Pentagon to review all military medals – News – Stripes

With the politically dicey issue of how to recognize service by drone pilots and cyber warriors still awaiting an answer, the Pentagon announced Tuesday a broad-ranging review to settle not only that question, but examine the full range of medals and awards.

Officials said the review, ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, would likely kick off within a month or so and be complete by late 2014 or early 2015.

Beyond determining how new warfare technologies would fit into the medal picture, the parameters of the review are still being worked out, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.

“As the wars are ending … rather than looking piecemeal at any specific one, he wants to do a comprehensive review of them all,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

via Pentagon to review all military medals – News – Stripes.

URR has written before his thoughts on awards, and what we have, and what we should have. I suspect we’ll hear more from him on this.

Concerning the Distinguished Warfare Medal, my impression was that the vast majority of the controversy about it was a matter of precedence. It would have “outranked” both the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star. That’s pretty much a slap in the face to people who have died or been severely wounded in our wars.

I like having a generous awards policy. I’ve certainly been a beneficiary  of it. But I also recognize that the awards that really count, those for valor, mean a heck of a lot more than others.

C-27Js to mothballs

Well, we knew the Air Force’s primary aim in involving themselves in the C-27J Spartan airlifter program was to deny the Army any fixed wing intra-theater air. And they’ve succeeded.

But of course, that’s only after they’d signed a $2bn or so contract for the airplanes. And since they’ve been bought, they’re being delivered. But since the Air Force won’t operate them, they’re putting brand spanking new airframes into storage at Davis-Monthan.

The Pentagon is sending $50 million cargo planes straight from the assembly line to mothballs because it has no use for them, yet it still hasn’t stopped ordering the aircraft, according to a report.

A dozen nearly new Italian-built C-27J Spartans have been shipped to an Air Force facility in Arizona dubbed “the boneyard,” and five more currently under construction are likely headed for the same fate, according to an investigation by the Dayton Daily News.  The Air Force has spent $567 million on 21 of the planes since 2007, according to purchasing officials at Dayton’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Of those, 16 have been delivered – with almost all sent directly to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, where some 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles, with a total value of more than $35 billion, sit unused.

The C-27J has the unique capability of taking off and landing on crude runways, Ethan Rosenkranz, national security analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, told the newspaper. But with sequestration dictating Pentagon cuts, the planes were deemed a luxury it couldn’t afford.


At this point, it’s too far gone for the Army to find the troop strength and aviator numbers to field the force.  And the Air Force almost certainly can’t sell them to private users or foreign governments, because the manufacturer, Alenia Aermacchi, has stated publicly they will boycott spares and support to anyone who buys these airframes. They don’t want the potential markets to buy used what they could be building new.

So most likely, other, non-DoD departments of the government will end up with them. Already there’s word the Coast Guard and the Forest Service will end up with some, and I heard today one in State Department markings has been spotted.

But the Army still doesn’t have the airlift it needed, and still needs, when it first selected the Spartan almost a decade ago.

John Boyd and the Reformers

No, not a band.

COL John Boyd is famous for his his OODA Loop theory. But the OODA Loop didn’t spring fully formed from his mind one day. It was the evolution of his thinking on air combat that lead to his E/M theory, which laid the intellectual groundwork for OODA Loop.

Nor was Boyd alone. He’s part of the famous Fighter Mafia. Air Force Magazine has a nice overview of the Fighter Mafia, and how they led the reform movement of the 1970s and 80s.

The Military Reformers were an obscure lot when they first emerged on the national stage around 1980. There were only about a dozen of them, mostly retired officers and midlevel systems analysts from the Pentagon and the defense industry. The outside world had never heard of them. They were not even called “Reformers” yet.

Their basic message was that the US armed forces were addicted to high technology and complex weapon systems. Such weapons were so costly that relatively few could be bought. Complexity made them hard to use and maintain, leading to readiness problems and reduced sortie rates. Even worse, the Reformers said, these complicated weapons were not as effective in combat as simpler, cheaper ones.

The Reformers took on tanks, missiles, and ships, but their primary target was tactical aircraft. In 1980, their home base was the Tactical Airpower division of the Program Analysis and Evaluation section of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. At the center of the movement were three individuals:

  • John R. Boyd, retired Air Force colonel, air combat theorist, consultant to PA&E, and the spiritual leader of the Reformers.
  • Pierre M. Sprey, engineer and PA&E systems analyst, who, along with Boyd, had been a key instigator of the Lightweight Fighter program in the 1970s.
  • Franklin C. “Chuck” Spinney, who had worked for Boyd as a captain and followed him to PA&E. His briefing, “Defense Facts of Life,” became the manifesto of the reform movement.

These three were protected and supported by Thomas P. Christie, head of the Tac Air division. He was an ally of Boyd’s from previous days and had recruited him for PA&E.

Read the whole thing. In the closing paragraphs, you’ll see a well intentioned group with a good cause go off the rails.

Here’s the thing about most complex weapon systems- they’re complex for a reason. While there are notable exceptions (say, F-35, F-111, LCS), most of the time complexity in a weapon system is driven  by a perceived need to counter a specific threat or provide a specific capability.

Why was the F-15 so big? Because the Air Force in Vietnam had been frustrated by the relatively short range of the Phantom, and the need for a long range powerful radar. Long range drives up the size of an airplane. And a long range radar requires a large radar antennae, which dictates to a certain degree the size of the airplane. It was specifically to address shortcomings that the Air Force accepted the cost and complexity that came with those capabilities.

And speaking of John Boyd, how about John Boyd speaking?

Very Cold Launch

We wrote a post a while back about hot and cold missile launches, and noted that the US, submarines aside, uses hot launches for most missiles, because if the motor of the missile doesn’t start…. well, you’ve got problems. Like this:


I’m a survivor of sexual assault while in the military.


Worse, the assault took place in full view of member of my chain of command, and my attacker faced absolutely no punitive actions, no Article 32 hearing,* court martial, or Non-Judicial Punishment. Not even a letter of reprimand.


One of the top stories in the media these days is the horrific wave of sexual assault plaguing the services. The media has reported as many as 26,000 cases of sexual assault have occurred last year. Congress is convinced the services have a culture where rape and sexual assault are, if not encouraged, then at least tolerated to an extent that no civilized society can endure. Some members of the Senate have moved to withdraw sexual assault cases from the military, and have them adjudicated in civilian courts.  Other members of the Senate have said they could not advise their daughters to enlist or otherwise serve in the Armed Forces.  And such is the savagery of the epidemic, over half of the incidents of this onslaught are male on male.

So, why is it that the military is such a culture of rape, assault and degradation? Is every male soldier a rapist, just waiting for the opportunity to terrorize and scar emotionally and physically for life a young woman who only wanted to serve her country? Has a decade of war so dehumanized our troops that they no longer see even their fellow soldiers as worthy of the most basic human decency?


But probably not.

The military is and always has been, and always will be a reflection of the society it is recruited from.  If there is a cultural problem in the military, it is a reflection of a cultural problem in greater society.

There are cases of rape in the armed services. Far, far too many.

As a punitive article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Article 12o defines rape and sexual assault, and defines the punishments available to courts martial should they convict a service member.  The maximum punishment for rape is death.**

But Article 120 also lists an array of lesser included offenses. The specific definitions of each of these lesser included offenses is often fairly technical, in a legal sense, and may not always jibe with what the layman considers to be sexual assault.

And the Pentagon’s report of 26,000 incidents is being reported in a misleading manner. The survey was of a fairly small sample group, and extrapolated to cover the entire Armed Forces, and assumes a certain arbitrary rate of non-reported incidents.

Further, the survey didn’t ask if the respondents had been raped or sexually assaulted. It asked if they’d received any unwanted sexual contact. Any unwanted sexual contact could include leering and even being asked out on a date, behavior which in the real world is at worst considered sexual harassment, or just boorish behavior.

Yet agenda driven writers such as Marcotte at the Slate article above are quick to conflate that and lead the reader to believe that tens of thousands of men are being forcibly raped when all they want to do is serve their country.

The New York Times article she links to does manage to find  alleged victims of male on male rape- from the Vietnam era.

The NYT reports:

Many sexual assaults on men in the military seem to be a form of violent hazing or bullying, said Roger Canaff, a former New York State prosecutor who helped train prosecutors on the subject of military sexual assault for the Pentagon. “The acts seemed less sexually motivated than humiliation or torture-motivated,” he said.

There does seem to be a fair amount of unacceptable hazing and bullying going on in the ranks. But even the phrasing here would tend to lead the reader to think there is a level of malice present that personal experience tells me just isn’t that common.

Rick Lawson said that while he was in the Army National Guard in Washington in 2003 and 2004, he was repeatedly sexually bullied by a group of soldiers, including a sergeant who rubbed his groin into Mr. Lawson’s buttocks and jumped into his bunk and pretended to cuddle with him. Later, during preparations for deployment to Iraq, one sergeant handcuffed him and put him in a headlock while another pretended to sodomize him, Mr. Lawson said.

The brutal assault upon my person was very similar to one of these attacks.  In ranks, as I bent to pick up my rucksack, a fellow soldier grabbed me from behind and thrust his groin into by buttocks.

Of course, this was back in the dark, dark days of the Evil Reagan administration, and such heinous crimes were referred to as “grabass” and “horsing around.” Rather than having the incident referred to the chain of command and the military justice system, I simply kicked my assailant in the nuts and went back to work.

I’ll freely stipulate that the conduct Mr. Lawson refers to above is “conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline.” No Non Commissioned Officer should be playing grabass with junior enlisted. That’s what Specialists are for. And of course, there are always those who cross the line between horseplay and hazing. And that’s what a good NCO should be watching for, and maintaining that good order and discipline. Maybe having miscreants do pushups until the Sergeant gets tired is a better approach than convening a court martial?

And if Mr. Lawson was so truly traumatized by such an event, one wonders just how much worse the stress of actual combat would have been for him. Or, just perhaps, Mr. Lawson is finding an ex post facto claim for PTSD benefits. I don’t know.

There does seem to be an increase in genuine cases of sexual assault in the services. And that’s utterly unacceptable. But the histrionics coming from the usual suspects is counterproductive to actually addressing the issue.


*Roughly the equivalent of a grand jury in civilian law.

**As a practical matter, the Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty can only be imposed for murder, so the real maximum punishment is life imprisonment.

This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive » The Iraq Medal of Commitment: Still in “5-Sided Asylum” Limbo

Many of you may remember an article Jonn did some time ago on the proposal by the government of Iraq to award a an “Iraq Medal of Commitment“. The new medal would go to those who served in Iraq between Mar 2003 and Dec 2011.

via This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive » The Iraq Medal of Commitment: Still in “5-Sided Asylum” Limbo.

I’m a little surprised this hasn’t come to pass yet. Though, if I recall correctly, it took years for the foreign awards from Desert Storm to come through.

I received two awards for the Liberation of Kuwait, one from the Saudi Government (and it was a rather splendiferous bauble) and a rather more restrained medal from the government of Kuwait. I think it took until almost the mid-1990s for the Kuwaiti version to be approved.

As one of the commenters at This Ain’t Hell notes, it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t get one. But given the sacrifice made by so many Americans, it would be nice to receive some recognition from the Iraqis. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for the delay, but I just don’t see how hard it is to gin up a medal, and get it approved. But then, I’ve never had a Pentagon tour.

Information Dissemination: Sequester Looms: Congress Adjourns, President Golfs

One might think that the language of dire pain coming out of Washington last week would have been sufficient to steel our elected officials for the hard work of figuring out how to reverse their collective rectal/cranial inversion. Instead, everyone left town (though the President is back).

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been waving the red flag over my sense that DoD has become blatantly politicized by an Administration wishing to use it as a cudgel to achieve its broader policy goals, primarily that of additional revenue. Additionally, there can be no question that the pure joy of appearing more pro-defense than the House Republican Caucus is good for several smiles a day in the White House Press Corps briefing room. This battle is a two-fer for the White House, and in the process, they have hung the Service Chiefs out to dry–men who wittingly or unwittingly (I cannot say for sure) resisted what every bone in their body told them was the right thing to do (plan for the unthinkable).

via Information Dissemination: Sequester Looms: Congress Adjourns, President Golfs.

It’s been an open secret for months that the White House has prohibited DoD and the services from making any plans to deal with sequestration budget cuts.

As a practical matter, the only place in the DoD budget to make cuts is in the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) budget.  And since we’re about halfway through the Fiscal Year, the effect of cutting the budget by $8.6 billion is vastly amplified, because there is only about $20 billion remaining in that budget.

That raises the other disaster that is rapidly approaching the DoD-  the Continuing Resolution. The CR, which basically hands the services money, but only based on past budgets, gives the Pentagon no authority to shift money from one account to another. It’s forcing the services to go through what should be a fairly mild cash crunch wearing a straight jacket, with near catastrophic short term impacts, and deep and lingering long term impacts.

Having said that, I’m in the “let it burn” camp.

Yes, sequestration and the CR will have terrible effects on the DoD. But failure to  ever begin to reign in federal spending, somewhere, somehow, will all too soon render the country unworthy of defense.


I just took a look at some sitemeter information and saw that someone was reading the site from the Pentagon. Specifically, from Washington Headquarters Services, whatever that is.

Hi guys! Tell Gates I said hello!

Update: Even better, someone from Oak Harbor, my boyhood hometown just checked us out.