Tiered Readiness is coming.

Today, under the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) plan, Brigade Combat Teams  (BCT) go through a cycle where they are deployed or ready to deploy, recovering from a deployment or readiness term, or are training up to regain their readiness to deploy. For the most part, all BCTs in the Army have, for the last decade or so, shared equally in cycle. The large numbers of BCTs needed for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan dictated that almost every  BCT would sooner or later get its turn in the barrel.

But with Iraq over, and Afghanistan winding down, fewer and fewer BCTs are being tapped to deploy overseas. Particularly, the heavy BCTs, with tanks and Bradleys, aren’t deploying to Afghanistan.

More importantly, the Army is running out of money. It has already made the choice to shutter a large number of BCTs (though the remaining BCTs will gain an additional maneuver battalion).

But even with those cuts, the budget for manpower, training, and operations is under pretty severe stress.

So the Army, despite promising itself it wouldn’t do so, is going to take something of a strategic risk.

Cancelled training. Deferred maintenance. Grounded aircraft. That’s been the damage to military readiness from the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration in 2013. Now the Vice-Chief of Staff of the Army says the service may have to keep many units at lower levels of readiness for years. This is not a short-term expedient but new policy.

“We’re looking at having certain number of brigades at a higher level of readiness,” Gen. John Campbell told me last week. “Many of our units will go down much lower.”

“Some people would call that tiered readiness, where we said we never were going to go again,” the Vice-Chief went on, referring to the Cold War practice where units not in West Germany or South Korea sometimes never received their full allotment of troops, equipment, and training dollars. “I’d call it progressive readiness.”

A preliminary plan may be ready for public discussion within weeks, Campbell said. “We’re working through that now,” he said, as the service builds its 2015-2019 budget plan, the Program Objective Memorandum.

Campbell’s remarks suggest new willingness on the Army leadership’s part to shift it position on readiness, one that’s been urged by many thinktanks.

“While Army leaders have avoided cutting readiness to every extent possible, it is no longer feasible under current budget plans – even before sequestration moves into year two,” argues Mackenzie Eaglen, one of the think tank experts who recommended cutting readiness levels to guarantee the military’s ability to develop and buy new weapons.

“There is already a readiness shortfall this year that is being funded through war spending and additional untold readiness gaps based on all the services receiving fewer resources than expected when Congress finally passed a defense appropriations bill for 2013,” she said.

It is hardly a perfect solution, but then, it’s also the world I knew back in my own days of service.

Some BCTs will still receive the money and manpower to stay at full readiness, known sometimes as C-1. Fully manned, and trained in all the essentials of the commanders Mission Essential Task List, and having gone through a cycle of training from individual skills to full up BCT sized operations in the field at one of the Combat Training Centers against a dedicated Opposing Force.

Other BCTs… not so much.

They’ll have less money for fuel and maintenance for their equipment. Fewer spare parts. A smaller allocation of ammunition for training. Likely, exercised at battalion and BCT level will be cancelled or curtailed. They’ll get fewer rotations at the Combat Training Centers. They’ll be last in line for receiving new equipment.

And perhaps most painfully, they’ll get fewer people.

We talked above about some units being fully manned. But the truth is, no unit is ever really fully manned. Let’s say a rifle company has an authorized strength of 100.  The Army says it will be fully manned. But you’ve got people transferring out, and waiting for new bodies to come in. Then you’ve got people on leave, at various Army schools, people who are sick or injured (they still count toward you being fully manned, but aren’t available for duty), troops who are awaiting discharge either for completing their service, or because they’re unsuitable for the Army. Then there are the demands placed from above. It is not at all unheard of for a higher echelon to levy units for manpower, either for a temporary tasking, or for extended periods. Our notional rifle company might be lucky to have 75 troops present at morning formation.

My first two duty stations, I was assigned to units that were fully manned. My third wasn’t quite as lucky. We were constantly understrength. While we always had enough people to fully crew our Bradleys, we had only enough troops left over to field a single, understrength rifle squad per platoon. We needed another 10 to 12 troops, per platoon, to be fully manned.

We had enough money and assets to train on individual skills, and small unit collective skills. But it is hard to train a platoon to fight properly when every bit of doctrine that governs employing the platoon assumes a much larger unit, with a good bit more tactical flexibility.

The Army’s reasoning is that for the foreseeable future, should these lower tier BCTs be needed for a fight, they’ll have time to plus up their manning, and their training. We can only hope they’re correct.

If not, we can always ask the survivors of Task Force Smith how things worked out for them.

Food at sea in the age of fighting sail from Our First Nautical Number – British Food in America

Few subjects have been more misunderstood than the diet of ratings and their officers on board Royal Navy vessels during the ‘long eighteenth century’ from 1688 until 1815. It makes a good story, particularly from the onset of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, when British warships remained on station for unprecedented durations, both to enforce the blockade of France and its continental possessions, and to fight its fleets in the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas.

via Food at sea in the age of fighting sail from Our First Nautical Number – British Food in America.

I’m not a foodie, but military rations of all sorts intrigue me.

While the Heart of Oak and the spirit of the Jack Tar were key to the incredible string of victories of the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic era, those victories were enabled by the ability of the RN to remain at sea for incredibly long stretches. The system of docks and yards established, first at home, then worldwide throughout the Empire’s colonies, was a military management revolution. And a significant part of that shoreside establishment was the victualing of the fleet.

And I’m tempted to try the lobscouse recipe.

Nidal Hasan Granted Terminal Leave

FORT HOOD, TX — A military jury has granted Army Maj. Nidal Hasan terminal leave today, sparking consternation throughout the military.

The decision fanned flames sparked by recent revelations that he was still receiving full pay and benefits while on trial for an act of workplace violence that left 13 dead and wounded more than 30 others. Witnesses reported that Hasan shouted “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for “I am dissatisfied with my working conditions” — during the attack.

By granting him terminal leave, the Army will transfer him from active duty to the “involuntary reserve, dead” list. He will be required to undergo a final physical, including a single vaccination through an IV.

His pay and benefits, including respiration and cardiac function, will be stopped.

At press time, many observers were upset that he had not received a harsher sentence.

via Nidal Hasan Granted Terminal Leave.

“I Have Not Made a Decision”

1377728707000-AP-Obama-022

So says President Obama in reference to US military action in Syria.    Problem is, he has.  Two of them, actually.  Whether he acknowledges so or not.  Both of them are exceedingly poor ones.  The first was Obama’s August 2012 ill-conceived bluster about use of chemical weapons being a “red line” for the United States.  Tough talk that sounded good, at least to the untrained ear.

When it seemed that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on rebel forces, in April of 2013, Obama was caught bluffing like a teenager in a grown-up poker game.   So, his second decision was to do nothing after promising “serious consequences” for such use.

Now, the rather predictably beholden news media, led by ABC News, is attempting to tell us that Obama really did not say

“…a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

Or, if he did, that he didn’t mean to imply what his words meant.

And now, he is stuck.  The Administration has “concluded” that the chemical weapons, likely Sarin (GB), which is not a gas but a liquid nerve agent, were fired by elements of the Assad regime.  What evidence?  Not very much.  None, in fact, that would stand up to the scrutiny of 2004.

“We have concluded,” the president said, that Assad’s regime “in fact carried these out. And if that’s so, there needs to be international consequences.

“…We have looked at all the evidence and we don’t believe the opposition possessed… chemical weapons of that sort,” he continued. “We do not believe given the delivery system using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks.”

Anyone with much intelligence background would acknowledge immediately that such an assertion is utter nonsense.  Following a statement from that icon of Foreign Policy, Joe Biden, that there was “no doubt” the attacks came from the Assad regime, the President uses the phrase “we don’t believe” twice in making his assertion.

In truth, neither Biden nor Obama has any way of knowing.  The delivery system?  Such is easy enough to acquire.  In Iraq, the enemy captured or fabricated rail fairings for 122mm rockets, and for the Chinese-made 107mm variety, routinely.   The capability most certainly exists in Syria.  In fact, there are videos of anti-regime elements firing 122mm rockets from captured BM-21 launchers and improvised systems all over YouTube.   Here are two.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FtgKC4hccNg#t=25]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wPJs5ewh1CY]

So much for the Administration’s assertion on that point.

As for Assad’s chemical stockpiles, my guess is that they have been divided among dozens or even hundreds of caches, with varying levels of security around them, in order to keep Western forces from being able to secure them with special operations forces.   Have the “rebels” (which include Al Qaeda in strength, and other radical Islamists) lain their hands on one or more of those stockpiles?  There is no way for the US to tell.  And it isn’t as if the Assad regime would volunteer the information, even if they knew.

The major point, however, is the question of why the Assad regime would resort to chemical attacks at this juncture.  Regime elements are no longer hard-pressed, the Assad regime is winning.  What would be the strategic purpose of facing international condemnation and risking the alienation of a very powerful ally (Putin’s Russia) to launch a chemical attack that doesn’t even accomplish a tactical objective?   Assad is not a fool.  He understands survival.

This is not to say conclusively that the Syrian government did NOT launch such an attack.  A miscalculation borne of the weakness and vacillation of the US response the first time, a thumb in the eye of America on the heels of the empty “tough talk” of Obama, may have played into the decision.  But I find that eventuality rather unlikely.  Could a junior commander have fired the chemical barrage without authorization?  Also a possibility, and perhaps more likely.  Though I find hard-pressed and increasingly desperate anti-government forces using such weapons with the hope of being saved by outside intervention just as likely.  Especially if they are egged on by an Al Qaeda presence that understands the import of the fall of Assad for the advent of yet another Radical Islamist state in a strategic region.

There are no good options, and thanks to Obama’s indiscretions regarding his “red line” comments, there now are not even neutral options, only bad ones.   Yet another head-on collision with the real world for the arrogant, naive, incompetent, bumbling, indecisive ideologues in the White House and at Foggy Bottom.

And the newly-minted US Ambassador to the UN?  Where was she when the emergency UN session on Syria was held?  On vacation in Ireland.  She did, however, “tweet” on the subject.  Perhaps she even used a frowny-face icon when discussing the chemical attacks.  Not yet a month on the job.  Gotta wonder, how many Corporals have been recalled or had leave canceled in the last two days because of this crisis?  At least Malik was absent in protest, and not in a pub in Belfast.

Our foreign policy is in shambles.   Absolute shambles.

Hasan receives death penalty

The military court in the murder trial of Nidal Hasan has sentenced him to death.  Given that the military has not executed anyone for about half a century, there’s no telling if or when he will actually face that ultimate sanction.

First, his conviction and sentence will be reviewed by the court martial convening authority. I’m not sure which general actually convened the court, possibly the III Corps commander (anyone know?). That commander can let the conviction and sentence stand, or he can set it aside, reduce the sentence, or resubmit it for retrial.

After the commander’s review, the case will automatically be submitted for appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Army, then to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. The next step after those two appeals courts is the Supreme Court, but that is not automatic. Whether Hasan will be permitted to act pro se before the appeals courts, I don’t know.

Finally, among the other sanctions the court has applied, Hasan has been stripped of his rank, and all pay and allowances are stopped. Finally.

Richard Rogers Knives

I’ve been online friends with Richard for a while now. And I’ve known for a while that his “hobby” included making knives. And I knew he made very nice ones. I just didn’t realize exactly how nice.

http://richardrogersknives.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/rogers-george-small2.jpg

For a mere $9,500, that little gem can be yours.

He makes others that are slightly more affordable, but if you appreciate fine craftsmanship, give him a look.  His blog is brand new, but his experience making quality knives is longstanding.

Report: Fired riverine squadron XO ignored advice, conditions before grounding | Navy Times | navytimes.com

The two patrol boats arrived late at the refueling docks at Tybee Island, Ga., on April 13. It was Saturday evening, and the reservists from Coastal Riverine Squadron 10 were a little more than halfway into their training transit from Jacksonville, Fla., to Charleston, S.C.

Planned as a 12-hour-long daylight trip, the coastal cruise had seen some delays and was likely to slip past nightfall before the 34-foot-long boats tied up in Charleston. The crews were getting tired.

Back in Jacksonville, the squadron’s acting commanding officer, Capt. Adrian Garcia, convened a “go/no-go” meeting. His staff favored stopping the mission, as did the boat crews’ leadership. But Garcia decided to push forward. Both crews got underway and throttled up to speeds of more than 25 knots to make the final 80-mile leg.

Night fell as the boats steamed north.

At 9 p.m. the lead boat, PB 502, was driving at an estimated 28 to 30 knots when it struck a jetty near Charleston harbor. The jetty’s rocks tore into the aluminum hull. The impact caused serious injuries to three crew members, according to a newly released investigation.

via Report: Fired riverine squadron XO ignored advice, conditions before grounding | Navy Times | navytimes.com.

I missed this when it came out back in April, I guess.

What strikes me isn’t the risk adverse nature of the military (that’s old news), it’s the apparent inability of a unit devoted to coastal operations to operate along the coast at night.