burst around them. Their escape route also was partially blocked. Five soldiers were wounded, including Spc. James Grubb, who "returned fire with his M-16 until wounded in both arms, despite reported jamming of his weapon."

Marines also rescued Group Two.
The M2 .50 caliber machine gun doesn't just fail -- it fails for a reason. It's one of the most venerable weapons in the Army inventory; its basic design has not changed for decades. The most common reason for failure is the operator's failure to properly set the head space and timing. The internal parts of the .50 cal have a certain amount of play, and these parts have to be set right in order to work. If you set the headspace or timing wrong -- or fail to reset it after a while -- the weapon will malfunction. In some cases, this means it will fire one shot and then stop. In others, it may cause the weapon to misfire more severely, or even blow up.

In any case, this is the most probable reason for the .50 cal's failure in the 507th convoy. And it traces directly back to a failure to train the operator on how to shoot the .50 cal. In many units -- especially support units -- .50 cal training is hard to get in peacetime. The ranges are few and the ammunition is usually short, and it's often hard to get the right guy to the range because soldiers are often rotating through positions within a given unit. In combat, all of these are just excuses. The bottom line is that the 507th's convoy didn't have its .50 cal when it needed it, and its soldiers paid the price.

4. Land Navigation and Fieldcraft. It appears that Captain King got his convoy lost in the desert. Either he failed to properly copy the route, failed to follow the route, or failed to adjust the route based on information from his higher headquarters. The results were fatal. Soldiers in the Army don't do enough training on basic land navigation. Indeed, in many units, they simply rely on their Global Positioning Systems for this skill, as Captain King appeared to do:
The 507th, based at Fort Bliss, Texas, was not a combat unit; its members included cooks, mechanics, technicians and clerks. On March 21, the company crossed into Iraq from Kuwait as part of a convoy supporting a Patriot missile battalion. But early into the deployment, the company's commander, Capt. Troy King, misread his assigned route, the report said.

According to the Army findings, King relied primarily on his Global Positioning System device and an annotated map on which he had highlighted "Route Blue." King "believed in error that Blue was his assigned route," the report said.

King could not be reached for comment Wednesday. A spokeswoman at Fort Bliss said he was on routine leave.

As the convoy sped north, the 507th, with 18 vehicles, "bogged down in the soft sand," the report said. "Drivers from many units became confused due to the darkness, causing some vehicles to separate from their march columns."

And the route King chose, the report said, "proved to be extremely difficult, over rough terrain."
Getting lost in peacetime is embarassing; it usually means you have to buy the beer or do pushups. Getting lost in wartime can be fatal. I learned this lesson in Korea when I misread the terrain once and wound up driving up a long canyon that led straight to the DMZ -- it took an extra 2 hours to back up the canyon and drive home. I never got lost again as an Army officer. My unit, a division MP company, trained a lot on land navigation because we knew that logistics units like the 507th would rely on us for this skill. As flattering as that was, it's the wrong answer. Every soldier and leader must be capable of moving from point A to point B in a way that gets them there alive. And they need to be able to do it without gadgets like the GPS, at night, with just a map and a compass (see FM 3-25.26 for more on the basics of land navigation)

Summary: I don't want to keep picking on support units, but in this case, I see a trend. Support units work hard in peacetime to keep our equipment running, often to the neglect of their own field training. The result is that they do not meet the standard for basic soldiering and warfighting skills. Of course, they learn through trial and error just like every unit. But the result of waiting to learn these lessons in wartime is that young Americans die as the unit climbs the learning curve. Our Army needs to embrace the warrior ethos in all units -- not just the combat arms -- and it needs to ensure that every unit can fight its way out of an ambush like this one.

In the end, none of this may have made the crucial difference and saved the convoy. War is chaotic, and bad things happend to good units who do everything right. But commanders strive to set their units up for success; to do everything possible to make the fight an unfair one -- for the enemy. Training, maintenance, pre-combat checks, pre-combat inspections, and fieldcraft are what enable good units to execute when the time comes on the battlefield. The 507th Maintenance Convoy failed in these areas, and the effects were devastating.

Enemy combatant asks court for release

Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, who has been deemed an "enemy combatant" by President Bush, filed suit in federal court today seeking release from that status and from Defense Department custody. Like Jose Padilla and Yasser Hamdi before him, Al-Marri contends that such a status is unlawful and unconstitutional.
Lawyers for the student, Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, argued in an appeal filed in federal court in Illinois that Mr. Bush's June 23 order declaring Mr. Marri to be an operative for Al Qaeda and an enemy combatant represented an act of "unbridled authority" that was illegal and unconstitutional.

Specialists in military law said that the legal challenge, coming just days after the Bush administration announced it was considering the use of military tribunals against six terrorism suspects, could present an important test of the executive branch's power to imprison suspects outside the reach of the civilian court system.

Mr. Marri, 37, had been scheduled to go on trial this month in Illinois on charges that he lied to the F.B.I. soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, about his travels and engaged in credit card fraud. But in a surprise decision last month, the Bush administration instead had him removed from the court system and jailed in a Navy brig in South Carolina as an enemy combatant. Officials said recent intelligence indicated that he had visited a Qaeda terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and that he was prepared to help "settle" operatives in the United States for further attacks after Sept. 11.

Bush administration officials declined to comment on the legal challenge today. "If we have any response, we'll respond in court," said Bryan Sierra, a Justice Department spokesman.
Indeed they will... If the Hamdi and Padilla cases are any indicators, the Bush Administration will vigorously contest this case in court to uphold its authority to designate enemy combatants and detain them as such. This is another issue where the courts have been very deferential to the Executive Branch. However, the deference hasn't been perfect. A federal judge in New York ordered the Pentagon to allow Padilla to meet with his lawyer in Dec. 2002, and the government has lost other legal battles in the Moussaoui case relating to its power to sequester combatants who may also be material witnesses. It's likely that the Al-Marri case will follow the path of the others, and end at a brick wall for Mr. Al-Marri.

That may be right outcome. Nation-states have had the authority to designate their enemies for centuries. If Al-Marri is an enemy of the United States, then our President has the inherent power as the leader of a sovereign nation to take military action against him. Normally, that would entail killing him. But we have chosen in this instance to take him prisoner and interrogate him for intelligence. That is a perfectly lawful act as a matter of international law. Indeed, the Third Geneva Convention precludes the trial of a combatant in civilian court for the lawful acts of a soldier (war crimes are a different matter).

Plaintiff files first post-Lawrence challenge to the military

Today's New York Times reports that a former Army lieutenant colonel has filed suit in federal court against the Army challenging his discharge for being gay. Loren S. Loomis was forcibly discharged one week before his 20-year retirement after firefighters found tapes of him having sex with another man while responding to a fire at his residence near Fort Hood, Texas. Emboldened by the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence, Mr. Loomis has filed suit challenging the legality of his discharge.
The Army discharged Mr. Loomis, who was wounded in the Vietnam War, in which he won two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, under "other than honorable" conditions, a move that deprived him of pension and benefits that he says are worth more than $1 million.

Mr. Loomis appealed his discharge through the military's administrative process, petitioning the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records, but the board declined to reinstate him or award him retirement benefits.

"A soldier's sex life should be private and protected by the Constitution," Mr. Loomis said in a interview. "Too often, the Army denies those who have sacrificed in its service the basic protection of law."

Mr. Loomis, who now runs a land development company in Albuquerque, says he kept his homosexuality a private matter. It became an issue to the Army only after his home, near Fort Hood, Tex., was burned in 1996. The arsonist, an Army private who had posed for nude photographs for Mr. Loomis, said he was trying to destroy the pictures.
Analysis: The discharge of gay servicemembers is governed today by Title 10, Section 654, United States Code, which states:
"A member of the armed forces shall be separated from the armed forces under regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Defense if one or more of the following findings is made and approved in accordance with procedures set forth in such regulations:
(1) That the member has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts . . .
(2) That the member has stated that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual . . .
(3) That the member has married or attempted to marry a person known to be of the same biological sex."
To win, Mr. Loomis will have to get the court to rule that this statute places an unconstitutional burden on his fundamental right to intimate conduct, as stated by Justice Kennedy in his Lawrence opinion. Once a fundamental right is implicated by a law, the court must ask two questions:

(1) Does the law further a compelling government interest?
(2) Is the law narrowly tailored to further that compelling government interest?

Lots of things can affect this calculus, and it's by no means easy to predict how courts will go. However, the burden clearly lies with the government to justify its exclusion of gays from the military. Laws which burden fundamental rights are presumptively unconstitutional, unless the government can show why the law should survive. I think they have the "compelling interest" prong down cold -- America needs an effective military with cohesive units. But it's not clear that this policy is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. It may be both underinclusive and overinclusive in the sense that it requires an overt statement, act or marriage to trigger the exclusion.

So will the law survive here? It's hard to tell. The reason is that the courts have historically given great deference to the Executive Branch and the military on matters of national security. See, e.g., Korematsu v. United States; Doe v. Bush. Such deference will be given to the military on both prongs of the fundamental rights analysis. The courts will most likely defer to the military on the issue of whether this policy furthers a compelling government interest. And the courts will also give weight to the military's judgment about whether this is the best tailored policy possible for achieving the compelling interest of a cohesive and effective military.

In any other context, the law would certainly fail. But the doctrine of military deference affects the fundamental rights calculus in a weird way, as seen in military cases on religion and speech. In addition to the military deference doctrine, there's also a doctrine of deference to the political branches on issues best resolved by Congress and the President. The legislative history of 10 U.S.C. 654 indicates that this statute was hammered out as a compromise between the two political branches after an extremely contentious political debate. The courts may not be willing to step into that fight.

Bottom Line: Military deference and political deference can only go so far. At some point, the court may decide this issue is too important to decide on those bases. The court may also decide the Constitutional rights at stake are too important to leave to military decisionmaking and political arm-wrestling. I honestly don't know how this will turn out, because I don't have the Constitutional Law expertise to offer an intelligent answer to these questions. Lawrence put this issue into play, after a series of courts had ruled against such challenges in the 1990s, but it's not clear how it will be resolved this time. Good arguments exist on both sides -- it's now up to the judge to decide.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Army contracts for 100,000-soldier barracks in Iraq

In what seems like deja vu from our deployment to the Balkans, Inside the Army reports that the Army has contracted Kellogg Brown & Root to build barracks for 100,000 soldiers in Iraq. This is a major step towards a long-term, institutionalized, semi-permanent U.S. presence in Iraq. Permanent bases are easier to secure, better for the soldiers, and more conducive to long-term deployments. I think this is an indicator that the Pentagon is planning for a long-term occupation of Iraq -- perhaps up to 10-30 years.
While some of the housing might be as crude as tents, Army officials say the project could provide more durable structures and describe accommodations similar to those found at longer-term peacekeeping spots around the world, like Kosovo.

Approximately 146,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq. President Bush last week said the United States faces a “massive and long-term undertaking” there, although military officials have been hesitant to say how many troops will stay and for how long.

The $200 million order for housing in Iraq was tasked to KBR in Arlington, VA, on June 13 through a long-term contract called the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program.
* * *
The latest task order under LOGCAP is designated for V Corps: $200 million for “the setup and operation of all housing and logistics to sustain task force personnel.”

Dan Carlson, a spokesman for the Field Support Command, said the order would provide “temporary housing services” for 100,000 troops at various locations throughout Iraq. The housing structures might be just tents in some spots, Carlson said. However, more substantial housing facilities, including wood structures, could be built depending upon requirements in the area, he said. Plans have not been finalized, Carlson added.

Plywood structures, or “SEAhuts,” are commonly used by Army peacekeeping personnel elsewhere, including the Balkans. The name stands for “Southeast Asia huts” -- because they were used by soldiers in Vietnam -- and are regarded as suitable for “temporary operational use.”

Joan Kibler, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Program Center, which oversaw construction of SEAhuts in the Balkans, said temporary construction is defined more by the “length of the military operation than the strength of the structure.” If maintained properly, the SEAhuts can house soldiers for several years, or be dismantled, she said.

So far, the military has not built any living facilities for soldiers in Iraq beyond providing tents and a few “trailer-type” structures, according to a spokeswoman for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command at Camp Doha in Kuwait.

Monday, July 07, 2003
The ugly face of war
Embedded reports from the Marines' 1st Reconnaissance Battalion

A lot has been made of the reports that came from embedded reporters in the recent war with Iraq. For the most part, I think they did a good job of reporting on a part of war that has often been neglected for operational security reasons. Some reporters, such as the Washington Post's Rick Atkinson and William Branigin, and the LA Times' Tony Perry and David Zucchino, did a particularly good job of covering the units they were with. But until now, I haven't read any stories that hit me the force of some first-person accounts I've read.

Evan Wright's reports in Rolling Stone are different. For the entire war, Mr. Wright traveled with a platoon of the elite 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the U.S. Marines. The 1st Recon Marines were not used as stealthy infantry scouts, the way such a unit might normally be employed. Instead, these Marines were employed like an Army light cavalry unit, fighting their way in Hummvees north from Kuwait to Baghdad. Mr. Wright reports on the entire journey of these men, over the course of three outstanding pieces in Rolling Stone magazine. Here's an excerpt from the second piece:
It's not a good day for god in Iraq. Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Bodley, chaplain for the First Reconnaissance Battalion, is trying to minister to fighting Marines, now resting for the first time since the invasion of Iraq began more than a week ago. They have set up a defensive camp by the airfield they seized near Qal'at Sukkar, in central Iraq. After their initiation into urban-guerrilla warfare in An Nasiriyah to the south, followed by three days of continual fighting against an enemy they seldom actually saw, the 374 Marines of the elite battalion have been given forty-eight hours of downtime to recuperate. Their camp is spread across two kilometers of what looks like a fantasy Martian landscape of dried-out, reddish mud flats and empty canals. Each four - to six - man team lives in holes dug beneath camouflage nets placed around its Humvee. Throughout the day, Bodley walks around the camp and attempts to minister to his flock of heavily armed young men. Although the Marines in First Recon have already killed dozens, accidentally wounded civilians and taken one casualty of their own (a driver shot in the arm), the chaplain encounters few troubled by war itself. "A lot of the young men I talk to can compartmentalize the terrible things they've seen," he says. "But many of them feel bad because they haven't had a chance to fire their weapons. They worry that they haven't done their jobs as Marines."

Bodley is new to First Recon, and he confesses that he finds these Marines tough to counsel. "The zeal these young men have for killing surprises me," he admits. "When I first heard them talk so easily about taking human lives, using such profane language, it instilled in me a sense of disbelief and rage. People here think Jesus is a doormat."

Over by Sgt. Brad Colbert's Humvee, the Marines lounge under the camouflage netting, enjoying a few idle hours on a hot afternoon. Cpl. Joshua Person, the team's driver, lounges with his shirt off, trying to roast the "chacne" -- chest zits -- off his skin in the harsh Iraqi sun. Gunnery Sgt. Michael Wynn, the senior enlisted man in Bravo Company's Second Platoon, stops by to pass the latest gossip. "Word is," he says in a mild Texas accent, "we might go to the Iranian border to interdict smugglers."

"F*ck, no!" Person says. "I want to go to Baghdad and kill people."
I hope that Mr. Wright takes this material and writes a book about the experience these Marines went through. I suspect his detached view would make a great companion to first-person accounts like that of Anthony Swofford in Jarhead. If he writes it, Mr. Wright's book will join Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down on my bookshelf as two of the best journalistic accounts of war that I have read. Rolling Stone has also put the first and third articles online; I recommend them to anyone who wants to see the ugly face of war up close, without censorship.

Attacks on U.S. troops raise specter of guerilla war
Was an urban insurgency the Iraqi strategy all along?

Tom Ricks, probably the best defense reporter out there, reports today in the Washington Post (along with Rajiv Chandrasekaran) that Iraqi attacks on American troops in recent days have spurred concerns about the conflict that just seems to keep going in Iraq. Despite the declaration by the President that major combat operations have ended (see below), and the repeated declarations by Pentagon officials that we are not in a guerilla war, that seems to be exactly the case.
Recent Iraqi attacks on U.S. troops have demonstrated a new tactical sophistication and coordination that raise the specter of the U.S. occupation force becoming enmeshed in a full-blown guerrilla war, military experts said yesterday.

The new approaches employed in the Iraqi attacks last week are provoking concern among some that what once was seen as a mopping-up operation against the dying remnants of a deposed government is instead becoming a widening battle against a growing and organized force that could keep tens of thousands of U.S. troops busy for months.

Pentagon officials continue to insist that the U.S. military is not caught in an anti-guerrilla campaign in Iraq, that the fighting still is limited mainly to the Sunni heartland northwest of Baghdad and that progress is being made elsewhere in the country. "There's been an awful lot of work done," Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told "Fox News Sunday" in an interview taped last week. "A lot of the country is relatively stable."

But a growing number of military specialists, and some lawmakers, are voicing concern about trends in Iraq. There is even some quiet worry at the Pentagon, where some officers contend privately that the size of the U.S. deployment in Iraq -- now about 150,000 troops -- is inadequate for force protection, much less for peacekeeping. The Army staff is reexamining force requirements and looking again at the numbers generated in the months before the war, said a senior officer who asked not to be named.

"If you talk to the guys in Iraq, they will tell you that it's urban combat over there," the officer said. "They all are saying, 'What we have is not enough to keep the peace.' "
Keeping the peace is just one problem. Fighting the war is another. Peace and war are not like pregnant and not-pregnant -- it's not a binary choice. Conceptually, I think there's more of a spectrum from peace to war, along which you have law enforcement, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, low-intensity conflict, and war. (This isn't just my thought; it's also what official U.S. Army doctrine says.)

So what are we seeing in Iraq? I don't think we're just seeing criminal activity or the activity of out-of-work soldiers. I think we're seeing the start of a real guerilla war, in which we will fight a determined, well-equipped and organized enemy in the streets of Iraq for some time. Ricks' article alludes to this trend:
Retired Army Col. Richard Dunn, a former head of the Army's internal think tank, agreed, saying, "I'd like to be wrong on this, but we may be seeing a classic insurgency situation developing." At the same time, he said, it is possible that "we may just be seeing a surge of activity that they're unable to sustain."

Last week, 45 armed men began a concentrated assault against a U.S. convoy north of Baghdad. And attacks in the capital appear to be more effective.

In one incident, an Iraqi stood up in a moving car and fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Army Humvee. In addition, snipers have been hitting troops in Baghdad. Over the weekend, one 1st Armored Division soldier guarding the National Museum was shot and killed, and another died in a similar attack at Baghdad University, in a neighborhood that had been considered quiet.

With the two weekend deaths, the U.S. toll grew to 209, including 70 troops killed since President Bush declared major combat in Iraq over on May 1.

Overall, some U.S. soldiers at fixed points such as road checkpoints and outposts say the attacks on them are far more widespread and persistent than is reflected in the casualty figures.

In contrast to the head-on charges that some Iraqi fighters launched against U.S. tanks in the war, the attacks now tend to focus on more vulnerable parts of the military, such as isolated checkpoints and slow-moving convoys, and not against strengths, such as armored units.
Analysis: What if this was their strategy all along? What if, instead of fighting America in the desert, the Iraqi command authority made a conscious choice to suck us into their cities and fight us 1 platoon at a time, with small-unit ambushes and such? This looks an awful lot like classic insurgency warfare; what some call 4th Generation Warfare. It reflects an old maxim most recently stated by Chinese leader Mao Zedong: "The reed bends with the wind, and then snaps back up again."

I do not think we're seeing low-level criminal activity anymore; I also don't think we're seeing uncoordinated attacks. I think that our enemy has coalesced into something larger and more menacing. Of course, I don't have the on-the-ground intelligence to make this assessment, nor do I have access to anything but open-source reports. But the tea leaves look clear to me. The Iraqis have strategically withdrawn from the desert and regrouped in the cities, and instead of fighting us where we are strong (the desert), they are now fighting us where we are weak. Their ultimate goal is to mimic Somalia. The Iraqis hope to inflict enough casualties on us that we will go home with our tail between our legs. Ultimately, this is a dubious strategy, given our national level of commitment to Iraq as compared to our commitment to Somalia. But in the short-term, it means that Iraqi guerillas will seek to kill as many Americans as possible wherever they present targets of opportunity.

If I were a planner again... I'd recommend three main courses of action:

(1) Boost the U.S. troop presence, because you're going to need a lot more boots on the ground in order to properly secure the American footprint in Iraq.

(2) Ratchet up the force protection level significantly, to the point where U.S. troops conduct their nation-building operations as if they are still at war. This will hamper and delay much of the nation-building, as it's more difficult to conduct business at rifle's length that an arm's length. But we cannot let our guard down like we have been in recent weeks.

(3) Go on the offensive, as we did with Operation Peninsula Strike and Operation Scorpion. Find the Iraqi guerillas, their weapons caches, and their leadership -- and take them out. Again, these offensives require more soldiers, because you have to have enough for basic security and offensive missions. But if you let the enemy seize the initiative, you're toast. We absolutely have to take the fight to these Iraqis before they take the fight to us, and fight them on terms favorable to us.

Update: I've been asked to comment on this issue and the situation in Iraq tomorrow morning between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on WCTC, New Brunswick, NJ (AM 1450). If you're in that area, I hope you can tune in.

Update II: David Adesnik at Oxblog has some thoughts on the relationship between stories like this and soldier morale. For what it's worth, I think that criticizing the mission and the cause can create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. We ought do that for the sake of the mission and our soldiers in the field. But I think we should recognize this conflict for what it is -- something in the gray area between peace and war -- and devote the resources necessary to win it.

Back from the holiday weekend... blogging will resume at my regular summer pace. Thanks for stopping by; more to follow.

Thursday, July 03, 2003
You make the call...

May 1, 2003 -- Remarks by the President from the USS Abraham Lincoln At Sea Off the Coast of San Diego, California.
"Thank you all very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.) And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country."
Jul. 2, 2003 -- Press Conference by LTG Ricardo Sanchez, Commanding General, V Corps, Baghdad (as reported in the New York Times).
"We're still at war," Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said in a news conference today. While saying the attacks did not appear to be centrally or even regionally coordinated, he asserted that there had been an "increase in sophistication of the explosive devices used" against American forces.
Who's right? It's really hard to tell. The President is correct that major combat operations have ended, insofar as American tanks are no longer charging across the Iraqi desert. But it appears that we are now fighting a new kind (or a very old kind) of war -- a counter-insurgency campaign against hardened guerillas and terrorists who attack with unconventional weapons and tactics. I think LTG Sanchez is right to say the war has not ended -- it has merely begun a new phase. This phase will look a lot more like Somalia than Gulf War I, but hopefully with a better result. More to follow...

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